MMA Guide: The Best Promotions to Watch That Aren’t the UFC

October 13, 2021


Mixed martial arts, better known as MMA, has exploded in popularity over the last decade, and that’s thanks in large part to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The Las Vegas-based fight promotion has become a household name among combat sports lovers thanks to its shrewd leadership and headline-grabbing fighters like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Georges St-Pierre, and Anderson Silva.

 

 

In fact, the UFC has become so successful that many people think it’s synonymous with MMA. You might, for example, catch somebody referring to the sport of MMA as UFC—the same way they might use the name Kleenex to refer to any brand of tissue.

MMA, of course, is more than just the UFC. While the UFC is easily the biggest promotion in the sport, it’s certainly not the only one. All over the world, other organizations are promoting their own spins on MMA—and most of them are very much worth watching.

Interested in seeing what MMA looks like outside the confines of the UFC’s trademark Octagon? We’ve got you covered with some of the best sources for MMA beyond the UFC. From Europe to Asia and beyond, these are the top global MMA promotions to watch (listed in alphabetical order—we don’t want to start any fights).

The Best MMA Promotions to Watch That Aren’t the UFC

1. Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA, which is owned by ViacomCBS, might be the UFC’s highest-profile competition. The promotion, which is led by combat sports lifer Scott Coker, airs on Showtime alongside massive boxing matches and is home to some of the best fighters in the world, such as AJ McKee, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Vadim Nemkov, Gegard Mousasi, Cris “Cyborg” Justino, and Yaroslav Amosov. Bellator also occasionally promotes tournaments—a format the UFC won’t touch—which makes it an interesting alternative to the sport’s most accessible product.

2. Combate Global

Combate Global, formerly called Combate Americas, is the brainchild of UFC co-creator Campbell McLaren. The promotion, which is focused on the Hispanic market, claims to have cultivated a fanbase that is completely separate from that of the UFC, and it seems to have the viewership numbers to back those claims up. Airing on networks like Univision, Televisa, CBS Sports Network, and Paramount Plus, Combate Global is home to some of the best fighters from Central and South America and beyond.

3. Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

The name Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki is a bit of a mouthful for non-Polish speakers, but don’t let that deter you. This Warsaw-based promotion is the biggest in Europe and one of the most exciting in all of MMA.

KSW is all about spectacle, from its pyrotechnic-filled walkouts to the fights themselves. While the organization is home to plenty of world-class talent, it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, frequently promoting fights involving transplants like former strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski and Polish rapper Popek Monster. It’s a great choice for anybody hankering for something different. Catch its events on pay-per-view.

4. ONE Championship

ONE Championship has the Asian market cornered. The promotion is based in Singapore and has also promoted hugely successful events in countries like Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

ONE’s roster is home to some of the top talent in Asia as well as many stars from this hemisphere, such as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, Bibiano Fernandes, Eddie Alvarez, and siblings Christian, Angela, and Victoria Lee. The organization also promotes kickboxing and Muay Thai fights, which gives its events a variety you won’t find elsewhere.

ONE broadcasts on television networks all over the world, but in the US, its events can be streamed on Bleacher Report Live. Just remember the time difference: ONE’s events usually air in the morning in North America.

5. The Professional Fighters League (PFL)

The Professional Fighters League is not only one of the most successful organizations in mixed martial arts, but also one of the most unique. The league presents the sport in a one-of-a-kind seasonal format, with playoffs, championships, and million-dollar prizes for the winners in each weight class.

Home to stars like Kayla Harrison, Ray Cooper III, Anthony Pettis, and boxing transplant Claressa Shields, the PFL is also big on innovation, leveraging technology to enhance the viewing experience for its growing legions of fans. Its proprietary SmartCage, which tracks a number of interesting stats in real time, is just the beginning.

The PFL’s events are broadcast on ESPN 2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes.

6. RIZIN Fighting Federation

As the former home of the defunct but highly influential promotion Pride, Japan is one of the most important countries in MMA. RIZIN Fighting Federation, which happens to be the creation of former Pride boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara, is keeping the country’s tradition of MMA excellence alive.

RIZIN serves up MMA in a ring rather than a cage and also promotes high-level kickboxing matches. It’s home to plenty of world-class talent, but like KSW in Poland, it has shown a willingness to get creative when it comes to fight promotion. In fact, you might have actually heard of RIZIN before. In 2018, the promotion infamously gave us an exhibition boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and outmatched, undersized kickboxing wunderkind Tenshin Nasukawa. RIZIN also scores points for its willingness to co-promote with other organizations like Bellator—a real rarity in MMA.

You can find its events on online pay-per-view (just be prepared to stay up late to watch).


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