Are you wondering what the 10 top MMA promotions in the world are?
In this article, we’ll look at the 10 top MMA promotions, what makes them the best, anything unique about each, their best fighters, their online presence, and the likelihood of each moving up or down the rankings.
10 Top MMA Promotions
In order of the best MMA promotion, here are the top 10:
The numbers don’t lie. The UFC is in a league on its own and is by far the top MMA promotion today.
Founded in 1993, the UFC is among the early pioneers of MMA as a sport and has played a huge role in helping develop the sport into its modern current.
The UFC is valued at roughly $10 billion and in 2021 they brought in $1 billion in revenue. For years they’ve dominated the PPV records in combat sports and are only topped by a few of the biggest boxing events. Its biggest PPV events were UFC 229 with 2.4 million PPV buys and UFC 202 with 1.6 million.
They also dominate the MMA content market with UFC Fight Pass, which broadcasts live UFC events and many other live events from the biggest promotions in combat sports. It also has a fight library of over 20,000 fights and a whole host of original MMA content – overall the service is unrivaled.
While the list is endless, some of the biggest-name fighters in the UFC are and have been Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Israel Adesanya.
Overall, The UFC is number 1 and is the only MMA promotion to be hosting 40 plus events per year, in large part due to its 700-strong roster of fighters, longevity in the sport, and huge resources that have allowed them to buy out its competitors, sign the best fighters globally, and continue to reinvest in itself.
2. One Championship
Founded in 2011, One Championship in just a decade has become the second-best MMA promotion in the world and is by far the biggest in Asia.
One Championship is owned by the parent company, Group One Holdings, which raised $150 million at a valuation of $1 billion in January 2022. The investment is being used to continue its expansion into the US market, where by the end of 2022 they’ve held 8 events.
One Championship is yet to be profitable but is growing year on year and in 2021 they brought in $67.7 million in revenue. In terms of viewership, they have 5.5M Youtube subscribers and in 2021 they ranked 2nd among all major sports properties for viewership and engagement online, as per the Nielson report.
One Championship is unique because they promote different combat sports events in a single event, such as MMA, muay thai, kickboxing, and submission grappling. One’s fight arena will either be a ring or a cage for every combat sport on the night depending on the majority event.
One is also unique because of its removal of weight cutting. Following the death of one of its fighters in 2015, fighters must remain hydrated at all times, meaning they’re fighting around their natural weight and have more energy for fighting – which many see as a huge strong point of One Championship.
In One’s MMA fights, they allow knees to the head of a grounded opponent, and muay thai is hugely popular because fighters compete with 4-ounce gloves rather than the usual 8-10.
Some of One Championship’s biggest-name fighters have been and are Demetrious Johnson, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, Angela Lee, Adriano Moraes, Reinier de Ridder, and Stamp Fairtax.
3. Bellator MMA
>Headquarters: Santa Monica, California, USA
>Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/bellator (1.6M+ subscribers)
>2021 Revenue: Undisclosed, estimated $38.4 million
>Number of Events: 290+
Long seen as the number 2 to the UFC, Bellator has fallen behind One Championship as One is growing at a much faster pace.
Bellator has been a Viacom business since 2011 and has been steadily growing every year. Bellator’s financials remain undisclosed, but its 2021 revenue is estimated to be $38.4 million, which is in line with its actual revenues of $35 million in 2018.
In 2018, Bellator signed a 5-year nine-figure rights deal with DAZN, but that came to an abrupt ending after just 2 years, with Showtime (another Viacom company) taking over as the exclusive rights broadcaster for Bellator in the USA.
Bellator continues to grow and secured a 2022 deal with the BBC (UK) in the European market, which now has live coverage of all Bellator events outside of the US. Launched in 2020, Bellator also has a dedicated 24/7 channel on Pluto TV and can also be watched on Hulu.
Some of Bellator’s biggest-name fighters have been and are Patricio Pitbull, AJ Mckee, Eddie Alvarez, Douglas Lima, Ryan Bader, Michael Chandler, Cris Cyborg, and Fedor Emelianenko. In terms of fighting talent, Bellator is the closest to the UFC but it’s not growing anywhere near the pace of One Championship.
4. Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
>Headquarters: Minato City, Tokyo, Japan
>Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/RIZINFIGHTINGFEDERATION (922K+ subscribers)
>2021 Revenue: Undisclosed
>Number of Events: 50+
Rizin has become the top MMA promotion in Japan and second in Asia since bursting onto the scene in 2015. Although an MMA promotion, Rizin has also promoted some kickboxing bouts in the style of Grand Prix tournaments.
Rizin is seen as the successor to the hugely popular defunct promotions, Pride and Dream. Pride was the biggest MMA promotion during the early 2000s until the UFC purchased them in 2007, and Pride and Rizin were both founded by Nobuyuki Sakakibara, so you can see Pride’s influences throughout.
A big draw for many fans of Rizin is that since 2021 the promotion allows for elbows from any angle (all elbows were formerly banned), and all strikes to the head are allowed, both standing and grounded. This includes soccer kicks, stomps, and knees.
They also have larger than life party style entrances like Pride FC used to, fights are in a five roped-ring, and many of the fighters are believed to be enhanced due to Rizin’s lack of drug testing – which many fans feel makes Rizin fights more entertaining.
Rizin has also collaborated with Bellator and is set to do another Bellator vs Rizin New Year’s Eve event at the end of 2022 – which gives them access to the US market. Rizin has promoted two exhibition boxing fights featuring Floyd Mayweather; so they’re open to promoting themselves in various ways.
Rizin events can be watched live on FITE TV where many events are free and some of the biggest are available for $19.99.
Some of Rizin’s biggest fighters have been and are Kyoji Horiguchi, Mirko Filipovic, Jiri Prochazka, Roberto de Souza, and Ayaka Hamasaki.
5. AMC Fight Nights (Formerly Fight Nights Global)
AMC Fight Nights is Russia’s biggest MMA promotion, which is nearing 1 million subscribers on Youtube. The majority of their events are held in Russia’s biggest cities but AMC has also held a small number of events in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Slovakia, and China.
In 2016, AMC Fight Nights was acquired by Summa Group, a privately-held holding company that offers a number of different services. It is owned by the Russian billionaire, Ziyavudin Magomedov. With this financial backing, AMC Fight Nights are looking to continue expansion into Europe.
AMC formerly held K-1 kickboxing events but now only focuses on MMA. Its MMA events are held in an 8-sided cage.
AMC also has its own NFTs and cryptocurrency called AMC Token, which has the benefit of giving holders discounts for AMC Fight Night tickets and other AMC items.
AMC has featured some great fighters such as Andrei Arlovski, Tyson Nam, Ali Bagautinov, Fabio Maldonado, Fedor Emelianenko, and Antonio Silva.
KSW is the top MMA organization in Poland and also the most popular in Europe. While KSW mostly features in the major cities in Poland, they’ve also hosted a handful of events in Ireland, England, and Croatia; showing how they’re looking to emerge further into the European MMA market.
What makes KSW events great is how events are limited to once a month – 10 events in 1 year is the most they’ve promoted, which makes tickets sought after.
In 2017, KSW 39 had an attendance of just under 58,000 at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw. This is the second-highest MMA attendance of all time, ahead of any UFC event and just behind the 71,000 fans who attended Pride Shockwave in 2002.
KSW is known for hosting 4 and 8-man tournaments that originally took place over 1 night for the first 5 KSW events, but which are now held over 2 events. KSW has amazing production value: great opening ceremonies, visuals, music, light shows, fun walkouts, and fighter introductions.
KSW events are fought in a circular cage and the promotion allows fighters to earn money through sponsorships. Fighters can be seen with sponsors on their shorts and also painted on their bodies.
KSW broadcasts its events free in Poland on the TV channel Polsat and can be watched around the globe at KSWTV.
Some of the biggest names to feature for KSW are Jan Blachowicz, Phil De Fries, Salahdine Parnasse, Mamed Khalidov, Roberto Soldic, and Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
7. M-1 Global
>Headquarters: Saint Petersburg, Russia
>Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/M1Global (915K+ subscribers)
>2021 Revenue: Undisclosed
>Number of Events: 275+
M-1 Global is the most famous MMA promotion in Russia as it was founded 25 years ago in 1997 and is one of the early pioneers of MMA in Europe. Even Vladimir Putin has attended some M-1 Global events, of which there have been over 270.
Because of this longevity and pioneering, in 2018 M-1 Global entered into a partnership with the UFC meaning M-1 acts as an official scout for Russian talent, M-1 Global champions have the opportunity to join the UFC, and M-1 also assists the UFC with events held in Russia (3 in 4 years).
M-1 has long been one of the top MMA organizations for scouting, as they hold the M-1 Selection and M-1 Challenge competitions to find the next best fighters.
Some of the best talent M-1 Global has had are Islam Makhachev, Fedor Emelianenko, Alexander Volkov, Marcin Tybura, Nate Landwehr, Movsar Evloev, and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Recently, M-1 Global has had its market share reduced in Russia and has had significant troubles because of covid. Its last event was in September 2020 and there has been no official announcement as to its plans, but it seems that M-1 is focusing on scouting and producing talent for the UFC.
8. Professional Fighters League (PFL)
The World Series of Fighting (WSOF) promotion was bought by MMAX Investment Partners in 2017 and was rebranded into the Professional Fighters League in 2018.
By far the most unique, PFL promotes MMA in a league-season format that finishes with elimination playoffs to decide the champions who each win $1 million. Only the championship fights are 5 rounds of 5 minutes and fighters are also paid for each fight as per their contract.
There are 6 weight classes, 5 men’s and 1 women’s, and are as follows:
- First and only women’s lightweight division (155 lbs) in MMA
- Men’s featherweight (145 lbs)
- Men’s lightweight (155 lbs)
- Men’s welterweight (170 lbs)
- Men’s light heavyweight (205 lbs)
- Men’s heavyweight (265 lbs)
Each fighter has 2 fights during the season, where wins give 3 points, and bonus points are awarded for knockouts and submissions depending on the round.
- Round 1 finishes: 3 points
- Round 2 finishes: 2 points
- Round 3 finishes: 1 point
This means a fighter can secure 6 points for a finish in the first round, and these bonuses make for exciting fights as fighters push for early finishes. Each season consists of between 68 to 72 fighters in total and the top 4 fighters from each weight class with the most points at the end of a season enter the playoffs.
Missing weight is heavily penalized. Fighters are deducted 1 point from their total points tally and are unable to win points from their upcoming fight.
The PFL adheres to the Official Unified Rules of MMA but doesn’t allow elbow strikes. Fighters compete in a 10-sided cage referred to as the SmartCage, which relays live data to viewers such as punching power and speed, which is taken from the sensors inside the fighter’s gloves.
In 2020, the PFL became the first fight promotion to introduce an NFT and others soon followed. Before the 2021 season, PFL partnered with ESPN for US broadcasting and the PFL is also broadcasted in over 160 countries globally with various media partners.
The PFL hasn’t disclosed any revenue information but it’s well known that they’re losing a lot of money as they build the brand and acquire a larger fanbase. So far the PFL has had total funding of over $200 million, with the most recent $30 million investment (2022) valuing the PFL at $500 million.
Some of the biggest-name fighters to have fought in the PFL are Jake Shields, Andre Fialho, Chris Curtis, Claressa Shields, Anthony Pettis, Rory MacDonald, Kayla Harrison, and Shane Burgos.
In just 4 or 5 years they’ve done a great job and they’ll likely become a top 5 MMA promotion in a few more years’ time as their product is unique and they’re attracting big fighters. Outside of the UFC, the PFL is growing at the fastest rate alongside One Championship.
9. Invicta Fighting Championships
>Headquarters: Kansas City, Missouri, USA
>Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/InvictaFightingChampionships (280K+ subscribers)
>2021 Revenue: Undisclosed
>Number of Events: 55+
Another hugely unique promotion, Invicta FC is women’s only MMA and has been the go-to for talent since its founding in 2012. Many of the best fighters at Invicta FC have gone on to join the UFC, so Invicta has been seen by many as a feeder promotion.
From 2014 to 2021, Invicta FC events were broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass, and all events were stored on the platform. This changed in 2021 when Invicta FC was purchased by Anthem Sports & Entertainment for an undisclosed fee.
Invicta is now broadcast on Anthem-owned media properties, AXS TV, and Fight Network for American and Canadian fans, and events are also broadcast live and stored on its Youtube channel.
Invicta FC adheres to the Official Unified Rules of MMA and has 5 weight classes: featherweight (145 lbs), bantamweight (135 lbs), flyweight (125 lbs), strawweight (115 lbs), and atomweight (105 lbs).
Some of Invicta’s biggest-name fighters have been and are Paige VanZant, Michelle Waterson, Rose Namajunas, Carla Esparza, Megan Anderson, Tonya Evinger, and Cris Cyborg.
10. Eagle Fighting Championship (EFC)
Another new entry into the top 10 MMA promotions, Eagle FC (EFC) is a Russian promotion owned and founded by Khabib Nurmagomedov. EFC was originally Gorilla Fighting Championships, which Khabib bought for $1 million and rebranded in 2020.
Despite being so young, because of Khabib’s influence in the industry, EFC already has a large online presence (YT, IG) and has held 3 events in America, which is something other Russian MMA promotions have struggled to do.
Eagle FC currently has 9 weight class divisions (all men) from flyweight to heavyweight. The major differences are a welterweight division with a 175 lbs maximum weight limit, rather than 170, and a 165 lbs super lightweight division, which is the first in MMA.
Another notable difference is EFC doesn’t use ring girls and doesn’t have any plans to use them in the future after Khabib made it clear he felt they were useless in MMA. EFC has also flirted with the idea of hosting grappling tournaments in the future as another way to separate itself from the pack.
Live EFC events can currently be watched live on FLX Cast and events are held at the FLX Cast Arena in Miami, Florida. As well as the USA, EFC continue to host events in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan – so they have plenty of options for expansion and growth.
Some of the biggest-name EFC fighters are Junior Dos Santos, Kevin Lee, Rashad Evans, Diego Sanchez, and Renan Barao.
The Bottom Line
These are the current 10 top MMA promotions in 2022 that’ll likely remain top for many years to come. The top 3 promotions, the UFC, One, and Bellator, are likely to remain unchanged for the next decade, while the other 7 will likely change positions.
The PFL and EFC are the two most likely promotions to surge the rankings, as they’re the newest promotions that have made huge strides in a short period of time and who have access to the American market.
M-1 Global and Invicta FC are the two most likely to drop down in rankings, especially seeing as M-1 isn’t currently active and Invicta FC has new owners and is no longer partnered with the UFC.