Are you wondering which promotions the UFC bought out since its inception in 1993?
In this article, we’ll look at the promotions the UFC bought out, some information about each promotion, the reason the UFC bought them, and some information about each deal.
Who Did the UFC Buy Out?
The UFC has bought out 5 MMA promotions so far in its 30 years (1993-2023). In order they were:
- World Fight Alliance (WFA)
- World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC)
- PRIDE Fighting Championships (PFC)
- International Fight League (IFL)
- Strikeforce MMA
Let’s take a look at each promotion, the details of the buyouts, and the reasons behind the purchase.
1. World Fight Alliance (WFA)
>Founded: November 3, 2001
>Date of UFC Buy Out: December 11, 2006
>Ceased Operations: December 11, 2006
World Fight Alliance was founded in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, soon after the Official Unified Rules of MMA were established in 2001 and Nevada sanctioned MMA. They held 1 event in 2001 and just 2 more in 2002 before ceasing operation.
WFA promoted a comeback event in 2005, WFA: King of the Streets, which featured marquee fighters such as Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Lyoto Machida. The event was unsuccessful and only sold 50,000 PPVs, meanwhile, the promotion’s debt was piling up and they were unable to pay their creditors.
Soon after the event, WFA entered negotiations with the UFC over a potential purchase. Less than a year later in 2006, the UFC purchased several WFA fighter contracts (the fighters they wanted), WFA trademarks, and WFA intellectual properties for an undisclosed fee.
And while there was never a complete buy-out of WFA, the promotion became defunct under the terms of the purchase – likely because the UFC wanted to be the sole MMA promotion headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The most notable fighter contracts the UFC purchased were for Quinton Jackson, Heath Herring, Ivan Salaverry, Urijah Faber, and Rob McCullough. The intellectual properties the UFC purchased were the rights to adding WFA events to its content library on UFC Fight Pass.
Ultimately, the UFC took what they needed and likely paid a low amount as they were in a controlling position and the WFA owners needed to recoup some losses.
2. World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC)
>Founded: June 30, 2001
>Date of UFC Buy Out: December 11, 2006
>Ceased Operations: October 28, 2010
World Extreme Cagefighting was founded in California, USA, in 2001, and held 3 or 4 events each year on average. WEC was well-known for being home to smaller MMA fighters of just 3 weight classes: bantamweight (135 lbs), featherweight (145 lbs), and lightweight (155 lbs).
In 2006, the UFC purchased the WEC for an undisclosed fee and allowed the promotion to continue running separately; as a way to develop young talented fighters and act as a UFC feeder promotion. To aid this, Zuffa (UFC parent company) introduced a flyweight (125 lbs) division to the WEC.
In 2010, WEC became defunct after the UFC absorbed the promotion. The UFC used the WEC roster to introduce the flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight divisions to the UFC – and this was a major step in the growth of the UFC as it allowed them to increase their events per year.
The UFC-WEC buyout led to many significant fighters crossing over to the UFC, such as Jose Aldo being made the inaugural UFC featherweight champion, and Dominick Cruz the UFC bantamweight champion.
Also included were future undisputed UFC champions, Demetrious Johnson, Urijah Faber, and Anthony Pettis, future interim UFC champion Carlos Condit, and former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres.
As part of the purchase, the UFC also absorbed WEC’s video content library and event rights. The event rights allowed the UFC to promote WEC events under its own banner for the 4 years between 2006 and 2010, while the WEC’s content library was included in UFC Fight Pass and used for UFC promotional purposes.
Lastly, the UFC acquired the WEC’s intellectual property rights such as trademarks and logos. Again, this allowed the UFC to use WEC branding in the marketing of UFC events and future WEC events.
3. PRIDE Fighting Championships (PFC)
>Founded: October 11, 1997
>Date of UFC Buy Out: May 25, 2007
>Ceased Operations: October 4, 2007
Japanese MMA promotion PRIDE Fighting Championships was the dominant MMA promotion during its decade-long existence.
PRIDE had 68 events in total and was known for its wild entrances, soccer kicks, and for having the best MMA fighters such as Fedor Emilianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, and Dan Henderson – as well as a stacked roster overall.
However, with success comes scrutiny. Many believed PRIDE FC became successful because of the money it was given by a huge Japanese criminal organization known as the Yakuza – who were using PRIDE as a money laundering scheme.
This was supported by then-company president, Naoto Morishita, who was found dead in 2003. Continued negative press caused PRIDE to lose its major broadcaster, Fuji Television Network.
This caused them to bleed money while the UFC was heading in the opposite direction due to The Ultimate Fighter.
After months of negotiations, the UFC bought PRIDE FC for around $65 million, with the goal of keeping PRIDE alive under the UFC brand and creating superfights between the best fighters from each promotion under the UFC banner, similar to the superfights they’d created since UFC 5.
However, when Dana White couldn’t get a TV deal for PRIDE in Japan (bad press and now American owners), and couldn’t run the business without the Yakuza’s consent, the promotion became defunct and the UFC took on PRIDE fighters whom they could secure UFC contracts with.
This included the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Dan Henderson, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Filipovic, and more.
During a podcast episode, Joe Rogan criticized the UFC-PRIDE buyout, claiming many of the fighter contracts they bought were illegal and held no value.
The UFC also absorbed PRIDE FC’s content into the UFC Fight Pass, as well as the rights to distribute and promote PRIDE events and trademarks and incorporate PRIDE into UFC marketing.
Overall, the UFC massively overpaid for PRIDE as they only bought a few legit fighter contracts and some fight content for UFC Fight Pass. They expected to run PRIDE in Japan as a way to make money but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen.
However, the UFC buyout of PRIDE was a huge moment in MMA/UFC history, as with PRIDE no longer operating, the UFC was now by far and clear the best and biggest MMA promotion in the world.
4. International Fight League (IFL)
>Founded: January 7, 2006
>Date of UFC Buy Out: July 31, 2008
>Ceased Operations: July 31, 2008
Founded in 2006, the International Fight League (IFL) was run much differently than typical MMA promotions which had one-versus-one matchups based on a ranking system, paid fighters via a fight purse, and didn’t cover any fighter costs.
Instead, the IFL had two opposing teams of 3 to 5 fighters with each fighter facing off against a fighter from the other team in one-versus-one matchups throughout a season. There was only 1 fighter for each weight class per team, and the team with the most wins at the end of the season was victorious.
The IFL also paid fighters a monthly salary and covered their health costs because they wanted the IFL to be a fighting TV series rather than just one-off events. This came to fruition when they signed a TV network deal with Fox Sports Net to air 22 one-hour shows starting in the Summer of 2007.
And while the IFL was progressing nicely, its problems became too big. There was a lack of elite MMA fighters in the promotion, which led to many mismatches, and it had an inability to build stars – leading them to try and poach many of the UFC’s top talent.
The IFL also appeared amateurish as there was a lack of quality coaches for the teams and cartoonish team logos named after animals. Furthermore, there were public disputes between some IFL fighters and management over payment and canceled and delayed events for various reasons.
Ultimately, the IFL went all out and burned through cash at an alarming pace, and was too late to the party compared to the UFC which had been building for 15 years.
History shows that building an MMA promotion takes going millions of dollars deep over a period of at least 5 years, and the IFL was another promotion unable to see it through.
Having learned their mistake of buying PRIDE and getting little to nothing in return (PRIDE was dying regardless), the UFC simply bought IFL fighters out of their contracts so they could bring them over to the UFC. They were also interested in their video content, but HDNET paid $650,000 and beat them to it.
Some of the best fighters the UFC signed from IFL were Dan Miller, Jim Miller, Rory Markham, Matt Horwich, Mike Massenzio, Reese Andy, Brad Blackburn, Andre Gusmao, and Wagnney Fabiano (signed to UFC-owned WEC).
5. Strikeforce MMA
>Date of UFC Buy Out: March 12, 2011
>Ceased Operations: January 12, 2013
Founded in 1985, Strikeforce was originally a kickboxing promotion and held its first MMA event in 2006. In February 2009, Strikeforce bought out EliteXC and took on fighter contracts of many of its best fighters such as Robbie Lawler, Nick Diaz, and Jake Shields.
They also secured a deal with CBS to broadcast 4 of their biggest events per year and took over EliteXC’s broadcast deal with Showtime for 16 events a year. This also included Strikeforce: All Access, a live stream on Showtime’s website available for the first time to users outside of America.
A year later they signed alliances with Dream MMA (Japanese) and M-1 Global (Russian) for future co-promotion. Strikeforce was also the first major MMA promotion to have women’s divisions, bantamweight, and featherweight, and they also signed Fedor Emilianenko to a 3-fight deal.
Essentially, Strikeforce was making moves, expanding fast, and offering genuine competition to the UFC – they had a bump in viewers to at least 500,000 per event when Fedor was fighting.
However, despite all this, Strikeforce started to struggle financially due to big money contracts and the notorious CBS riot.
The CBS riot was a post-fight brawl at Strikeforce Nashville in 2010, when Jake Shields, the Diaz brothers, and Gilbert Melendez (all champions) attacked Jason Miller in the cage during Shield’s post-fight interview. This caused CBS to no longer broadcast Strikeforce events, which was a major blow to the promotion.
In March 2011, the UFC purchased Strikeforce for an undisclosed fee, believed to be worth around $40 million. This allowed the UFC to give contracts to many of Strikeforce’s best talent such as Jason Miller, Cung Le, Luke Rockhold, Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz, and Dan Henderson.
While the UFC kept Strikeforce running independently, in 2013 Strikeforce was dissolved as many of Strikeforce’s divisions had already been absorbed by the UFC, and Strikeforce had trouble getting TV deals for the rest of 2013 after the Showtime broadcast deal ended in early 2013.
The UFC offered contracts to the Strikeforce fighters they wanted, and this included the likes of Ronda Rousey, Josh Barnett, and Daniel Cormier. The UFC had already created a women’s bantamweight division in 2012, and they brought over Ronda Rousey as the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion.
The Bottom Line
So, ‘who did the UFC buy out?’
The UFC bought out 5 MMA promotions, WFA, WEC, PRIDE, IFL, and Strikeforce MMA. Purchasing these 5 MMA promotions was exceptionally shrewd business, as the UFC could rid of their competition, bring in elite fighters, and maintain and increase their dominant share of the MMA market.
What allowed the UFC to be in a position to buy out their rivals was the brand they’d built since 1993, first movers advantage (extra decade of experience), and confidence from the owners to go deep in debt and continue pushing through while the other promotions quit as they saw big losses.
The UFC buying out its competitors played a big part in selling to Endeavor in 2016 for $4 billion. Of the 5 buyouts, WEC was their best purchase, closely followed by Strikeforce, and then PRIDE, IFL, and WFA.