No record exists as to the timeline for the invention of mixed martial arts as a full-fledged sport.
Yet, the fact that the gruesome sport has surfaced in various forms in different civilizations points to sustainability and consensus on the acceptability of MMA.
From the Chinese lei tai, Greek pankration, and Russian sambo to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu, MMA has endured for millennia and has captivated billions of fans across different civilizations to become one of the most popular sports in modern history.
The sport, which combines the rudiments of all physical combat ranging from wrestling to kickboxing, now boasts a 550 million strong following, making it one of the most followed sports on the planet.
With a rapidly expanding fan base, MMA fans are treated to intense, nerve-racking action from the best MMA promotions, featuring the world’s most eminent and vicious mixed martial artists.
These artists from diverse MMA organizations leave viewers with the harrowing mental deliberation on which promotions to watch and keep up with.
Considering viewership, popularity, and catalog of top-rated mixed martial artists, we hope to settle the deliberations of the top MMA organizations in the world with our concise list.
The Best MMA Promotions & Organizations in the World Right Now
10. Caged Steel
- Founded: 2011
- Headquarters: Doncaster, United Kingdom
- Top Fighters: Adam Bramhald, Madars Fleminas, Daniel Toledo, Marcin Prostko
- Watch/Live Streaming: Joymo, YouTube
- Website: caged-steel.co.uk
Reasonably new on the scene, the UK-based MMA promotion was established in 2011.
In a little over a decade in the highly competitive world of mixed martial arts, they have proved to be a fast-rising maverick.
The promotion provides a good stepping stone for newly turned MMA professionals to test their skills against contemporaries.
Unlike its other counterparts, Caged Steel does not boast of any widely popular name, but that has not stopped the organization from capturing the interest of a fair section of fans, particularly those in the UK.
9. M-1 Global
- Founded: 1997
- Headquarters: Saint Petersburg, Russia
- Top Fighters: Sergey Morozov, Nate Landwehr, Roman Bogatov, Shavkat Rakhmonov, Bruno Silva, Hadith Ibragimov, Alexander Volkov
- Watch/Live Streaming: FITE TV
- Website: m-1global.com
For over two decades, M-1 Global has been dominating MMA in Europe with strict adrenaline-pumped action.
The promotion hosts up to 20 fights every year and features some of the world’s most brutal fighters.
In a 2018 partnership with the world’s most popular MMA promotion, the UFC, M-1 Global agreed to be a farm league for the North American promotion for scouting promising Russian mixed martial arts fighters.
The deal benefits Russian fighters greatly as the domination of M1-Global translates to a spot in the UFC.
Aside from the M1-Global’s deal with the UFC, the Russian promotion is also known for its M-1 Challenge hosted in various locations around the world and broadcasted in over 100 countries, mainly in former soviet union countries.
- Founded: 1993
- Headquarters: Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
- Top Fighters: Isao Kobayashi, Rafael Silva, Yura Naito, Sidy Rocha, Daichi Kitakata, Satoru Enomoto, Takasuke Kume, Hiroyuki Tetsuka, Karen
- Watch/Live Streaming: UFC Fight Pass
Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling started out as competitive professional wrestling promotion.
However, it soon began adapting rules to fit those of modern mixed martial arts in the 2000s before finally adopting the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts in 2014.
Now, in terms of rules in every other promotion in the sport, Pancrase still maintains its hold as Japan’s leading mixed martial arts promotion and is seeking to extend its sphere of influence even further.
Pancrease has been the stepping stone for many Asian mixed martial artists as well as wrestlers who have gone on to make a name for themselves in the organization and other wrestling promotions.
In 2015 Pancrase signed a deal with the UFC, for its fights to be streamed on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service to increase its popularity in the North American market.
7. Invicta Fighting Championships (IFC)
- Founded: 2012
- Headquarters: Enka Village, NC, US
- Top Fighters: Taneisha Tennant, Karina Rodriguez, Jéssica Delboni
- Watch/Live Streaming: YouTube, MMA Junkie, AXS TV
- Website: invictafc.com
In a decade of entering into the competitive world of mixed martial arts, the premier all-women MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championships has made incredible strides that has it become one of the top MMA promotions in the world.
Invicta, which held its maiden MMA event on 28 April 2012, has been home to numerous notable key persons, some of whom have conquered the octagon.
The success of the promotion can be credited to strategic partnerships like streaming on UFC Fight Pass with increased coverage and collaboration with Brazilian television content service, Combate.
In April 2021, a Canadian media company, Anthem Sports & Entertainment acquired the organization.
6. Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
- Founded: 2015
- Headquarters: Tokyo
- Top Fighters: Kyoji Horiguchi, Seika Izawa, Roberto de Souza, Juntaro Ushiku
- Watch/Live Streaming: FITE TV, LIVENow
- Website: onefc.com
In a bid to continue the exciting MMA traditions of decency promotions, mixed martial arts promoter and businessman Nobuyuki Sakakibara founded Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF) as the spiritual successor of his last two defunct MMA ventures.
Though Sakakibara sort to make Rizin FF similar to DREAM and Pride FC, a bit of change was allowed, notable of which are the more permissive rules compared to the Unified Rules of mixed martial arts.
Other tweaks made to Rizin include Grand Prix, which are single-elimination tournaments where the fighters battle multiple opponents on a fight night.
These changes to Rizin have had a positive result as it is considered Japan’s top MMA promotion.
5. ONE Championship
- Founded: 2011
- Headquarters: Downtown Core, Singapore
- Top Fighters: Anatoly Malykhin, Arian Bhullar, Roman Kryklia, Reinier De Ridder, Kiarian Abbasov, Ok Rae Yoon
- Watch/Live Streaming: YouTube, ONE Championship App
Among the eminent MMA promotions keeping the burning flames of MMA action in Asia alive, Singapore’s ONE Championship is the most notable.
Aside from being the largest in Asia, ONE Championship features a unique brand of mixed martial arts action that is far more flexible with the rules than its counterparts in Europe and North America.
While ONE Championship is regarded as an MMA promotion company, the company is not limited to MMA action but extends its tentacles to other combat disciplines such as kickboxing, Muay Thai bouts, and submission grappling.
However, the MMA action of the combat sports discipline has been the crowd puller.
In a little over ten years since ONE surfaced, it has emerged as one of the world’s biggest sports media properties, as evidenced in a 2020 report by American data and market measurement company, Nielsen.
4. Fight Nights Global (FNG)
- Founded: 2010
- Headquarters: Moscow, Russia
- Top Fighters: Nariman Abbasov, Vladimir Egoyan, Yusup Shuaev, Vagab Vagabov, Vartan Asatryan, Vladimir Mineev
- Watch/Live Streaming: YouTube
Now rebranded as AMC Fight Nights, since 2010, the brand has been holding down the fort as Russia’s most prestigious MMA organization, despite tough competition from other eminent promotions.
Over the years, fans have been thrilled with their intense action.
AMC Fight Nights have brought mixed martial arts action to about over a dozen Russian cities, including surrounding countries, particularly former Soviet Union countries.
The promotion adopts a different approach to fight regulation but accomplish the same result as their North American counterparts.
AMC Fight Nights follows the Russian MMA regulations, but this has not, in any manner, limited the rapturing interest in its fights, which are slowly making way to viewers in Brazil, the USA, and other European Union countries.
3. Absolute Championship Akhmat
- Founded: 2014
- Headquarters: Grozny, Chechnya, Russia
- Top Fighters: Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, Imran Bukuev, Abubakar Vagaev, Salimgerey Rasulov, Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov, Magomedrasul Gasanov, Muslim Magomedov, Oleg Borisov
- Watch/Live Streaming: YouTube, ACA App
- Website: aca-mma.com
It is puzzling how an organization founded years later than several top-rated Russian MMA promotions would emerge as the best in a country as inundated with hardcore MMA fanatics as Russia.
But when you consider the approach to marketing and techniques allowed in fights by the Absolute Championship Akhmat, your puzzling thoughts ebb towards an amusing feeling of wonderment.
Unlike its Russian MMA counterparts, Absolute Championship Akhmat gives room for the high octane action of kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts to be freely displayed in the ring.
The organization is owned by American billionaire, Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk, who has provided a viable funding pipeline for it that no other Russian MMA promotion boasts of.
Furthermore, Absolute Championship Akhmat is also revered as the leading MMA organization in not just Russia but in all of Europe.
The promotion has seen its events in dozens of European countries as well as other non-EU countries such as Brazil, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, and most certainly the United States of America.
Founded initially to help promising mixed martial arts fighters to earn the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage, the promotion has managed to do that and pay claims to one of the biggest in the world.
2. Bellator MMA
- Founded: 2008
- Headquarters: Hollywood, California, USA
- Top Fighters: Ryan Bader, Yaroslav Amosov, Sergio Pettis, Raufeon Stots, Vadim Nemkoz, Patricky Pitbull, Gegard Mousasi, Logan Storley, Cris Cyborg, Liz Caramouche
- Watch/Live Streaming: Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Bellator MMA APP
- Website: bellator.com
From the heart of Santa Monica, California, the world gets thrilled with some of the most thrilling action the bone-crunching world of mixed martial arts brings.
One of the most dominant promotions in MMA history, Bellator MMA is the second-largest combat sports promotion in the world.
Bellator saw significant growth following ownership by Viacom (merged with CBS Corporation and Viacom to become Paramount Global).
Partnership deals with media companies such as ESPN Brazil, DAZN, and FOX Sports in America expanded the reach of Bellator MMA, making it one of the largest combat sports promotions on the planet.
1. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
- Founded: 1993
- Headquarters: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
- Top Fighters: Francis Ngannou, Alexander Volkanovski, Deiveson Figueiredo, Glover Teixeira, Kamaru Usman, Aljamain Sterling, Israel Adesanya, Valentina Shevchenko, Amanda Nunes, Carla Esparza, Julianna Peña
- Watch/Live Streaming: UFC Fight Pass
- Website: ufc.com
Undoubtedly the holy grail of MMA promotions in the world, every MMA star dreams of fighting in the elite mixed martial arts promotion company.
For over two decades, the UFC has dominated MMA and has established itself as the biggest combat sports promotion in the world.
The UFC has eight weight divisions, eight for male MMA fighters and four for female MMA fighters.
The promotion adheres strictly to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Due to its popularity and fierce competitive nature, the UFC lays key emphasis on doping.
Fighters go through random doping examinations carried out by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)—the UFC independent anti-doping agency.
The rise of UFC as the dominant force in MMA is an inspirational tale that saw the company rescued from the cusp of financial doom and elevated to the grand heights of athletics supremo, with special financial incentives.
In 2016 the company was sold for $4 billion, but even the change in ownership has gone little to derail the rise of UFC in the global spheres of MMA action.
The immense popularity of mixed martial arts and its fast-rising can be attributed to the impressive work of the various organizations that organized high octane and nerve-racking bouts that continually captivated fans.
These promotions have ensured the millennia-old sport continues to thrive and interest viewers.
This has ensured that the survival of a fascinating piece of the ancient tradition that billions of humans who have come before and those who revel in the present wonders of its thrills continue to enjoy.
As long as these MMA organizations continue to move with the tides of change and extend the global reach to MMA action, the world of mixed martial arts is bound to thrive continually.
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Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons