Beginner's Guide to UFC: 25 Things You Should Know

Beginner’s Guide to the UFC: 25 Things You Should Know

In today’s article, we are going to give you an overview of the UFC, the biggest and most popular MMA organization in the world. This is not a thorough, comprehensive study of the organization, but a brief, yet all-encompassing guide to the 20 essential things everyone should know about the UFC. We’ll try to answer as many questions as possible so that our guide can be used as a good reference guide for all those who want to know the basics, but also for those who want to continue expanding their knowledge and are looking for a good starting point.

1. What Is the UFC?

Despite often being used as a synonym for MMA, UFC – or Ultimate Fighting Championship – is actually an organisation that promotes MMA fights. Its headquarters are located in Las Vegas, NV and it was founded back in 1993. It is currently jointly owned by several companies, with Dana White being the key person behind the whole organisation. The UFC started off relatively slowly, but has – mostly thanks to White’s policies and decisions – become one of the most popular and lucrative businesses in the world. The UFC is practically an ATM machine with a yearly revenue of more than $600,000,000, and these numbers don’t include the lucrative media rights agreements the UFC has. 

Check out our article on how Dana White started the UFC.

2. Is UFC the Same as MMA?

As we’ve said, people often mix these two things up. Although we’ve already discussed this topic in a separate article (link to the article about are UFC and MMA the same thing), this is one of the essential things you’d want to have in a guide like this one. So, to answer your question – the UFC and MMA are not the same and they cannot be used as synonyms. As stated above, the UFC is an organisation, a company whose goal is to promote MMA fights. The UFC is not a sport, it’s a corporation whose business is sport. On the other hand, MMA – or mixed martial arts – is a modern combat sport that combines elements from several different martial arts into one fighting style. MMA is the focus here, it’s the sport without which the UFC would not and could not exist, while the UFC is an organisation that promotes MMA fights. 

3. Does the UFC Have Rules?

The first UFC event, back in 1993, was advertised as having “no rules, no scores and no time limits”. This was mostly true even back then, although there were some limits (like no shots in the eyes or the groin area). Still, despite being advertised as dangerous and rule-less, the UFC was never and is not a street fight and there were and still are – rules. Over the years, the rules have expanded and today we have a very precise and detailed rulebook on how to fight in the UFC. The referees are in charge of enforcing the rules inside the ring, while the judges follow the fight from their ringside position. 

Check out our article about all the rules in the UFC.

4. Are There Rounds in the UFC?

Despite the rules, the UFC doesn’t have a fixed round system, meaning that matches can vary in maximum length, depending on the type of the match. For example, championship or “main event” bouts last longer than regular fights. But the maximum number of rounds is still substantially smaller than in other combat sports, like boxing. The “big ones” – championship and “main event” fights – can last for a maximum of five rounds, while other fights can last for a maximum of three rounds. Some non-main-event fights, but only in certain divisions, also have a special, “sudden death” fourth round in case of a draw to determine the winner, but that is not a widely spread rule. The rounds last can last up to five minutes and there is a one-minute break between rounds.

We’ve discussed the rounds in an UFC fight in more detail in the given article.

5. Where do UFC Fighters Fight?

The ring, i.e. the fighting arena of UFC fights is called “The Octagon”. Unlike other combat sports and martial arts, who have a square- or circle-shaped arena, the UFC’s arena is octagonally shaped. It was initially developed by the SEG company, but is today owned by Zuffa. “The Octagon” has a diameter of 9.1 meters (30 feet) and is surrounded by a chained fence that is 1.8 meters (6 feet) high. Like other fighting arenas, “The Octagon” sits on an elevated platform that is 1.2 meters (4 feet) high. The arena has two entry gates. The top of the fence, like each of the sides, has a foam padding. The mat is replaced after each fight for health reasons. These numbers refer to a standard UFC cage, but there are also some smaller variations for non-main-event matches, where the diameter is just 7.6 meters (25 feet).

Be sure to check out our article on the history of UFC’s Octagon.

6. How Can a UFC Match End?

A match can end in several different ways, based on the outcome of the fight. They are: (1) submission, the fighter taps the mat three timer or (verbally) submits in some submits in some other way. The submission must be clear and precise, as it is final; (2) knockout, when a fighter cannot continue due to loss of consciousness; (3) technical knockout – the fighter is not unconscious, but the referee has evaluated that the damage is so severe that it would be dangerous for him to continue the fight. A technical knockout can be due to a decision by either the referee, the doctor or the corner; (4) judge’s decision – if the match was not decided by 1-3, the judges make the decision. For more on these decisions, see our article; (5) disqualification; the fighter made an intentional and severe breach of the rules and he is, thus, disqualified from further fighting; (6) forfeit, a fighter intentionally stops the fight before it ends without a clear and valid reason (e.g. an injury); and (7) no contest, a fighter is rendered unable to fight before there is a sufficient number of rounds for the judges to make a decision.

7. What Is Considered an Illegal Move in the UFC?

There is a total of 35 fouls in MMA, as listed by the notoriously strict Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). Three of them are fouls against the grounded opponent, while the rest can be described as regular fouls. The fouls are: head-butting. eye-gouging, biting, hair pulling, fish-hooking, groin attacks, putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent (i.e., fish-hooking), small joint manipulation, striking to the spine or the back of the head (i.e., a rabbit punch), striking downward using the point of the elbow (i.e., the 12-6 elbow), throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea, clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh, grabbing the clavicle, kicking to the kidney with the heel, spiking an opponent to the canvas on the head or neck (i.e., a piledriver), throwing an opponent out of the ring or fenced area, holding the shorts or gloves of an opponent, spitting at an opponent or the referee, engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent, holding or grabbing the ropes or the fence, using abusive language in the ring or fenced area, attacking an opponent on or during the break, attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee, attacking an opponent after the bell (horn) has sounded the end of a round, flagrantly disregarding the instructions of the referee, timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury, Interference by the corner, throwing in the towel during competition, applying any foreign substance to the hair, body, clothing or gloves immediately prior to or during a contest or exhibition that could result in an unfair advantage, if the referee has signalled that the opponent has been knocked out, striking an opponent who is helpless as a result of previous blows and so supported by the ring or fenced area that he or she does not fall, striking deliberately at that part of the body over the kidneys, intentionally spitting out the mouthpiece, kicking the head of a grounded opponent (i.e., a soccer kick), kneeing the head of a grounded opponent, and stomping a grounded opponent.

Here is the list of all the illegal moves in the UFC.

8. How Are UFC Fights Scored?

The ten-point must system is in effect for all UFC fights; three judges score each round and the winner of each receives ten points while the loser receives nine points or fewer (although 10–10 rounds are given in the rare event that a judge feels the rounds was too close to warrant giving one fighter 10 and the other 9.) Scores of 10–8 are typically awarded for dominant rounds and anything more dominant is scored less. 10–7 rounds are very rare. Other scores are practically non-existent in the UFC, although still possible theoretically.

Here is our article on the full guide to UFC fight scoring

9. Are There Weight Classes in the UFC?

Yes, there are. Like in most (if not all) combat sports, there are weight classes so that fighters with similar physiques can fight each other. The goal is, of course, to make the fight fairer. In the UFC, the classes are called divisions and are divided into men’s and women’s divisions, with the former having eight, and the latter four. The men’s divisions are flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. The women’s divisions are strawweight, flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight.

For more info, check out our article on the UFC weight classes.

10. Who Are the Current UFC Champions?

Now that we’ve shown you the divisions, let’s see who the current champions are. Chinese fighter Weili Zhang is the current women’s Strawweight Champion; the men’s Flyweight title is currently vacant, while the women’s champion is Valentina Shevchenko from Kyrgyzstan. Henry Cejudo (USA) and Amanda Nunes (Brazil) are the men’s and women’s champions in the Bantamweight category respectively. The Featherweight title is the last that has a champion in both genders, with Australian Alexander Volkanovski being the men’s champion, and Brazilian Amanda Nunes being the women’s champion. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Russia) is the current Lightweight Champion. Nigerians Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya are the Welterweight and Middleweight Champions respectively, while Americans Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic hold the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles respectively.

11. Who Has the Most Bouts in the UFC?

Because there are not that many UFC events during a calendar year and not everyone can participate in each event, UFC careers aren’t usually prolific when it comes to the number of bouts. That is confirmed by the fact that the highest number of bouts fought by an individual is just 35. So, who’s the record holder? The record holder for most bouts in the UFC, is – Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, a 37-year old American MMA fighter who actively participates in several combat sports from 2002. He has one professional boxing fight and a solid career in kickboxing, but has, since 2006, been working on his MMA career and is currently the fighter with most bouts in the organisation.

Check out the complete list of fighter with most fights in the UFC.

12. Who Has the Most Wins in the UFC?

Related to the former question, winning in the UFC is even tougher than just fighting. Why? Well, first of all – you have a limited window to even fight. Secondly, if you manage to get a lot of bouts, you’re hardly going to win them all. So, as you can see, your window is very limited because you have to prepare for a limited number within a limited frame. But someone still has to be the best. So, who is it? Again – it’s Donald Cerrone! Although he has a record 23 wins in the UFC, which is a pretty solid number, Cerrone’s career numbers aren’t that brilliant. He has an overall record of 36-14-1 from a total of 51 fights. His UFC career started in 2011, after three years with the WEC, and his general record is solid, but not that brilliant. For example, his current streak extends to three losses in a row since 2019.

Take a look at our article about fighters with the most wins in the UFC history.

13. Who Is the Oldest Champion in the UFC?

UFC fights are very exhausting and straining on the body. Because of the difficult combat and the demanding schedule, not many fighters manage to have long-lasting careers in the organisation. Still, there are some exceptions and some fighters manage to stay active well into their forties. One of them is the legendary Randy Couture, who is both the oldest fighter and the oldest champion in the UFC, achieving both records at the age of 45! Anderson Silva, who’s currently active (unlike Couture), is also 45 years old, but has won his last championship title when he was 38. 

Check out our article with the list of the oldest fighters in the UFC history.

14. Why Is Dana White so Important and Imnipresent?

We all know Dana White. Some of us love him. Some of us hate him. Almost none of us are indifferent towards him. But why is he so important? Well, beside being the almost eternal UFC president, Dana White is the person responsible for the UFC’s still-growing popularity. It was his determination that made UFC into what it is today and it was his decision-making policy that enabled the UFC to become of the most lucrative sports business in the world today. In short – UFC as we know it would not exist without Dana White. So, there you have it – now you know why White is so important for the UFC. 

Here is our article about Dana White and how much of the UFC does he own.

15. What Equipment Do You Need for the UFC?

Initially, the UFC was very open about the attire of its fighters. This resulted in fighters wearing attires specific for their favourite or primary martial art. But that changed after a while and although the fighters still have certain liberties, it is only within a predetermined ruleset. All fighters must wear approved shorts, without shoes and no tops; tops are only required for female fighters. The necessary equipment includes padded gloves (they are open-fingered and must have at least 1 inch of padding around the knuckles), a mouthguard to protect the jaw and teeth and protective cups instead of the more used jockstraps (for males only). To ensure the regularity of a fight, the attire is thoroughly evaluated by a state authority before the match.

16. Are There UFC-Based Video Games?

The growing popularity of the UFC, along with a very lucrative video game market, enabled fans around the world do play UFC fighting simulations at home. Like with other sports, there are a lot of UFC-related video games you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home and, at least virtually, participate in the growing phenomenon. The games are: Ultimate Fighting Championship (Dreamcast, PlayStation), UFC: Tapout (Xbox), UFC: Throwdown (GameCubePlayStation 2), UFC: Tapout 2 (Xbox), UFC: Sudden Impact (PlayStation 2), UFC 2009 Undisputed (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), UFC Undisputed 2010 (PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iPod TouchiPadiPhone), UFC Personal Trainer (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii), UFC Undisputed 3 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), EA Sports UFC (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), EA Sports UFC 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), and EA Sports UFC 3 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One).

17. Who Are the Most Popular UFC Fighters?

In today’s world, one’s popularity is measured by the number of followers a person has on his social networking accounts. The more you have, the more popular you are. Although there are a lot of different social networks, UFC fighters are usually well-represented by Instagram, which is why we’re going to tell you who the most popular ones are. They are Israel Adesanya (@stylebender), Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant), Georges St-Pierre (@georgesstpierre), Zubaira Tukhugov (@zubairatukhugov), Anderson Silva (@spiderandersonsilva), Nate Diaz (@natediaz209), Jon Jones (@jonnybones), Ronda Rousey (@rondarousey), Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov), and Conor McGregor (@thenotoriousmma). If you already aren’t, be sure to follow them on Instagram.

Here is the link to the animated infographic that shows how the number of followers for most popular UFC fighters changed over the years.

18. How Much Do UFC Fighters Make?

UFC fighters have several different sources of income and their total revenue depends on a lot of factors. The main source of income is, of course, the fights, for which they can receive different bonuses. Other sources are sponsorship deals, endorsements and potential private businesses. So, the average yearly income is somewhere around $150,000, not including different bonuses and external sources of income. But that goes only for lesser-known fighters. Bigger names could have a total yearly income of several million dollars. 

Here is the link to our in-depth analysis of how much are UFC fighters getting paid.

19. What Do the Referees Do?

The referee is a UFC official that is in charge of keeping the fight clean and respectful. He participates in the fight. He is always inside the octagon and has to watch out that the fighters respect the rules and each other. He’s responsible for announcing the winner, but his actual powers are quite limited. He can deduce points for rule violations, he can stop a fight, declare a fighter as unfit for further combat, but he cannot influence the final decision about the winner.

Check out our article about best and worst referees in the UFC.

20. What Do the Judges Do?

Judges are ringside observers who score the match and make the final decision in case there’s no K.O. or a disqualification. They do not participate in the fight directly, but rather just observe it. They score each round based on the fighters’ performances, they can deduce points for rule violations and ultimately decide the winner if both fighters are still standing after the fight is over. The referee, on the other hands, participates in the fight. He is always inside the octagon and has to watch out that the fighters respect the rules and each other. He’s responsible for announcing the winner, but his actual powers are quite limited. He can deduce points for rule violations, he can stop a fight, declare a fighter as unfit for further combat, but he cannot influence the final decision about the winner.

Check out how much are UFC referees and judges making.

21. Are There Ranking Belts in the UFC?

To answer it shortly – no, there are not. Why? First of all, the UFC is an organisation that promotes fighting, so it would make absolutely no sense for it to hand out ranking belts, like international sports federations do for their respective sports. Secondly, the UFC only promotes a sport, it’s not a sports organisation itself. Thirdly, the sport it promotes (MMA) doesn’t have a ranking system per se because it’s a composite sport with no unique teachings. Individual sports that an MMA fighter knows can and usually do have ranking belts, but that does not translate to either MMA, or the UFC.

22. Do UFC Fighters Use Doping?

While there have been individual cases, the UFC has a no-doping policy and a very strict system of control in place since 2015. Their contract with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) resulted in the fighters being checked on a regular basis and in a lot of cases being exposed and sanctioned. So, no, UFC fighters are not allowed to use performance-enhancing drugs, although there have been past cases and incidents.

23. Are There Specific Match Conduct Rules?

In addition to the basic rules listed and described above, there are several other rules pertaining to match conduct that are worth mentioning. The referee can issue a verbal warning for several reasons, one of them being when a fighter grabs the cage. The referee will proceed to remove the fighter’s grab, but if it fails or the fighter again grabs the cage, the referee may charge him with a foul. A verbal warning can also be issued if the fighters reach a stalemate on the ground. The match is then paused and the fighters are ordered to stand up; this rule is called the stand-up rule in Nevada. The referee can pause a match for other reasons as well. The match is then continued when the fighters are in their prior positions. In this final passage, we’re going to talk about the ever so popular “trash talking”, i.e. verbal abuse. It happens in all sports, not just MMA (for example, some NBA players have been notorious “trash talkers” during their careers), but due to the aggressive nature of this discipline, it might be more present than in some other sports. Early UFC payed no attention to “trash talking” during fights; it was allowed and considered to be a part of the folklore. On the other hand, modern UFC allows verbal antics before the match as it elevates the excitement and build-up for the match, but prohibits any form of verbal abuse during the fight itself.

Here is the complete list of UFC rules.

24. Are the Belts Made Out of Real Gold?

In short – yes, they are! Now let us see how and why. Although there must have been some more baroque ones, UFC belts are generally much simpler than their boxing counterparts. Yet, they are made out of pure gold and not just gold-plated metals. The gold is, of course, of high quality and the belts are specially designed, but all the same remain simpler than boxing belts. In a 2013 interview, available on YouTube, UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman talked about having his belt appraised and the value of a simple, pure gold belt was $330,000. This is why we’ve said, above, that the value of the gold in the belt is usually less than 50% of the total value of a more flamboyant belt. UFC also sells replicas of original golden belts. These replicas are just golden-plated metals, but are nice gift for those that actually like that sort of stuff. The value of such replicas is somewhere around $1,000 and they can easily be purchased online from different retailers and online shopping websites.

Check out our article about UFC belts.

25. Who Has the Most Consecutive Wins?

The record holder for most consecutive wins in the UFC is legendary Brazilian fighter Anderson Silva, who managed to collect 16 straight wins from June 28, 2006 to July 6, 2013. Silva was primarily a middleweight fighter and he totalled 24 UFC fights in his career, with a total record of 17-1-6. Interestingly enough, when Silva lost his first UFC match on July 6, 2013 – after having had 16 wins before that fight – he managed to win just one UFC fight (in 2017) up to now. The numbers for each division vary, so we can forward you to our article to check these exact numbers!

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Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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