Although there are many MMA organizations, the UFC is undoubtedly the most famous and most important among them. The second placed is Bellator.
Many wonder, what exactly is the difference between the UFC and the Bellator?
The difference between UFC and Bellator is in the roster of fighters competing in each of the two promotions. Both UFC and Bellator are MMA promotions, but they have different fighters signed. UFC is the best MMA promotion, while Bellator is the second.
In today’s article, I am going to compare the UFC with Bellator, another American organization that promotes MMA fights and events so you can see all the main differences, the divisions, and the current champions.
What Is the UFC?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion company based in Las Vegas, Nevada, owned and operated by several parent companies.
It is by far the largest and most important MMA promotion company in the world and features some of the highest-level fighters in the sport on its roster.
The UFC produces events worldwide and abides by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. 
As of 2021, the UFC has held over 550 events.
Dana White has been UFC president since 2001. Under White’s leadership, the UFC has grown into a globally popular multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
The first event was held in 1993 at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.
The purpose of the early Ultimate Fighting Championship competitions was to identify the most effective martial art in a contest with minimal rules and no weight classes between competitors of different fighting disciplines like boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, and Judo.
In subsequent events, fighters began adopting effective techniques from more than one discipline, which indirectly helped create a separate style of fighting known as present-day mixed martial arts.
With a TV deal and expansion in Australia, Asia, Europe, and new markets within the United States, the UFC has increased in popularity and has achieved greater mainstream media coverage.
The promotion brought in a total revenue of US$609 million in 2015, and its next domestic media rights agreement with ESPN was valued at $1.5 billion over a five-year term. 
What Is Bellator?
Bellator MMA (formally Bellator Fighting Championships) is an American mixed martial arts promotion founded in 2008 and based in Santa Monica, California.
It is one of the largest combat sports promotions in the world and the second largest in the United States, behind the UFC.
The promotion takes its name from bellātor, the Latin word for “warrior”.
Bellator’s first event was held in 2009, and the promotion has since held more than 260 events as of 2021.
Bellator was initially marketed as “the Toughest Tournament in Sports”, which was a single-elimination format that awarded the winner of each eight-person or four-person tournament a check for $100,000 and a guaranteed world-title fight against the current Bellator world champion in the applicable weight class.
As you can see, the format was largely different from the one used in the UFC, which one of the first big differences between these two organizations.
Unlike most MMA promotions, Bellator events were originally organized as part of larger tournaments.
Each tournament began with the opening round featuring eight fighters in that respective weight class, moved onto the semi-finals, and then the finals.
For four-man tournaments, only the semi-finals and finals were included.
Each tournament was single elimination and there was a one-month break between the opening round, semi-finals, and finals.
During the tournament, the rules were slightly different from those of a non-tournament fight.
Elbow strikes were illegal in the quarterfinal and semifinal tournament bouts due to the high probability of a cut occurring. Elbow strikes were legal in the finals.
The tournament final was still three five-minute rounds, since it was not a title fight.
Difference Between UFC and Bellator Fighters Roster
Both the UFC and Bellator have a large number of fighters on their respective rosters.
But the fact is that more money attracts bigger names and not one organization can compare to the UFC in that aspect, as it is undoubtedly the most lucrative of all the organizations.
The UFC has the best names in the sport on its roster, some of them being Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Valentina Shevchenko, Amanda Nunes, Stipe Miocic, etc. As for Bellator, being the second largest MMA organisation in the States, it still attracts relatively good fighters and has strong(er) names on its roster.
Some of them are Michael Chandler, Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Paul Daley, Lyoto Machida, Patrício “Pitbull” Freire, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Michael “Venom” Page, Douglas Lima, Cris Cyborg, etc.
Difference Between Weight Divisions in the UFC and Bellator
I have already talked about the weight divisions in the UFC, which is why I am going to cover them only briefly, so you can compare them with Belattor’s divisions (for more information about UFC weight classes).
The UFC has a total of 12 weight divisions – 8 men’s and 4 women’s divisions.
Concerning men’s divisions, the oldest one is the Heavyweight Division, founded back in 1997. The Light Heavyweight and Welterweight Divisions soon followed in December 1997 and 1998, respectively, with the Lightweight and Middleweight divisions being introduced in 2001.
The most recent divisions are the Bantamweight and Featherweight, introduced in 2010, and the Flyweight Division, introduced in 2012.
So, historically, the first ever weight division UFC champion was Mark Coleman, who won the Heavyweight belt back in 1997.
The competition format for women is both newer in date and a lot smaller.
Women only participate in four categories, with three of them being the same as the men’s and one being specifically for women.
The oldest among them is the Women’s Bantamweight Division, which got its first champion at the end of 2012.
The end of 2014 saw the establishment of the Women’s Strawweight Division, while the remaining two divisions – Women’s Featherweight and Women’s Flyweight – started in 2017.
So, the first female UFC champion in any category was American Ronda Rousey, who won the Women’s Bantamweight title in December 2012.
Bellator, on the other hand, has a smaller number of divisions. There are nine of them in total, with seven being men’s divisions and just two women’s.
Due to the different tournament formats used in Bellator, the divisions are organized a bit differently.
Men’s divisions range from Bantamweight, through Featherweight, Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and reach the Heavyweight division.
Women can compete in the Flyweight and Featherweight divisions.