What it Truly Takes to Become a UFC Champion Today

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Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is a modern amalgamation of about 15 different combat disciplines including wrestling, jiu-jitsu, muay thai, boxing and kung fu. Because of the multifarious nature of the sport, there are numerous avenues to transition into and out of the sport; which seems to be growing exponentially by the year.

The most prestigious honor in the sport is the Ultimate Fighting Championship title, which has been claimed by just 81 individuals in its history. Dana White is the current President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is the mma organization in the world. Under White’s leadership, the UFC has grown into a globally popular multibillion-dollar enterprise, and helped him acquire an individual net worth of about half a billion dollars.

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The UFC is a reflection of the notoriously brash and biting management style that Dana White exudes, and this quality has been instrumental to its rapid growth and rousing success. Besides athletic ability and toughness, extreme discipline is a necessity for greatness in the UFC.

Once you have those basic requirements covered, there are countless paths one can take to the UFC title. There is no single path to becoming a successful professional athlete, but when you analyze the 81 previous champions, some commonalities and patterns really do emerge. 

A fighter’s favorite discipline before MMA is very important – it dictates the way they will fight in the octagon and, ca be statistically, predictive of how successful they can ultimately be. Of the 81 champions crowned by the UFC to date, 53 came from a background in grappling.

And of those 53 champions, 35 took up wrestling as their dominant martial art before moving into MMA. That is 43 per cent of all UFC champions to date, a far higher proportion than any other discipline. The other major grappling discipline, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has produced the second-most UFC champions with 17.

Perhaps surprisingly, there have been just five UFC champions with a specialist background in the world’s biggest combat sport: boxing.

And while UFC is a global sport, it is often thought of as being predominantly an American endeavor and largely American in nature. It follows, then, that 54 of the 81 UFC champions to date have hailed from the United States.

Not all champions hailing from the USA come from a wrestling background, but the sport’s place in American society has certainly played a part in their dominance of the UFC belts. That Brazil is second on the list with 14 champions is also not a shock, given that jiu-jitsu is the second-most successful martial art in UFC history.

The only other countries that boast more than one UFC champion are Canada and the Netherlands, with two each.

When Dana White made the broadcast rights deal with FOX in 2011, he said his ambitions were to someday make the sport as big as the NFL. That’s a very tall order, but given the sport’s universal appeal, you can see why he’s dreaming big.

Below is an infographic created by Betway which gives you more composite info regarding the demographics of a UFC champion.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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