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The Washington Post falls for the Zuffa myth

Even the Washington Post, with its layers of fact checkers and editors, cannot get the simple facts about the history of MMA and the UFC correct. Yes dear readers, the Washington Post has fallen for the Zuffa myth:

Just over a decade ago, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was basically a glorified, no-holds-barred toughman contest. UFC President Dana White and Zuffa LLC took over in 2001 and since then the UFC has tightened its rules and restrictions. It banned elbowing, head-butting and knee strikes to the head while on the ground, introduced weight classes and implemented various other protections, such as referee training, and mandatory fight doctors. The changes satisfied various state athletic commissions and allowed the UFC to move toward mainstream legitimacy.

Lets go through the facts . . . again.

  • The UFC had already adopted every major rule before Zuffa bought it.
  • The UFC has not banned elbows, except point of the elbow strikes. The UFC banned point of the elbow strikes before Zuffa bought it.
  • The UFC banned head butting before Zuffa bought it.
  • The UFC banned knee strikes to the head while a fighter is on the ground before Zuffa bought it.
  • The UFC introduced weight classes before Zuffa bought it.
  • New Jersey sanctioned MMA, and the UFC ran a show there before Zuffa bought it.
  • The California State Athletic Commission passed rules to regulate MMA before Zuffa bought the UFC (although budgetary and bureaucratic wrangling led to a 5 year delay before the regulations took effect).
  • The only state where Zuffa played a role in obtaining sanctioning was Nevada – and the executive commisisoner of the Nevada Stae Athletic Commission said that the state would have regulated MMA regardless whether Zuffa purchased the UFC.

Zuffa deserves credit for its success in running the UFC, but it does not have the right to erase from history the tremendous efforts its predecessors and competitors (like Paul Smith and the International Fighting Championship) to legitimize the sport. The actual truth is that Zuffa has built on the success that the UFC and others had in changing the sports image, introducing rules and obtaining state regulation, it did not change the direction of the sport.

(Do not forget, you can check out Eddie Goldman’s recent article for a summary of the prior UFC management’s efforts to legitimize the sport and obtain state regulation)

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