Although still considered a young sport, some of the best MMA organizations have already reached mainstream levels.
With the sport rising at a high rate and more money coming in, we can see more and more promotions growing their business. And in this article, you are going to learn all about the best MMA organizations all around the world.
We will provide you with detailed information on each best MMA promotions. From rules, and fighter roster, to how big of a player they are in the industry, you will learn it all. Some of the following promotions are among the pioneers of the sport, while the other ones are new on the market and worth checking out.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into it.
15. Road Fighting Championship (Road FC)
Headquarters: Wonju-si, South Korea
Top Fighters: Mighty Mo, Mansour Barnaoui, Yang Hae-Jun
Watch: ROAD FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP (YouTube)
Road Fighting Championship is the biggest MMA promotion in South Korea and the leader in this part of the world. Its roster consists of over 300 fighters from all around the world, but naturally, the majority come from Asia. South Korea and Asia in general has a strong martial art tradition and community so it didn’t take long for Road FC events to become accepted and popular by the general public.
Unlike most other promotions on this list, Road FC adopts the global MMA rule set. Regular matches have between 2 and 3 rounds, while championship fights are three rounds. The promotion also adopts a unique “Unlimited Points System” which differs from the regular 10-point must. In short, the system favors aggressive, exciting, and busy fighters while penalizing the ones who tend to stall the action or be passive.
As far as techniques are concerned, the rules are very much in line with the Unified Rules.
14. Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA)
Headquarters: Grozny, Chechnya
Top Fighters: Zabit Magomedsharipov, Petr Yan Norman Parke, Scott Askham
Watch: ACA Website
ACA stands for a proper mixed martial arts promotion. Its events include everything from high-level MMA matches, kickboxing, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu which make every show dynamic and packed with action. Although based in Russia, ACA is spread globally and regularly hosts events in other countries such as Brazil, Canada, the UK, etc.
The main goal of the promotion has always been to give space and a platform to young fighters to unleash their full potential and prove their worth. The promotion is also known for paying the fighters well, which prevents the fighters from leaving, and adds to the strength of the roster. As a result, many fighters who gained experience in ACA went on to later sign with bigger promotions and be successful.
13. AMC Fight Nights
Headquarters: Moscow, Russia
Top Fighters: Vladimir Egoyan, Nikita Krylov, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Antionio Silva
Watch: FITE TV, Match TV, VK Video, YouTube
AMC Fight Night was formerly known as “Fight Nights Global (FNC)”. FNC stood for one of the top promotions in Russia and nothing has changed after rebranding to AMC.
Since its foundation in 2010, AMC hosted over 130 events, mostly in Russia and other neighboring countries such as Belarus, Slovakia, China, and Kazakhstan. The company is owned by the Russian billionaire, Ziyavudin Magomedov and is in safe hands in terms of financials. They are planning on expanding in the European and other markets as well.
For many years, AMC Fight Nights has been producing high-level athletes. Many of them later went on to conquer the bigger organizations in the west such as Bellator and the UFC. Some of these fighters are Fedor Emelianenko, Alexander Shlemenko, Andrei Arlovski, and many others.
The AMC events are broadcasted through “Match TV” and “Fight Network” providers. Following the recent trends, the company also has its own NFT and cryptocurrency called “AMC Token”. The owners of their tokens frequently get discounts on tickets, AMC merchandise, and other items.
12. Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA)
Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Top Fighters: Valentina Shevchenko, Ray Borg, Tim Means, Thomas Almeida, Holly Holm, Derrick Lewis
Watch: AXS TV, UFC Fight Pass
LFA was previously known as the “Legacy Fighting Championship (LFC). But in 2017, the promotion merged with the “Resurrection Fighting Alliance” and the final result was the LFA. The two promotions merged all the fighters’ contracts, and TV and streaming deals. And overnight, LFA became the strongest medium-sized promotion on the US market.
The majority of LFC and later LFA events were broadcasted by AXS TV owned by Mark Cuban. However, the promotion secured an exclusive deal with the UFC in 2019, so all of the events are now aired on UFC Fight Pass. There is also an “unwritten” deal that LFA actually serves as a farm league for the UFC. This is not a big surprise considering all of the connections and partnerships deals.
11. Invicta Fighting Championship (Invicta FC)
Headquarters: Enka Village, NC, US
Top Fighters: Carla Esparza, Megan Anderson, Cris Cybrog, Rose Namajunas, Page VanZant, Michelle Waterson.
Watch: AXS TV, UFC Fight Pass
Invicta FC is widely known as the women’s only MMA promotion and the first of its kind in sports history. It emerged back in 2012 just when women’s MMA hit the mainstream rise. And since then, it has been a farm league for bigger promotions such as UFC and Bellator.
In fact, Invicta FC has a partnership deal with the UFC for example. Its events are broadcasted on the UFC Fight Pass online streaming platform. And of course, the best talents and champions often end up signing a contract with the UFC. It’s worth mentioning that the events are also broadcasted on AXS TV, Fight Network, and YouTube.
When it comes to rules and regulations, Invicta fully adopted the “Unified Rules of MMA” and there are 5 different women’s weight classes:
- Atomweight (105 lbs)
- Strawweight (115 lbs)
- Flyweight (125 lbs)
- Bantamweight (135 lbs)
- Featherweight (145 lbs)
10. Eagle Fighting Championship (EFC)
Headquarters: Miami, Florida, US
Top Fighters: Diego Sanchez, Kevin Lee, Renan Barao, Rashad Evans, Junior Dos Santos
Watch: FLXcast APP
Shortly after retiring from pro-MMA, the former UFC Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov decided to get into the promotional business. His initial step was to buy the Russian “Gorilla Fighting Championship” in 2020 for $1 million. Then, he rebranded it to “Eagle Championship” to make the brand more recognizable.
Considering the global stardom of Khabib, it’s not a surprise that the initial EFC events created a lot of hype. And the shows managed to deliver in terms of entertainment and production. The promotion is yet to expand its roster of fighters in each division. But for now, it seems like they have adopted the right business model.
Unlike most other promotions, EFC includes 9 weight classes, and there are no women’s divisions. The biggest difference is the welterweight division where the upper limit is raised to 175 lbs (it’s 170 in most other promotions). And there is a super lightweight division (165 lbs).
As a new promotion, Khabib is using his influence and all the connections within the industry to make a breakthrough in the US market. He is also considering mixing MMA with grappling matches under the same events like ONE FC is doing. Certainly, EFC has a lot of potential and financial support to become one of the best MMA promotions in the world.
9. M-1 Global
Headquarters: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Top Fighters Produced: Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Alexander Volkov, Sergei Kharitonov
Watch: FITE TV
M-1 Global is one of the pioneers of MMA in Russia. The promotion is also known for producing top-level fighters for over two decades. They are doing a good job of promoting the sport all across the former soviet countries, scouting and recruiting only the finest potentials. M-1 is hosting around 20 events every year, with each one packed with top fighters, notably from the eastern part of the world.
In fact, M-1 global does such a good job that in 2018, they signed a partnership deal with the biggest promotion in the world, the UFC. Both sides agreed that M-1 global would serve as a farm league for the UFC where each fighter who wins the M-1 title would get a guaranteed shot in the UFC. One such fighter was Movsar Evloev for instance.
However, M-1 does not focus only on Russian fighters. You can see a lot of up-and-coming talents from the west signing with them to prove their worth. Nate Landwerth and his M-1 journey before the UFC is a great example.
Overall, M-1 Global is the absolute leader in Eastern Europe and is often seen as the best promotion on the continent. Its events are aired in 100 countries worldwide, and you can live stream each event on the FITE TV platform.
Headquarters: Nishi-shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Top Fighters: Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock, Ken Shamrock, Minoru Suzukui, Semmy Schilt, Josh Barnett
Watch: UFC Fight Pass
Pancrase is the pioneer of MMA in Japan and the world in general. It was founded in 1993 by two pro wrestlers, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. The name “Prancrase” originates from the ancient sport used in the Olympics called “Pankration”.
The initial concept was a hybrid mix of pro-wrestling rules and full-contact striking. Fighters could strike the head only with an open hand, while closed-fist punches were allowed to the body only. This was up until 2000 when the promotion decided to change the rules to be more in line with the modern MMA that was rapidly rising in Asia.
In 2015, the promotion signed a deal with the UFC which gives the American promotion the right to broadcast all of the events. Also, active Fight pass members can access the library where they can watch all previous events live on demand. And in 2016, the promotion adopted the Unified Rules of MMA.
7. Cage Warriors (CWFC)
Headquarters: London, UK
Top Fighters: Paddy Pimblet, Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping
Watch: UFC Fight Pass, BT Sport, Viasat
Cage Warriors is one of the pioneers of MMA in the UK, and Europe in general. It was founded way back in 2002 by Dougie Truman just as the sport started to rise in Europe, and it stands for the best MMA promotion in the UK.
Like most other medium-sized promotions, Cage Warriors serves as a farm league. And considering the rapid rise of the sport in the UK, it’s not a surprise to see Cage Warriors producing high-level fighters capable of reaching the pinnacle of the sport. The likes of Conor McGregor, Gegard Mousasi, and Michael Bisping are just some of the names Cage Warriors has produced over the years.
As one of the best promotions in Europe, Cage Warriors events are aired on various online platforms and cable networks. You can watch the events on UFC Fight Pass, BT Sport, Viasat, and around 15 other media companies.
6. Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)
Headquarters: Warszawa, Poland
Top Fighters: Mateusz Gamrot, Jan Blachowicz, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Roberto Soldic
Watch: KSW TV
KSW is often seen as the best MMA promotion in Europe and the magnitude of each event certainly confirms this status. What separates KSW from the rest is the top-quality production. The promotion invests a lot in shooting top-notch promo materials, hyping up the events, and giving the audience a story behind each fight.
Also, KSW is known for treating its fighters well, notably when it comes to financials. It often happens that KSW fighters do not want to leave the promotion despite the offers from bigger promotions.
KSW events are often organized in the biggest arenas in Poland, even stadiums. Although not as deep as in big promotions, the promotion includes a respectful roster. In fact, KSW has produced many talents over the years, and plenty of its fighters went on to become successful UFC fighters and champions.
If you haven’t checked KSW yet, be sure to do so as the quality of each show is worth it. Each event is aired in a pay-per-view format and usually costs around $12–15.
5. Rizin Fighting Federation (Rizin FF)
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan
Top Fighters: Kyoji Horiguchi, Jiri Prochazka, Mirko Filipovic
Watch: FITE TV, LIVENOW
Rizin FF is one of the leading promotions in the Asian market. What makes it different from most promotions on this list is the unique set of rules. Rizin didn’t adopt the Unified Rules of MMA, but rather has its own rule set, similar to the one used in PRIDE FC. This is not a big surprise considering Rizin was founded by the former PRIDE FC bosses.
For example, Rizin fighters can utilize brutal moves such as soccer kicks, foot stomps, and knees to the grounded opponent. These techniques are not allowed in most other promotions. The other key difference is the fighting area as Rizin fighters compete in a boxing ring. Also, the rules enable elbow strikes from any position or angle, including the famous “12 to 6” position.
It’s also worth pointing up that Rizin does not have any anti-doping policies.
Although it may sound brutal, Rizin matches are packed with action and do not look “barbaric” in any way. However, there are some quite bizarre freak show matchups from time to time. They also tend to promote various exhibition matches, such as the one between the boxer Floyd Mayweather and the famous kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa organized in 2018.
You can watch Rizin FF matches on FITE TV and can watch many of their events for free. However, the biggest ones are aired in a PPV format and usually cost around $20 and are worth the money in terms of entertainment.
4. Professional Fighters League (PFL)
Headquarters: Washington, D.C, US.
Top Fighters: Kayla Harrison, Anthony Pettis, Jeremy Stephens, Shane Burgos
PFL differs from all other promotions on this list. Their business focuses on promoting the sport of MMA through the league-season format:
- Regular season
Each PFL season begins as a league and there are 5 different weight classes for men and 1 women’s division. Fighters in each weight class first compete in a league where they score points, before advancing to the elimination playoffs where the winner receives $1 million.
The league is quite simple to understand. Around 72 fighters compete two times during the season and the top 4 fighters from each weight division advance to the playoffs. Each win is worth 3 points and fighters can also get bonus points for finishes depending on the round. For example:
- 1st round KO/Submission — 3 points
- 2nd round KO/Submission — 2 points
- 3rd round KO/Submission — 1 point
This type of point-scoring system adds to the quality of PFL fights because fighters would often push for an early finish to get as many points as possible to secure a place in the playoffs. Apart from the unique league-season format, PFL rules also differ from the other promotions. For example, the promotion adopts the Unified Rules of MMA but does not allow elbow strikes at all.
PFL athletes compete in a 10-sided “smart cage” that provides the audience with live information. Through sensors integrated inside the fighters’ gloves, the audience can see the exact speed and force of the punch for example, and other unique info.
3. ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC)
Top Fighters: Adriano Moraes, Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez
Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube
ONE FC is the best MMA promotion in Asia, and many people see it as the second-best promotion overall. And it is hard to argue against this considering the rapid rise of ONE in recent years. They have a strong roster of fighters, a unique business model, and have managed to maintain a high level of production for each event.
First, ONE FC promotes MMA as well as Muay Thai with MMA gloves, kickboxing, and submission grappling matches. Each event is a mix of matches from one or more of these sports, which adds to the dynamic of the show. Fighters either compete in a circular steel cage or inside the boxing ring with four ropes depending on the event.
However, what makes ONE FC unique, and by many experts better than other promotions, is its unique weight-cutting policy. ONE FC does not allow extreme weight cutting by dehydration, which forces the fighters to compete at their natural weight. They do not cut 20–30 pounds in a week leading up to a fight as they do in other promotions as they must stay hydrated all the time.
This means that the weight classes in ONE FC have heavier upper and lower limits than the same ones in other promotions. Apart from being safe, stopping extreme weight-cutting improves overall entertainment. Fighters are more energized, durable, stronger, and by their own testimonies, perform much better.
The fighting rules are very similar to the unified rules of MMA. The only major difference is that ONE FC allows knees to the grounded opponent while most other promotions don’t.
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California, US
Top Fighters: Michael Venom Page, Patricio Pitbull, Fedor Emelianenko, Yaroslav Amosov
Watch: Pluto TV, Showtime Sports
Bellator is considered the second-best promotion in the world. It managed to maintain this status for many years now thanks to its powerful investors from “Viacom”. However, the promotion still falls behind the UFC in every aspect despite all the efforts. This is notably true when it comes to the depth of the roster and revenue.
What makes Bellator different from other promotions is that it adopts two different competition formats. First, there are single events where athletes compete one fight at a time until they climb the lathers and win a world title. And, there is a tournament format where they compete in an elimination format also known as the “Bellator Grand Prix”.
Bellator adopts the Unified Rules of MMA, and its roster is a mix of former UFC top-level fighters who are at the closing stages of their careers, and up and coming talents from around the world. Some of the biggest names are Yoel Romero, Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, Patricio Pitbull, and many others.
The promotion continues to invest a lot of resources into expanding worldwide. For instance, Bellator secured an exclusive deal with the BBC in 2022 to make a major breakthrough in the UK market and Europe in general. The events are also aired on Pluto TV and you can watch them on Hulu as well.
1. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
Headquarters: Las Vegas, Nevada, US
Top Fighters: Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson
Watch: ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass, DAZN, BT Sport
The UFC is, by far, the biggest MMA promotion in the world, and the absolute leader in the industry. With an annual revenue of over $1 billion, not a single other promotion can’t come even close to matching the UFC numbers and the strength of their brand. The company is synonymous with the sport of MMA, which is the ultimate goal you can reach in any business.
The key competence of the UFC is the depth of its roster. Each of their 8 divisions for men and 4 for female fighters includes at least 50 athletes or over 600 in total. Winning titles in other promotions such as ONE and Bellator is a great achievement. But winning the UFC belt represents the ultimate goal and makes you a real-world champion. This is why sooner or later; most talented fighters from other organizations end up signing with the UFC.
The UFC has other strengths as well. The company is doing a great job in promoting every event, shooting hours of high-quality promo materials to hype you up such as “Countdowns” and “Embedded” series, and overall, investing massive resources to stay on top of the game. And as it all stands, no one will come even close to taking the UFC off the throne in the near future.
The events are organized in different formats such as the “Fight Nights” and PPV events, and there are around 40 shows each year.