The Ultimate Fighting Championship debuted in November 1993 in Denver, and nobody, neither the promoters nor the participants, had any idea what they were getting into.
Since then, the UFC has been on a 17-year-ride of cult popularity, public misunderstanding, near death, and a resurrection to the extent it is the biggest thing on pay-per-view in North America.
In early 2001, the UFC was a business barely clinging to existence and was sold to casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who put high school friend Dana White in charge.
The UFC’s financial issues were thought to be largely because virtually every major pay–per-view carrier refused to air the events. The 1994-96 success of the company built around Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and David “Tank” Abbott, fell because the shows weren’t available to most of its fans, who moved on to other things.
The belief was that once they got back on pay-per-view, the early success would be repeated. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case, and the company, by its own accounts, lost about $33 million from 2001-05 until the magic ingredient, “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, turned their fortunes around.
Today, there have been 118 shows, all over the world. In recent years, it has set gate and merchandise records in many venues.
Yet, it is still banned in New York and Toronto, and on an international level, a lot of the media still react like the U.S. media in the 1990s, seeing it as something they simply can’t accept as a sport.
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