Towards the end of last year I reminded us it was Sanctioned MMA's 10th Birthday when the first event to be regulated and feature the unified rules of MMA happened September 30th, 2000 in New Jersey under the International Fighting Championship banner. You can read about that here.
As I mentioned in that article, MMA became regulated 4 months before Frank & Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White bought the UFC from SEG and the purchase marked the beginning of the Zuffa era. UFC UK and International Development President Marshall Zelaznik informed me today via Facebook that today marks the 10th anniversary of the sale.
Zuffa - an Italian word that means "to fight" - would hold their first UFC event just over a month later on February 23rd. UFC 30 featured the debut of Sean Sherk, Jens Pulver fought Caol Uno for the Bantamweight title (until the WEC merger this is the only 'Bantamweight' title the promotion has had, but it would later become the Lightweight strap anyway) and Tito Ortiz successfully defended the Light Heavyweight title after slamming Evan Tanner into unconsciousness.
Unfortunately future Zuffa events didn't go as smoothly, most notably the infamous UFC 33 card on September 28th 2001 which featured 3 title fights and 6 out of 8 fights went to decision. The UFC had run out of satellite time and the PPV broadcast cut out in the middle of the Light Heavyweight title fight. It's the sort of thing that would utterly sink a promotion these days and should prove a cautionary tale to anyone trying to put on their own shows especially for television or Pay Per View. If you wondered why UFC today typically only has 5 fights on the main televised card and why at most they'll put on two title fights for a loaded card, now you know.
Most of us know the history from here on out. Zuffa were seemingly throwing millions of dollars into a money pit where even close friends and colleagues told them they were insane to keep going and it was reaching the point where the majority owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta were thinking about pulling the plug. In one last ditch effort they got UFC on cable television via The Ultimate Fighter that ended with a live finale featuring the first Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar slugfest and the series made Dana White a star in his own right. The rest as they say is history. UFC grew from strength to strength, eventually buying out their main troubled rival in Pride FC and laying waste to would be pretenders who didn't quite 'get it' while becoming the number 1 Pay Per View sport in North America if not the world.
10 years ago three guys took a gamble. In that 10 years there have been major and minor achievements, setbacks and controversies but it can't be denied the sport would be a whole lot different and might not even exist outside of an underground following were it not for three guys called Lorenzo, Frank and Dana.