Last Updated on September 27, 2022
Blood, sweat, and tears… This trio of elements summarises the thrill of mixed martial arts as trained fighters square off in the ring.
You recently discovered that your favorite UFC promoter, the UFC, has a big competitor (Bellator), to your surprise and excitement.
Now, you wonder. Who hosts the most terrifying battles? Isn't the UFC untouchable? And who has the best competitors? Not to worry.
In this post, you'll discover the UFC's unmatched muscle power, Bellator's competitive Grand Prix, and both MMA promotions compare.
Main Differences Between Bellator Vs. UFC
- Bellator is the second-best MMA promotion in the USA, whereas UFC is the largest and most influential MMA promotion in history.
- Bellator fighters are highly-trained and skillful, whereas UFC fighters are the most paid and best MMA fighters worldwide.
- Bellator has 7 weight classes for men and 2 for women, whereas UFC has 8 male weight divisions and 4 female weight classes.
- Bellator is the second-ranking MMA promotion by revenue, whereas UFC is number one with almost ten times more revenue.
- Bellator was founded in 2008, whereas UFC was founded in 1993.
Who Is Bellator?
Bellator was founded by its former CEO and Chairman, Bjorn Rebney, in 2008. This newborn promotion was touted to challenge UFC's hold on the industry.
Bellator is pronounced as "bell-luh-taw," Latin for "warrior."
With the unique fighting format of Bellator, it seemed like a credible quest (or so we thought). Unlike UFC, where title challenges are predominantly by nomination, Bellator hosts disqualification tournaments, and the last-man-standing goes up against the champion – or becomes one.
A good example is the Netflix MMA anime, Baki Hanma, where all the fighters compete in the Raitai tournament. Then came a turning point for Bellator.
Showtime giants, Viacom, bought majority ownership of Bellator in 2011, and long after, they brought in Strikeforce founder Scott Coker as the new CEO, who changed the face of Bellator.
Coker's policies (dropping tournament-based cards, global events, and star building) proved effective, helping Bellator break profit for the first time under his management.
Although UFC and Bellator now focus on promoting stars, Coker re-introduced divisional Grand Prix tournaments in 2015.
Who Is UFC?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the world's largest MMA promotion, with its headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was founded by businessman Art Davie and legendary Brazilian martial artist Rorion Grace in 1993.
It has hosted over 600 events worldwide using the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
Here's a fun fact:
Early UFC competitions aimed to identify the best martial art in a contest with no rules or weight classes between fighters of different disciplines.
In some of the earliest UFC matches, Ken Shamrock went up against Royce Gracie (about 10kg smaller) and lost because he thought he was only a karateka. Gerard Gordeau also knocked out the much larger opponent, Sumo Wrestler Teila Tuli,
While this format didn't last (weight division, time limits, scoring system, and more rules were implemented), it helped put mixed martial art on the US market.
Thanks to multiple partnership deals, the UFC has successfully hosted mainstream events and shows worldwide. It's now expanding into new markets in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States.
The UFC is now an empire in mixed martial arts fight promotion under its Joe Rogan look-alike president Dana White.
In an expert report, Hal Singer disclosed that UFC (Zuffa) earned more than ten times the revenue of Bellator from its inception until 2016. Worse, the report restricts UFC’s revenue to events in North America. Despite Bellator’s steady improvement over the years, the gap is likely still nowhere near close to this date.
UFC fighters are masters at grappling, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing but also need to master one or two more arts to survive in the league.
Comparing Bellator MMA and UFC Rules
The main difference between both MMA promotions is they have different fighting formats. Bellator uses a Grand Prix and challenge format, while the UFC championship fights use only a challenge-style form.
Grand Prix Bellator
As you're probably aware, Bellator hosted unique season-long tournaments in its infancy stage. They had a slogan in this era that was an indirect tease at UFC: "where title shots are earned, not given."
But early into 2015, the promotion dropped it to adopt a similar but shorter Grand Prix event format.
It's usually an eight-to-twenty-one-man single-elimination event for the same weight division fighters. It lasts a year. They'll battle it out until one man is standing, going through semi-finals and finals like a soccer cup tournament.
Both UFC and Bellator use the challenge rule. The only exception is that Bellator still hosts tournaments like the Grand Prix, with a featherweight Gran Prix coming soon.
But a point to be noted — this fighting format poses an injury risk to the fighters.
UFC Challenger Rule
As listed on its official website, UFC has eight weight divisions (and four women's weight classes), but title challenges differ significantly from Bellator's. Challengers are nominated somewhat subjectively as opposed to Bellator challengers fighting it out for A shot at the champion.
On the one hand, the challenger has to rack up enough individual wins to earn a shot. On the other hand, it's a matter of the opponent's popularity or who fans want to fight the champion.
Basically, UFC is more concerned with business than prepping a true challenger with numerous fights.
The format of UFC fights reduces the risks of injuries to their clear title contenders, compared to Bellator, where the favorite contender might get injured in the Grand Prix. But MMA is a risky sport anyway.
Unlike Bellator (where only title fights are 5 rounds), every match has a five-round limit, whether it's a title fight or not, in the Octagon.
Quality of Fighters In The UFC and Bellator MMA
The presence of gold-standard caliber of fighters in UFC is why the promotion would continue to dominate Bellator and the MMA scene at large.
Most, if not all, the best fighters in their weight divisions and disciplines ply their trade in the UFC cage. From the flyweight division, featherweight, to the heavyweight division.
If you're an exceptional fighter in two or more martial arts, UFC is the place to be – either for competition or compensation.
Bellator, on the other hand, equally has some of the best fighters in the world. But the sad truth is they're outclassed by UFC fighters. For example, Corey Anderson left the UFC for better pay and promotion – but some of us think it's because he couldn't beat Jon Jones and suffered a terrible loss to Jan Blackowitz in his final match.
Fast forward to Bellator. He's earning 6x more but also dominating Bellator's Light Heavyweight division – making quick work of their undisputed champ (Ryan Bader) in the process.
Another example is if Bellator's #1 kickboxer and former 2x middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi, went up against Isreal Adesanya, the Last Stylebender. We all know how that would end up.
In conclusion, UFC has a better crop of top-class mixed martial arts fighters than Bellator in all weight divisions.
Knock-Out Point: UFC appears to be more popular, after all! And speaking about the UFC, another interesting subject for discussion is Mexican fighters creating a name for themselves in this area. Know more of them here -- Mexican UFC Fighters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Bellator Better than UFC?
Bellator became a competitor to the UFC's stranglehold of electrifying MMA fights when Viacom bought majority shares in 2011. While they now have more significant funding and appealing contract terms, their counterpart has better elite fighters, higher revenue, and more popularity.
Does Bellator Pay More Than UFC?
No, Bellator doesn't pay anywhere near what UFC pays its fighters. For context, the highest fight fee in a Bellator match was $250,000, whereas the UFC has paid over $3 million in a single fight to each competitor.
Also, the least a fighter can earn in the UFC is $10,000, while the lowest purse is between $1,500-2,000 at Bellator.
Why Do Fighters Leave UFC For Bellator?
Fighters leave UFC for Bellator if they fall out of favor or become dissatisfied with their contracts.
Does The UFC own Bellator?
No, Bellator is owned by entertainment giant Viacom, which owns popular cable channels like Spike TV, MTV2, MTV, and Nickelodeon.
Despite its exponential growth, Bellator isn't a serious competitor to UFC's grip on the MMA world. They have the funding and media coverage of entertainment giants Viacom and attract some of the world's most formidable martial artists.
Ironically, the number three and four MMA promotions are nowhere near Bellator. So, it's naturally not a fair market.
Ultimately, UFC remains the most popular, lucrative, entertaining, and competitive promoter. You'll find the best and wealthiest fighters in the ultimate fighting championship.