MMA is well-known as the fastest-growing sport in the world today, and has established itself as a multibillion-dollar industry on an upwards trajectory.
However, this didn’t happen by accident – the global phenomenon that is MMA we’ve come to know and love is the culmination of the efforts of 10 incredible visionaries, who saw the amazing potential MMA possessed and used their entrepreneurial spirit to develop.
In recognition of their achievements, we’ve listed them below:
1) Lorenzo Fertitta
How Fertitta came to own the UFC was somewhat by chance. Back then in its early stages, the UFC was a niche sport loved by a few hardcore fans, but not a commercial success. Fertitta’s childhood friend Dana White convinced him to buy the organisation, and the rest is history, as the two went on to kickstart the sport’s global boom and lay the core foundations for its popularity.
2) Dana White
Undoubtedly the face of the UFC, White actually started out as a manager for popular fighters Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. Once he learned that the UFC was up for sale, White saw the opportunity to be had and found a financial backer in Lorenzo Fertitta to make the jump and buy the organization. Now, White is the UFC’s President, and is happily reaping the benefits.
3) Chatri Sityodtong
The Founder and Chairman of ONE Championship, Asia’s largest sports media property in the continent’s history, self-made multimillionaire and Thai entrepreneur left a lucrative career on Wall Street to pursue his dream of uniting the whole of Asia under a single sport – MMA. He has definitely succeeded, building the second-largest global MMA organization in the world in just five short years to dominate MMA in the East, rivalled only by the UFC’s influence in the West.
4) Victor Cui
CEO of ONE Championship, Cui is the man who made everything happen and take the organization to the heights it has reached today. A veteran of 15 years in the sports media industry, Cui previously worked as a senior executive at ESPN Star Sports and the PGA Tour, and used this unique experience and expertise to build ONE Championship into this massive global powerhouse.
5) Scott Coker
Now in his second tenure as CEO of one of the biggest MMA promotions in the World, Coker first started out as the founder and CEO of Strikeforce in the mid-1980s, taking it from a kickboxing outfit into a major player in MMA. After he sold Strikeforce to the UFC’s parent company Zuffa, he went on to become CEO of Bellator, enabling him to continue his great work in shaping the sport.
6) Vadim Finkelstein
The head of M-1 Global, a Russian MMA promotion from St. Petersburg, Finkelstein is a key figure in European MMA. In a few short years, M-1 has easily become the biggest MMA organization in Russia, holding over 100 competitions a year. His goal now is to make M-1 one of the top organizations in Europe, and it is one he is well-placed to achieve.
7) Masakatsu Funaki/Minoru Suzuki
Japanese catch wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki founded Pancrase, one of the very first MMA promotions ever. Built around the ancient Olympic sport of Pankration, Pancrase went on to become one of the most successful promotions in the sport’s early days, and still enjoys success now in modern times.
8) Nobuyuki Sakakibara
MMA caught on in Japan earlier than many other parts of the world, and it is thanks to pioneers such as Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who led the boom of Japanese MMA. The chief architect of the legendary PRIDE Fighting Championships, Sakakibara’s efforts helped the organization enjoy immense popularity beyond Japan, laying the foundations of Asian MMA today.
9) Moon Hong Jung
The founder of ROAD Fighting Championships, South Korean Moon Hong Jung is a former national kickboxing champion and a pioneer of Korean MMA. ROAD is now South Korea’s biggest MMA organization, propelling Moon to the status of the face of MMA in South Korea, where he plays an instrumental role in developing Korean prospects to global superstars.
10) Shigeru Saeki
A core figure in the Japanese MMA industry, Saeki has played a huge part in developing fighters and the industry as a whole. He became the President of major Japanese promotion DEEP in 2001, began supervising DEEP’s female promotion Jewels in 2008, and even became a co-promoter for the amateur Japan MMA League in 2011 – all roles he performs at the same time, further establishing how important he has been to the growth of MMA in Asia.