For some, the UFC is synonymous with mixed martial arts, and there are probably people out there who think UFC is the only organization sanctioning MMA bouts. UFC certainly dominates the world of MMA, but it’s not the only or even the oldest MMA organization in the world. Here is a look at some other organizations in the MMA world.
Shooto, which is based in Japan, predates the UFC by several years. This organization focuses mainly on shoot wrestling, which includes elements of freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling as well as karate, kickboxing, Judo, Muay Thai and even Sambo making it a true mixed martial art. Shoot was founded in 1985 and while not immensely popular in the United States, there are competitions throughout the Pacific Rim, Europe and South America.
The Japanese have an abundance of martial arts and mixed martial arts organizations, and another popular group that predates UFC is Pancrase. Founded just about six weeks before UFC, Pancrase has featured a myriad of notable fighters from the MMA world, including Ken Shamrock and Frank Shamrock, Nate Marquardt, Bas Rutten and the current King of Pancrase, Josh Barnett. The name Pancrase was taken from the ancient sport of Pankration, which was a no-holds barred style of fighting that was part of the ancient Olympics.
King of the Cage has been around since 1999 and is still going strong. This California-based organization includes 10 men’s division as well as a division for women’s junior flyweight. Several KOTC competitors were featured on the reality series “Bully Beatdown,” which aired on MTV. Among the notable fighters of KOTC was Joe Camacho, who won the Junior Welterweight Championship in 2008. Camacho died recently of a heart attack at the age of 41.
Bellator MMA is another player in the world of MMA, founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney. Bellator is the Latin word for “warrior,” and while this organization hasn’t been around for long, they have definitely made their presence felt. Fighters such as Alexander Shlemenko, Cole Konrad and Pat Curran have been Bellator champions.
Women’s MMA has come a long way the past few years, and Invicta Fighting Championships is dedicated to sanctioning only women’s bouts. With stars such as Cristiane Justino, the sport’s No. 2 ranked female fighter, Invicta FC definitely has made its presence known. That’s not to say there haven’t been some big setbacks. Founding co-partner Janet Martin recently left the company and it wasn’t a particularly happy split. Dana White, who finally has realized the potential of women’s MMA, opened up a strawweight division in UFC and grabbed 11 of Invicta’s top fighters. Still, it’s a sign that women are here to stay in MMA.