Martial arts has swept across the globe like a tidal wave in less than a generation, charting one of the most remarkable trajectories of growth that the world has ever witnessed in a sport.
From the East to the West, martial arts’ influence is witnessed in the steadily increasing number of fans, primetime television spots, and packed arenas.
At the tip of this spear are the biggest and most influential martial arts promotions in the world that have created and sparked this phenomenon.
With that being said, here are some of the top global martial arts organizations that have been responsible for elevating the sport into a mainstream staple.
Glory, an international kickboxing promotion that was founded in 2012 by Pierre Andurand, Scott Rudmann and Total Sports Asia, has established itself as one of the largest kickboxing leagues in the world.
The organization has previously featured some of the world’s most decorated kickboxers such as Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Semmy Schilt, Gokhan Saki, Daniel Ghiţă, Albert Kraus, Giorgio Petrosyan, and Yoshihiro Sato.
After six years in the industry, Glory has staged 59 kickboxing events, holding cards across the United States and overseas such as the Netherlands, China, France, Denmark, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and United Arab Emirates.
In 2016, ESPN signed a multi-year agreement to broadcast Glory kickboxing events on cable television in the United States after the promotion parted ways with the Viacom-owned network Spike TV.
Meanwhile, Glory initiated a partnership with the UFC in 2017 for events to be aired on pay-per-view and on UFC Fight Pass.
Derived from the Latin word meaning “warrior”, Bellator was born when Bjorn Rebney founded the company in 2008.
Now headed by former CEO of the now-defunct Strikeforce organization, Scott Coker, Bellator is an American MMA organization that is owned and operated by multinational media conglomerate Viacom.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Bellator is quickly developing into a strong competitor for the UFC in the United States, creating its own superstars and using the tournament format to give fans a different feel to the average MMA promotion.
Bellator operates almost entirely in the United States with over a hundred events to date, and with a number of those taking place in Canada and Europe in recent years as proof of its growing international presence.
When Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong came up with the idea for ONE Championship, he envisioned the entire Asia comprised of over 4-billion people united under a single sport.
ONE Championship has achieved tremendous success since its inception in 2011, establishing itself as the world’s largest martial arts organization by hosting bouts across all styles of martial arts such as Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate, Kung Fu, Mixed Martial Arts, Silat, Sanda, Lethwei, Tae Kwon Do, Submission Grappling, and more.
Aside from housing some of the world’s best martial artists and world champions like Bibiano Fernandes, Ben Askren, Roger Gracie, Brandon Vera and Shinya Aoki, ONE Championship has also been pivotal in the development of local and homegrown talents like the Philippines’ Eduard Folayang, Singapore’s Angela Lee and Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang.
Headquartered in the heart of Singapore, ONE Championship holds the largest sports entertainment events across Asia, broadcasting to over 1.7-billion potential viewers across 136 countries around the world.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Modern Mixed Martial Arts was pioneered by the Ultimate Fighting Championship as it spearheaded the martial arts craze all over America with a no-holds-barred clash of fighting disciplines
Considered the top MMA promotion in North America, the UFC played a pivotal role in making MMA reach the mainstream, transforming into the beloved combat sport that is celebrated by millions of fans today.
Over the past 25 years, the UFC has worked tirelessly with state athletic commissions and international bodies to get the sport globally sanctioned and accepted.
Since its first event on November 12, 1993, the UFC has held 434 cards in different parts of the globe, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Sweden, and Australia.