It’s been over a decade since Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC, but it wasn’t until recently that they finally learned to play well with others.

For years, the UFC has destroyed every promotion in its path, either by buying the organization outright or pillaging their rosters to the point where calling a former rival “competition” was being generous. Pride, Strikeforce, EliteXC and even the WEC all ended up either serving as Zuffa’s B-promotion or completely out of business. Bellator is the only major MMA promotion left, and White has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t consider the Viacom-owned operation a threat.

Zuffa has never liked competition. It has made sure to get rid of competitors whenever possible, and it has never been willing to prop up the name of a promotion it doesn’t have an ownership stake in. At least, that is, until now. After years of treating rising MMA promotions like annoying little brothers, the UFC has finally decided to open its doors a little bit and help out a couple of growing companies.

Earlier this month, the UFC announced that it would be broadcasting future Invicta FC events on the promotion’s online Fight Pass network. Although it’s true that the UFC and Invicta have been more than willing to help each other out on occasion in order to benefit the women’s side of MMA, this is a huge step into co-promotion that the UFC really didn’t need to take. Invicta has been doing its best with its online pay-per-view streams over its past few events, but sketchy streaming and ordering issues have caused the promotion several headaches over the past year. Fight Pass has been extremely reliable since its launch earlier this year, and it’s showcased the ability to stream entire UFC cards with little issue. The UFC may be adding an enticing new addition to the Fight Pass lineup, but by allowing Invicta to solve its streaming problems on the channel, the promotion has done more for MMA as a whole than it has to just benefit itself.

Working with Invicta to this extent was a bit of a surprise for some fight fans, but the recent news of the UFC teaming up with the Vale Tudo Japan/Shooto crew to produce a reality show in order to build more Japanese stars was downright shocking. The UFC has largely avoided the Japanese MMA scene since purchasing Pride FC over seven years ago. The promotion has only held a handful of shows in the country and groomed about that many Japanese stars. Now, all of the sudden, the UFC has agreed to co-promote on Japanese television with one of the larger promotions in the country. It’s a far cry from what the UFC would have done a few years ago, and it proves that the promotion is every bit as determined as it says to take the UFC’s global expansion to the next level.

The UFC-VTJ/Shooto co-promoted show adds a new wrinkle to the UFC product as well. While the show follows the basic The Ultimate Fighter format of fighting in a tournament in order to earn a UFC contract, fighters will compete in a round-robin style tournament instead of the usual single-elimination format the UFC uses on TUF. Each fighter will compete against every fighter in their weight division on the show. While the typical season of TUF only ends up giving a few fighters the opportunity to shine over more than the course of an episode or two, each and every competitor on this Japanese venture is going to get to be in the spotlight multiple times on the new reality show.

Overall, these deals could end up being a precursor to a new way for the UFC (and by extension, its fans) to scout talent from up-and-coming promotions. Whether it’s by breaking into a new territory and setting up reality-show programming in order to find new stars like they’re doing with VTJ/Shooto, or adding smaller organizations, like Invicta, that send the UFC a lot of talent to Fight Pass, it’s a new way for the MMA world to check out some possible incoming UFC talent. It has started with Invicta and Shooto, but it’s not hard to envision companies like the RFA, EFC Africa or the European-based Cage Warriors ending up on Fight Pass and getting some added exposure if the UFC likes the results it gets from these first two gambles. The UFC is entering into unprecedented territory with these recent deals, but if they pay off it may end up benefiting MMA as a whole in the future.

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.