UFC vs Bellator: What Is The Difference Between UFC And Bellator?

Among the numerous MMA organizations, the UFC is always regarded as the most prestigious and influential. Bellator is ranked second.

UfC vs Bellator
UfC vs Bellator

In 1993, the term Mixed martial arts was used to describe an ultimate fighting competition, and since then, it has become the umbrella term for describing a wide range of full-contact combat sports.

Since then, there have been a lot of MMA promotions that produce and facilitate MMA events. Of all these promotions, the two MMA organizations in this article are arguably the two most popular in the world. As such, it is not surprising that they are always compared. They are both forerunners in the popularization of MMA events globally. UFC is so popular that many people who are not interested in sports have heard about it, and Bellator continues to pull enough weight, preventing other promotions from creeping past it.

But is this comparison necessary? The UFC is a bigger brand and has been around longer than Bellator, which is why UFC has more skilled fighters who are considered the best in the game.

This article will give you more details about these two organizations and what other things make them different.

UFC and Bellator

UFC is an acronym for Ultimate Fighting Championship. It is one of the oldest mixed martial arts leagues. Founded almost 3 decades ago, the UFC promotion created a platform for different martial arts schools to challenge each other. The goal was to find out which school was superior.

UFC and Bellator

Because of the diversity, many fighters from different schools started to adopt the fighting styles of other schools to get an edge over their competitors, and the result is the MMA, a tradition that has continued to grow, birthing many other organizations and still waxing strong even as you are reading this article.

The UFC had its first event in 1993, and at that time, no one thought that this promotion would grow to become the biggest MMA promotion in the world. But after Dana White became the president in 2001, he managed to make Mixed martial arts a worldwide topic, generating billions of dollars in revenue and growing a fanbase that pools into the millions. It has become where the best fighters in the world go to show their talent, and because of this, it does not seem as if the promotion will give up its first-place spot any time soon.

While UFC is like that aged whisky that slowly built its richness, Bellator is like that new bottle of whisky that tastes and feels almost as good. Bellator came into the MMA scene later than UFC did. Bjorn Rebney founded it in 2008, and for the past 14 years, it has worked hard to become the second most popular MMA promotion.

While it might not have a bigger fanbase than UFC, it is still well respected as the second-largest mixed martial arts promotion in the united states. In 2014, Scott Coker, the founder of Strikeforce and a renowned practicer of the martial arts, took over from Rebney as the CEO, and he has done his best to continue getting Bellator to the top.

The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts

Before we talk about the differences between the rules of these two promotions, let’s examine what makes them and other mixed martial arts promotions similar.

When MMAs started, they counted on the bloody chaos to serve as a draw for the public. The games were just strings after strings of a no-holds-barred slugfest meant for everyone brave or stupid enough to join. This was the appeal, and it was why most people watched it. However, it soon became clear that they needed more structure, or they would start losing the precious attention they had gathered.

This was why, In 2000, structures were put in place to create the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. The results were rules that placed conditions on the competitions, including weight classes and the duration of the fights. With these rules, they could develop a structure, shorten the duration of many fights, and still keep the fans entertained. They effectively killed three birds with one stone. These rules have formed the foundation for most MMA promotions to follow.

Rules Against Certain Strikes

Some rules were intended to polish the games and reduce the casualties. In the past, any strike was legal. You could blind your opponent, and it would still be counted as a fair game. But with the rules, some of these moves were made illegal. And referees are now always present to make sure none of the competitors flout these rules.

Anti-Doping Rules

The two promotions and most MMA organizations all follow strict anti-doping standards. Mixed martial arts games are competitive and are a matter of both money and honor. Unsurprisingly, people would go to the extent of doping just to win. However, those who have tried are caught, and the punishments are always severe.

When these rules were made, there was the fear that they would take away from the attraction. However, they seemed to add to it as the Mixed martial arts continued to grow in popularity. The rule books of all the MMA organizations, including UFC and Bellator, are slight modifications of these rules.

What Is The Difference Between The UFC and Bellator Rule Books?

We already mentioned how the unified rules of mixed martial arts serve as the foundation for the rule books of most MMA promotions and that the rule books of UFC and Bellator are just slight modifications of these rules. These minor changes are where the differences in the rule books of these two organizations are.

First, the Unified Rules stipulate that all bouts in the tournaments should last for three rounds except championship bouts which are to last for five rounds. Bellator adheres to this rule; however, UFC deviates from it a little. All UFC fights are slated for five rounds, including the championship fights.

The Fighters

In the world of sports, there is always that organization every player wants to compete in. For Mixed martial arts, the UFC is that competition. Competitors want to find their way into the championship bouts of the UFC. But because of how competitive the promotion is, only the cream of the crop manages to make it to that level. And even fewer people end up winning a championship.

The competitiveness is not enough to scare some people, though, as most fighters strive to make it to the arena of the UFC promotion.

Similarly, Bellator is also quite the hotcake when it comes to attracting players. While it might not be as grand as the UFC, it is still a competitive promotion. Only top-tier talents manage to make it into this promotion.

The Difference Between The Fighters

Most people say this is the major difference between the two organizations, and they would be right. UFC and Bellator are both leading names in the MMA industry. However, it is clear that at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, UFC is the bigger platform. And because it is bigger, it will always attract the most elite of the elites. These are the people who are looking to get money and the fame that comes from fighting in UFC competitions.

Most players fight their way up to the UFC from Bellator, so you can comfortably say that someone who has made it to the UFC championships is at the peak of their career. However, while Bellator attracts elite players, they usually consider it a launch pad to get into the UFC.

Does this mean that people from the UFC don’t compete in Bellator? Not necessarily. There is a flip side to every coin. As there are people who want to get to the zenith and compete in the UFC championships, there are also people who get dropped from this zenith. These people end up signing for Bellator.

While both promotions boast of the most elite of players, you can always find the biggest stars in the UFC. And because the most elite players are found in the UFC, the champions of its events are considered the best in the game. However, because Bellator is a step below the UFC, champions of its tournaments are not considered the best until they have been compared to their counterparts in the UFC. This comparison is another marker that the UFC holds the leading spot among MMA promotions.

Another point of difference between their fighters is seen in their weight divisions. These two platforms boast the most robust weight divisions, but then the UFC has a larger number of weight divisions than Bellator.

The UFC has 12 divisions. Eight weight divisions for men and 4 for women. The men’s divisions include:

  • The heavyweight Division: 265 lb (120.2 kg)
  • The Light Heavyweight Division: 205 lb (102.1 kg)
  • The Middleweight Division: 185 lb (83.9 kg)
  • The welterweight Division: 170 lb (77.1 kg)
  • The Lightweight Division: 155 lb (70.3 kg)
  • The Featherweight Division: 145 lb (65.8 kg)
  • The Bantamweight Division: 135 lb (61.2 kg)
  • The Flyweight Division: 125 lb (52.5 kg)

This is one of the largest weight divisions in MMA history, probably because it started as a game for men and only heavyweight players were brave enough to think of playing.

The women’s weight division came much later, which is why they have fewer weight divisions than men. The weight divisions for women include:

  • The Featherweight Division: 145 lb (65.8 kg)
  • The Bantamweight Division: 135 lb (61.2 kg)
  • The Flyweight Division: 125 lb (52.5 kg)
  • The Strawweight Division: 115 lb (52.5 kg)

This is not the case for Bellator. Its weight divisions, both for men and women, are smaller than that of the UFC, and this could be because of the difference in the year the two promotions were established.

Bellator has seven weight divisions for men, which are:

  • The Bantamweight Division:135 lb (61.2 kg)
  • The Featherweight Division: 145 lb (65.8 kg)
  • The Lightweight Division: 155 lb (70.3 kg
  • The Welterweight Division: 170 lb (77.1 kg)
  • The Middleweight Division: 185 lb (83.9 kg)
  • The Light Heavyweight Division: 205 lb (102.1 kg)
  • The Heavyweight Division: 265 lb (120.2 kg)

Like in the UFC, the weight divisions for women are smaller than men’s. While the men have seven, the women have only two, and they include:

  • The Flyweight Division: 125 lb (52.5 kg)
  • The Featherweight Division: 145 lb (65.8 kg)

If you pay close attention to the arrangement of the men’s weight divisions, you will notice a slight difference in the arrangement for the UFC and Bellator. This is because of the difference in the tournament formats used by the two promotions.

Can UFC Fighters Fight In Bellator And Vise Versa?

No rule prevents a fighter from leaving the UFC to fight in Bellator tournaments. Many players competing in Bellator see it as the final stretch before getting into the UFC. There are also cases where the UFC will seek out and sign a Bellator fighter who has won the championship or made his mark in tournaments.

It is uncommon to see a UFC fighter move to Bellator, especially when they are doing good themselves. However, fighters in the last stages of their career, struggling to keep up with the demands of the UFC tournament, might decide to move to Bellator, where they might have chances to do well. People with contract issues might also leave the UFC to sign for Bellator. This is seen in the case of Gegard Mousasi, who signed for Bellator after having contract disputes with the UFC.

Highest Paid Fighters In The UFC Vs. Highest Paid Fighters In Bellator

There is a gap between these two promotions, which is clearly seen in the overall quality of the players. It can also be seen in the amount of money these players get. There are players in Bellator that earn more than those in the UFC, but when looking at the overall earnings, the UFC pays its players higher than Bellator. This is because the sponsors for the UFC promotions are richer. The UFC also gets better TV deals, and pay-per-view buys. What we are saying, in essence, is that the UFC can afford to pay its players more than Bellator does.

We have curated a list of the highest-paid fighters for Bellator and the UFC, and a glimpse at the list will show you just how much more UFC fighters earn.

Highest Paid UFC Fighters

  • Conot McGregor: $10,022,000
  • Dustin Poirier: $2,473,000
  • Kamaru Usman: $2,024,000
  • Derrick Lewis: $1,453,000
  • Jan Blachowicz: $1.182,000

Related: Current Top 10 Highest Paid UFC Fighters

Highest Paid Bellator Fighters

  • Fedor Emelianenko: $300,000
  • Juan Archuleta: $250,000
  • Patricio Freire: $200,000
  • Gerard Mousas: $150,000
  • Lyoto Machida: $150,000

You can see that the UFC pays its players more than Bellator does. However, Bellator allows its players to get endorsement deals. This substantially adds to their total income at the end of the year, especially for the more popular players.

Any Other Differences

Apart from the differences in rulebooks and the fighters we have mentioned, there are other relevant but unnoticed differences between these two promotions.

The UFC Cage VS Bellator Cage

If you have attended both promotions, you might have noticed the difference in their arenas. While both competitions take place in a caged arena, the shape and size of the arenas are different.

The UFC uses an octagon-shaped steel-caged arena with a diameter of 30 feet and a total fighting area of 750 square feet. It also has a smaller version of the octagon cage, which it uses for some events. This version has a diameter of 25 feet and a total fighting area of 518 square feet.

There have been discussions on the topic that the different cage sizes affect the finishing rate and might give some fighters an edge over their opponents.

On the other hand, Bellator uses a circular arena with a diameter of 36 feet and a total fighting area of 1,018 square feet. Because the cage is circular, it makes it easier for fighters to move around. It seems that when it comes to fighting arenas, Bellator takes the cake.

Bellator Fighting Format Vs. The UFC Fighting Format

The UFC and Bellator started with similar fighting formats. Most of their fights were in the tournament style. But somehow, The UFC started to get backlash for using this format. This was exacerbated by the restrictions regulators placed on it not to allow any fighter to compete more than once in one night.

This only meant that tournaments had to last longer, and fans were unhappy about that. Eventually, the UFC had to drop the tournament-style format and started picking who fought who each night. It is a popular belief that the UFC picks its fighters to further push commercial success, but this isn’t certain. This format still gets criticism, but not as much as it got for the tournament-styled formats.

Bellator still uses the tournament-style format, which seems fairer to fans because all players have an equal chance of becoming champions.

Bellator Kickboxing

Bellator also developed a sister kickboxing promotion of Bellator MMA in 2016. This promotion would go ahead to attract a lot of fanfare and support and produce its own set of champions. But they have not held a single competition since the onset of the coronavirus in 2019, leaving a lot of speculations about what the future would look like for the promotion.

The Drug Testing Programs

Another area of difference that most people do not pay attention to but which sets the UFC ahead of Bellator is the drug testing programs by these two promotions.

The UFC has a very strict drug testing procedure and has been working with USADA since 2012 to ensure that every player is clean. This collaboration exposed a lot of fighters and stopped the others from using any form of performance-enhancing substances. The promotion is so strict with drug testing that refusal to submit for the drug test is enough grounds for fines and suspensions.

On the other hand, Bellator does not have such a strict approach to drug testing. It does carry out routine drug tests, but it works with the state commission, which offers a weak form of testing.

Payment Structures

The UFC might be a bigger promotion than Bellator and have an overall better roster. However, when it comes to payment structures, Bellator seems to be quite ahead of it.

The UFC assigns the least revenue to its fighters. It dedicates a paltry 16% of its revenues to the fighter. This might be shocking because you have already read in this article that some of its players earn millions for each fight. This is true, but only for the champions and big rollers. Most UFC fighters earn a few thousands per fight.

Bellator, on the other hand, dedicates 44.7% of its revenue to pay fighters. Although the top players do not earn as much as their counterparts in the UFC, Bellator offers better payments overall.

This difference in payment structure has caused The UFC to lose some of its personnel to Bellator, as can be seen in the case of Corey Anderson, who left The UFC for Bellator and claimed that they made more money in two fights for Bellator than he did in fifteen fights for the UFC.

Events, PPVs, And Broadcast Systems

While the two organizations run many events, it is not surprising that The UFC runs more events than Bellator. The UFC has a larger budget and more pull which is why it hosts fight cards every week and one pay-per-view (PPV) event every month. Bellator runs at least one fight card a month, and its pay-per-view events are even less frequent.

Speaking of PPV, the UFC has been using this system since its inception. While fans could watch the matches on Television, any big events had to be live, and viewers had to pay to watch them. This system is part of what gives the UFC a big chunk of its funding. In fact, The UFC holds the first 180 spots on any lists of most bought PPVs in the MMA world.

On the other hand, Bellator just recently started hosting PPV events. And as we have already mentioned, it hosts fewer PPV events than the UFC, which means that a huge part of the money Bellator earns is from TV.

Bellator doesn’t earn as much as The UFC from its broadcast system, but the decentralized system it uses provides it with more publicity, and as it becomes more popular, it can, eventually, increase the amount of PPV events it hosts.

The events hosted by the UFC are exclusively broadcasted by ESPN, while CBS Sports and Showtime Network, among other broadcast channels, show Bellator events.


If you are a mixed martial arts fan, you already know that the UFC and Bellator are the two biggest MMA promotions. The UFC is so well-known that it is not an alien subject even to people who are not huge fans of MMA.

Of the two, UFC is bigger and has more pull, but Bellator is also pulling its weight and has refused to give up the spot behind UFC to any other organization. Because of its spot at number one, most elite players dream of playing for the UFC. However, this does not mean that the Bellator is lacking elite players.

The differences between these two organizations are not that much; the only major differences are the fighters and the weight divisions they are allowed to participate in. Despite that, both promotions provide their players with maximum entertainment, and you should not ignore any of the two of them because they are both important parts of the MMA industry.

Stay up-to-date with the latest MMA news, rumors, and updates by following the RED Monster on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Also, don't forget to add MiddleEasy to your Google News feed Follow us on Google News for even more coverage.


Leave a Comment