Best Way To Get Into Watching MMA & UFC

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So maybe you’re finally starting to get that fight itch and want to know what the hell is going on in a UFC or MMA live event.

Whether you are new to watching MMA or you don’t understand some of the essentials, this article will give you a quick guide on the best way to get into watching MMA without making a fool of yourself.

But is there a best way to get into watching MMA? Here’s the short answer:

The best way to watch MMA is to start watching previous UFC events in 2015 with UFC 189 to get a good background on the recent history of the sport while simultaneously starting watching new live events to broaden your watching experience.

But let’s take a look at all the ways you could get started watching MMA. I’ll focus on UFC primarily, as there are far too many MMA promotions in existence today but let’s get stuck in!

Just Start Watching New UFC Events

Dana White at a UFC conference
Andrius PetruceniaCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s get obvious out of the way; if you want to start watching MMA, then do it! There isn’t any perfect way to get into this sport other than to watch new live events (either in-person or on the TV), and with watch-time experience, you’ll pick up everything you need to feel like a know-it-all within a matter of a few months.

Sure, there are things to know like how scoring works (although, there’s always a lively debate about that!), the bad history between fighters, the rankings of fighters, who the hell Dana White is, and how a fight card shapes up – to name a few. But all of these came naturally to me with the time of just watching the sport.

I mostly learned the big UFC fighter names and bad blood by just watching the events, and slowly I gathered more knowledge by participating in social media by following the big-name fighters. Much drama goes down on Twitter publicly and in Instagram DM’s, which then usually get shared publicly anyway (for our entertainment).

But if you want to be a perfectionist about it all, here are some of my recommendations coming up below on getting a base knowledge of the sport as fast as possible, mainly focused on the UFC.

Watch Key Historical Fights In The UFC

UFC fighters in the octagon
Lee BrimelowCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It could serve you well to get an excellent historical understanding of the UFC (the largest promotion in MMA) by watching the best UFC events of all time. With it, it might aid you in appreciating a lot of the throwback commentary in live shows or at the very least be able to surprise your friends with a fact or two.

The Big Names of The Sport Of MMA

To know which are the must-watch UFC events of all time, you need to understand some of the key names in the game. Here is a list of some of them that I believe are crucial to understanding the early, mid, and modern history of the sport:

  • Royce Gracie
  • BJ Penn
  • Chuck Lidell
  • Randy Couture
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Georges St-Pierre
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Jon Jones
  • Nick Diaz
  • Michael Bisping
  • Ronda Rousey
  • Jose Aldo
  • Conor McGregor
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov
  • Nate Diaz
  • Amanda Nunes
  • Dustin Poirier
  • Kamaru Usman
  • Justin Gaethje

With this list, you could do some quick searching around on YouTube and find some epic fights to watch back. And there are plenty more notable names I haven’t listed. For more, you could start looking through the UFC Hall Of Fame to find those fighters’ who have been recognized for their contributions to the sport.

And every single month, it feels like more “big names” are being made in this sport. More fighters are reaching new heights and making themselves known to the world as they demolish champions.

Watch The Biggest UFC Events In MMA History

The names listed above will feature in many fans’ favorite UFC events. Just by searching for these names, you’ll find plenty of free fights to watch in your free time, and soon you’ll have an excellent overview of some of the best UFC events of all time.

You’ll also do well to consider watching some of the most historical events that will give you a good overview of the key moments in this relatively young sport.


Some of the highlights would be UFC 1, UFC 100, UFC 129, UFC 189, UFC 194, UFC 202, and UFC 229.

By watching a bunch of these fight events in the UFC, you’ll develop your perception of how fights usually work, the different kinds of martial arts used, and the methods and feats ventured to win.

You don’t have to practice martial arts yourself to understand what you are seeing (with a bit of watching practice) and enjoy every moment.

Learn Fundamentals Of Mixed Martial Arts

A coach helping two beginners with Boxing fundamentals

It can be helpful to understand some of the fundamentals of the different martial arts that are practiced and then performed in MMA and the UFC; then, you might know a bit more about the skills and movements being used to help them win.

A lot can happen in the blink of an eye or during close-grappling during an MMA fight, making it a bit difficult to understand what’s going on. But with a little bit of knowledge of MMA, you will likely feel more confident to watch and commentate yourself.

In short, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a combination of all martial arts forms that suit each fighter’s preferences to win within the limitations of rules. Those martial arts used commonly are Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as these are considered some of the best base martial arts for competition.

Of course, plenty of other martial arts is tested like Karate, Taekwondo, Sambo, Judo, and many more – though less common.

You can get used to fundamentals by watching tutorials on YouTube, watching many fight events, or even starting MMA yourself (and I highly recommend it!).

Best Year To Start Watching UFC

UFC 129 view from the audience stands
User Msmirlie2863CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to start watching UFC from a particular year, the best year to choose is 2011, with UFC 129 to get the early-mid highlight years. Alternatively, you can start in 2015 with UFC 189 if you only care about the more modern history of the UFC.

The 2011 year in the UFC is a vital starting point because it’s when some of the greatest fighters of all time were at their prime. Including Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jose Aldo, and Jon Jones.

The latter two are also still in contention today and will likely work their way up the rankings again. So the year 2011 offers many highlights, including UFC 129 with St-Pierre against Jake Shields at UFC 129.

But if you are only interested in getting a good breakdown of the fighters of today, you could instead start in 2015. This year gives a great career starting point for one of the most notorious fighters in the whole history of the UFC, Conor McGregor, as it was this year that Conor won the Interim Featherweight Championship Belt at UFC 189 against Chad Mendes, which was only the beginning of his rivalry with Jose Aldo.

Not only was McGregor a feature in 2015, but we still got to see more legends in their prime fighting moments with a mix of older-generation and new-generation fighters, including Robbie Lawler, Daniel Cormier, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Anthony Pettis, and Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

Watching Beyond UFC

Fighters in the ring at Strikeforce Challengers 13 in 2011
Matthew ToshCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While the UFC is the most internationally known and renowned promotion of Mixed Martial Arts, there are plenty of others to choose from that all have their unique entertainment factors. Some of them are:

  • One Championship (Asia)
  • Pride FC (Japan)
  • Strikeforce
  • Bellator MMA
  • Invicta FC
  • and the very new Eagle FC (founded by Khabib Nurmagomedov)

Pride was a pioneer for MMA in Japan and Asia, with many fighters flying over there to compete for big cash prizes. It went bust in 2007 but had a history of great fights worth watching.

So there you have some of the best ways to start watching MMA. No longer will you be nodding along with your MMA friends in silence; you’ll soon have something to say and be calling out submissions by name in no time.

What to read next

You’re schooled on the best way to start watching the glorious sport of mixed martial arts, but you may have some more fundamental questions about when the UFC began or how the weight classes in the UFC work, check out these articles for answers:

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