There’s nothing quite like a home crowd. UK fans are eagerly anticipating UFC’s return to London tonight at The O2. This will be the 11th live event in the capital, bringing the grand total UFC events to 24 across the nation. Since the first UK UFC event in London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall, British fans have witnessed many memorable moments. UFC Fight Night 147 will be no different.

This fight card is jam-packed, with Liverpool’s very own welterweight Darren Till fighting Jorge Masvidal for the main event. Till has the home crowd and odds in his favour, but Masvidal’s experience in the cage should never be underestimated.

In anticipation for the event, let’s take a look at how UFC evolved into the dominating force it is today.

Humble beginnings

Starting in 1993, UFC is relatively young compared to many of today’s large sporting events. But MMA has ancient origins. Historians believe it dates back as far as the Olympic games of 648BC. The martial training of Greek armies, known as Pankration, was considered the combat sport of ancient Greece. Competitors went to war until the other acknowledged defeat, was rendered unconscious, or in extreme cases, was dead.

Just like today’s competition, almost everything was allowed, except for kicking and hitting a downed opponent, biting, and eye gouging. Pankration was eventually banned from the Olympic games by Roman emperor Theodosius I. It resurfaced as a popular sport much later in 20th century Brazil as ‘Vale Tudo’ - literally meaning “anything goes”.

The Gracie brothers championed this style and quickly moved from issuing fight challenges in local newspapers to filling out large football stadiums to accommodate growing crowds. North America witnessed this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when the first tournament took place in Denver, Colorado. UFC 1 put fighters of various different styles together in a cage ring. One of the Gracie brother’s sons, Royce Gracie, emerged as the champion.

UFC today

By today’s standards, mixed martial arts is a hybrid combat sport consisting of various fighting techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay Thai, and other disciplines. UFC has grown to revolutionise the fight business and stands as a premium global sports brand, media content company, and the largest Pay-Per-View (PPV) event provider in the world.

To put this growth into context, the first pay-per-view event attracted 86,000 viewers. Since then, UFC has been smashing record after record, peaking at 8.8 million viewers. Its success has turned the UK into a nation of MMA fans.

And that brings us back to now - UFC Fight Night 147. Will Darren Till walk away as the victor? Only time will tell, but whichever way it goes, you can bet UFC will always be welcomed by its British fans

You don’t have to get up close and personal with Darren Till himself to enjoy the sport. If you participate in mixed martial arts, or any other contact sport, make sure you’re equipped with one of OPRO’s self-fit mouthguards. You can shop by sport, level of protection, or age here.