A fight venue can be considered “iconic” in MMA when it has hosted some of the most memorable and significant fights in the sport’s history, or when it has a unique and recognizable atmosphere that sets it apart from other venues.
Iconic fight venues also have a cultural impact on MMA as a whole, helping to shape the sport’s identity and influencing the way fans perceive it. For example, the UFC’s Octagon is instantly recognizable to fans around the world and has become a symbol of the UFC brand. Similarly, Saitama Super Arena is often associated with the now-defunct Pride FC and its legacy of featuring some of the most spectacular and exciting fights in MMA history.
The goal of this article is to take look at some of the most iconic fight venues in MMA. But this article isn’t just about the fights. It’s also about the venues themselves, and the unique qualities that make them so special. Let’s dive in…
The Octagon (UFC)
The Octagon is a term that refers to the eight-sided cage used for mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions. It was created by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993 and has since become a defining element of MMA culture.
The Octagon has also had a significant impact on the way MMA fights are staged and broadcast. The structure of the cage provides a clear and unobstructed view of the action for fans, and it also allows for better camera angles and lighting.
The first UFC event took place in Denver, Colorado, and featured a tournament-style competition with fighters from different martial arts backgrounds. The event was a success, but the traditional boxing ring used for the fights proved to be inadequate for the new sport. The UFC organisers needed a structure that would provide a safe and enclosed environment for the fighters while also giving them room to move and showcase their skills.
Hence, the Octagon was the solution.
It was designed to be a safe and controlled environment for the fighters while also being visually striking and instantly recognizable. The Octagon also solved the problem of corners and ropes that could trap or limit the movement of the fighters.
Notable fights held in the Octagon:
Over the years, the Octagon has been the site of some of the most famous fights in MMA history. Some of the notable fights include:
- UFC 1: The first-ever UFC event, which featured a tournament-style competition with fighters from different martial arts backgrounds.
- UFC 129: Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields. This was the first UFC event to be held in Canada, and it set the record for the largest attendance in North American MMA history with over 55,000 fans in attendance.
- UFC 205: Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez. This event marked the first time a UFC event was held in New York City after the state lifted its ban on MMA.
- UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor. This fight was one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history, and it ended in a post-fight brawl between the two camps.
Saitama Super Arena (Pride FC)
Saitama Super Arena is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in Saitama, Japan. It was designed by renowned architect, Hiroshi Hara, and was opened in 2000. The arena has a seating capacity of 37,000 and is considered one of the largest and most prestigious indoor arenas in Japan.
The Saitama Super Arena has hosted many significant events over the years, including concerts, sports events, and MMA competitions. It has become a landmark of Japanese pop culture, and its iconic design has been featured in movies, TV shows, and video games.
The atmosphere in the Saitama Super Arena is known for being electric and passionate. Japanese MMA fans are known for being respectful and knowledgeable about the sport, and they often bring a unique energy to the events held at the arena.
Compared to other fight venues, the Saitama Super Arena has a more traditional and formal feel to it. The arena is known for its clean and modern design, and the audience is typically well-behaved and respectful.
Notable fights held in Saitama Super Arena:
The Saitama Super Arena has been the site of some of the most memorable MMA fights in history, including:
- PRIDE 21: This event featured a fight between Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson, which is considered one of the greatest fights in MMA history.
- PRIDE Final Conflict 2003: This event featured a fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, which is considered one of the greatest heavyweight fights in MMA history.
- UFC 144: This event marked the UFC’s return to Japan after a decade-long absence and featured a lightweight championship fight between Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson.
- RIZIN Fighting World Grand Prix 2017: This event featured a fight between MMA legends Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva.
Madison Square Garden (UFC, Bellator)
Madison Square Garden, also known as “The Garden,” is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in New York City. It was opened in 1968 and has since become one of the most iconic and legendary sports and entertainment venues in the world.
Madison Square Garden has hosted some of the most memorable events in sports and entertainment history, including boxing matches, basketball games, concerts, and political events. The arena has become synonymous with the city of New York and is considered a cultural icon.
Despite its rich history of hosting boxing matches, MMA has faced significant challenges in gaining access to Madison Square Garden. For many years, MMA was banned in the state of New York due to concerns about the sport’s safety and legality.
It wasn’t until 2016 that MMA was finally legalised in New York, opening the door for events to be held at Madison Square Garden. However, even after legalisation, the UFC faced opposition from various groups, including the Culinary Union, which objected to the UFC’s business practices.
The UFC finally held its first event at Madison Square Garden in November 2016, featuring a highly anticipated fight between Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez. The event was a major success, and the UFC has continued to hold events at Madison Square Garden in the years since.
The challenges faced by MMA in gaining access to Madison Square Garden highlight the ongoing struggle for legitimacy and acceptance that the sport faces, even as it continues to grow in popularity around the world.
Notable fights held in Madison Square Garden:
There have been several notable MMA fights held in Madison Square Garden since the sport was legalised in New York in 2016. These fights have helped to solidify Madison Square Garden as a premier venue for MMA events and have contributed to the growth and popularity of the sport in the state of New York, including:
- UFC 205: This was the first UFC event held at Madison Square Garden and it featured a historic main event between Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship. McGregor won the fight via TKO in the second round to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously.
- UFC 217: This event featured three title fights, including a highly anticipated middleweight championship fight between Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping. St-Pierre won the fight via submission in the third round to become a two-division champion.
- UFC 244: This event featured a main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz for the “BMF” title, which was created specifically for the fight. Masvidal won the fight via TKO in the third round.
- UFC 223: This event featured a highly anticipated lightweight championship fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Al Iaquinta. Nurmagomedov won the fight via unanimous decision to become the undisputed lightweight champion.
MGM Grand Garden Arena (UFC)
The MGM Grand Garden Arena is a multi-purpose indoor arena located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. It was opened in 1993 and has since become one of the most iconic and well-known sports and entertainment venues in the world.
The arena has a seating capacity of up to 17,157 and has hosted numerous high-profile events, including concerts, boxing matches, and MMA fights.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena has played a significant role in the growth and success of the UFC. Las Vegas has long been a hub for combat sports, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena has become the premier venue for MMA events in the city.
The UFC has held numerous events at the MGM Grand Garden Arena over the years, and the arena’s reputation as a top-tier venue has helped to attract high-profile fighters and generate buzz around major fights.
In addition, the MGM Grand Garden Arena has played host to some of the most iconic moments in UFC history, including the below mentioned UFC 100 and UFC 189 events. These moments have helped to cement the arena’s place in MMA history and have contributed to the growth and popularity of the sport as a whole.
Notable MMA fights held in the MGM Grand Garden Arena:
The MGM Grand Garden Arena has played host to some of the most significant and memorable MMA fights in UFC history, including:
- UFC 100: This event, held in 2009, was a milestone for the UFC, marking its 100th pay-per-view event. The main event featured a heavyweight championship fight between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, with Lesnar winning via TKO in the second round.
- UFC 189: This event, held in 2015, featured a highly anticipated featherweight championship fight between Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes. McGregor won the fight via TKO in the second round to become the interim featherweight champion.
- UFC 200: This event, held in 2016, was another milestone for the UFC, marking its 200th pay-per-view event. The event featured a stacked card, including a light heavyweight championship fight between Daniel Cormier and Anderson Silva and a women’s bantamweight championship fight between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes.
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Rizin FF)
Ryogoku Kokugikan is an indoor sporting arena located in the Ryogoku district of Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. The arena was opened in 1985 and has since become one of the most iconic and well-known venues for sumo wrestling in Japan.
In addition to sumo wrestling, the arena has also hosted a number of high-profile combat sports events, including boxing, kickboxing, and MMA fights.
One of the key differences between Ryogoku Kokugikan and other fight venues is its rich history and cultural significance. Sumo wrestling is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and has been a part of Japanese tradition for centuries. As a result, Ryogoku Kokugikan has a unique atmosphere and aesthetic that sets it apart from other combat sports venues.
In addition, Ryogoku Kokugikan is one of the few venues in the world that is specifically designed for sumo wrestling. The arena features a traditional dirt surface known as a dohyo, as well as seating arrangements that are unique to sumo matches.
Ryogoku Kokugikan’s cultural significance and unique features make it a one-of-a-kind venue for combat sports events, and it has played a significant role in the growth and popularity of combat sports in Japan.
Notable fights held in Ryogoku Kokugikan:
Ryogoku Kokugikan has played host to some of the most significant and memorable combat sports events in Japanese history, including:
- Pride 1: This event, held in 1997, was the inaugural event of the Pride Fighting Championships, which went on to become one of the most popular and successful MMA organisations in the world. The event featured a main event between Rickson Gracie and Nobuhiko Takada, with Gracie winning via armbar submission.
- K-1 World Grand Prix: The K-1 World Grand Prix is a kickboxing tournament that has been held at Ryogoku Kokugikan several times over the years. The tournament features some of the best kickboxers from around the world competing for the title of K-1 champion.
- UFC Fight Night: Saitama: This event, held in 2019, was the UFC’s first event in Japan since 2015. The event featured a main event between lightweight contenders Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje, with Gaethje winning via TKO in the first round.
The Future of fight venues in MMA
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the way combat sports events are held and how fans experience them. With many countries implementing restrictions on large gatherings and travel, organisers have had to adjust their plans to ensure the safety of fighters, staff, and fans.
One of the ways in which organisers have adapted is by holding events in smaller venues with limited capacity, or even without fans in attendance. This has created a more intimate atmosphere for fighters and has allowed organisers to control the environment more effectively.
Another trend that is likely to continue is the use of technology to enhance the fan experience. With the rise of streaming services and social media, fans are able to access live events from anywhere in the world and connect with other fans in real-time.
Looking ahead, it is likely that we will see a combination of smaller, more intimate venues with enhanced technology and fan engagement. Additionally, as the pandemic subsides and restrictions ease, we may see a return to larger venues with full capacity crowds.
Ultimately, the future of fight venues in MMA will depend on a range of factors, including technological advancements, fan preferences, and global events. However, one thing is certain: the sport of MMA will continue to evolve, and the venues in which it is held will play a critical role in shaping its future.
As MMA continues to evolve, we can look forward to new and exciting venues that will push the boundaries of what is possible. And whether you’re a die-hard fan or just enjoy watching the occasional fight, we can all agree that there’s nothing quite like the energy and excitement of a live MMA event.
So, grab some snacks, invite your friends over, and settle in for an exciting night of fights, whether it’s at a packed stadium or in the comfort of your own home. After all, the world of MMA is always changing, but the thrill of the fight remains the same.