2016 in Review: Biggest MMA Stories of the Year

Conor McGregor MMA 2016

It’s hard to recall a more important period of time in MMA than 2016. Here we take a look back at the biggest MMA stories of the year.

MMA Gets Legalized in New York

Truth be told, before this year I never saw the importance over MMA becoming legal in New York. So what if the state still wouldn’t allow it? 49 others do! It wasn’t until the bill to legalize MMA was signed, and the first show was scheduled in Madison Square Garden that the true gravity of the situation became apparent.


The bill to legalize MMA was signed in April of this year (photo:

New York (and more specifically MSG) has been the Mecca of sports for nearly a century. Some of the most important combat sports events took place in New York City, including Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier and Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano.

When the UFC finally rolled into town, they made UK gambling news by creating the biggest card in the history of the sport. Headlining the event was then-featherweight champ Conor McGregor, who was moving up in weight to challenge for the lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez.

McGregor was seen as a betting favorite, according to NetBet Sportsbook. In one of the most stunning victories in the history of the sport, McGregor outclassed Alvarez and became the first man to hold two titles simultaneously by knocking him out in the second round with a combination that would make Zhu Ting Olympic volleyball standout proud.

The UFC is likely to keep returning to New York with big shows. Their next event there is UFC 208, and will take place inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, headlined by Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, which in and of itself could be considered one of the biggest MMA stories of the year for the absence of Cyborg Santos.

Only now can MMA truly say it is truly and completely legal in the United States. As one of the fastest growing sports in the world, this is an important step that needed to be taken.

Free Agency

For many years it was easy to look at the UFC and call it a monopoly. There was almost no competition to MMA’s leading promotion, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. A few shows popped up here and there, yet almost all eventually fluttered and died under financial ruin. In 2016, however, we saw just how powerful some of these other shows are becoming.

Bellator MMA

Rory MacDonald is one of Bellator MMA’s biggest names (photo:

In a previously unprecedented move, some of the biggest names in the sport opted not to renew their contracts, and instead signed with other promotions. We’re not talking about washed-up, losing fighters, we’re talking about former champions and number one contenders, fighters whose name alone can sell out venues. Next month, for instance, Chael Sonnen will be fighting Tito Ortiz! NetBet Sportsbook lists Ortiz as the underdog.

This is without a doubt one of the biggest MMA stories of this year. If the trend continues and more fighters begin immigrating to other promotions such as Bellator MMA, World Series of Fighting, and One FC, we may see the lone powerhouse truly challenged in terms of star-power, which generally speaking is a good thing for sports.

Journalists Kicked Out for Reporting the News

When the news was first reported that Ariel Helwani and his colleagues were kicked out of UFC 199 and had their press credentials revoked, the world went up in arms. What could they have done to deserve this? As it turns out, their jobs.

Helwani accurately reported the news that Brock Lesnar would be returning to fight in the UFC at the historic 200th event while in attendance of UFC 199. This was a big no-no in the eyes of the UFC, who by all accounts went to extreme lengths to keep this fact a secret. Towards the end of the show, Ariel, and two of his photographer and videographer colleagues were kicked out, thankfully not by physical force.

Dana White UFC

Dana White and Ariel Helwani have had small spats for years (photo:

I’ve heard the argument that Helwani should have waited to report this news, that is was in some way unethical for him to release this information without the UFC’s consent. Are you kidding me? Journalism is based off releasing information, oftentimes to the detriment of others. He in no way shape or form did anything unethical and his treatment by the UFC brass was deplorable.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed (likely due to the media storm aimed at Dana White and the Fertittas) and he has since been re-granted his press credentials. Still though, it’s important to remember this event and not let something similar happen again. We’re still waiting to hear more about an earlier backstage confrontation Helwani mentioned on The MMA Hour though.

What do you think were the biggest MMA stories of 2016? There are certainly plenty to choose from. Tell us what you think by leaving a comment below, and make sure to check out our list of online sportsbooks in the UK including NetBet Sportsbook to find all the best sites offering betting lines for MMA!

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