A Quick Look At The SoCal MMA Scene (2017)

With SoCalUncensored.com now offering coverage of the Mixed Martial Arts scene in Southern California, we take a quick look at some of the main promotions that run in the area.

Major Organizations

Since Southern California is a huge media market with a huge population, it’s only natural that the top organizations in the sport would hold events in the area. Southern California has played host to many events since the California State Athletic Commission began sanctioning the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

  • Ultimate Fighting Championship: The UFC has been holding events in Southern California since 2006 when they held UFC 59: Reality check at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (now the Honda Center). The UFC has also held events in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, in Inglewood at the Forum, and in San Diego at the Valley View Casino Center for a total of 14 events in the Southern California area. The UFC usually holds a Pay Per View event or a UFC on Fox special in the SoCal area about once a year, mostly in Los Angeles and Anaheim.
  • Bellator MMA: The second biggest MMA promotion in America, Bellator, also runs events in Southern California, with their first SoCal event taking place at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA on June 5, 2009 for Bellator 10. Since then, Bellator has held events at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, CA, the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, the Honda Center in Anaheim, and the Forum in Inglewood, CA. Bellator usually holds one or two events a year in the SoCal area and are broadcast on Spike TV.

Smaller/Regional Organizations

Along with the major organizations, there are several smaller promotions that hold events in the Southern California area. Many of them showcase a wide variety of fighters from the Southern California area and other surrounding regions. From fighters with fledgling careers, to prospects, to journeymen, to UFC veterans, and everything in between, these events showcase a lot of different fighters from a lot of different backgrounds and levels.

  • King Of The Cage: One of the longest running promotions going in MMA, King Of The Cage has held over 450+ events in the United States and Canada with their first event taking place at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, CA, where they still hold events to this day. The promotion also holds events at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA. KOTC has also held events in San Bernardino, Tarzana, Highland, Lake Elsinore, and all around the state of California. KOTC features both professional and amateur bouts on their cards as well. Their events can be seen on MavTV, and previous events are available on UFC Fight Pass. For more information on King Of The Cage, visit KingOfTheCage.com.
  • Combate Americas: Founded by UFC co-creator Campbell McLaren, Combate Americas in the first Hispanic MMA franchise that features Latino MMA prospects from various parts of the world. The promotion started holding events in 2015, with their first card taking place in Las Vegas, NV. Since then, Combate Americas has held most of their events in the Los Angeles area, but have also began to expand with shows taking place in New York and Mexico within the last year. Combate Americas events can be seen on TV Azteca and UFC Fight Pass. For more information, visit CombateAmericas.com.
  • California Xtreme Fighting: With events taking place at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Lights Out Promotions and Bash Boxing’s Mixed Martial Arts brand, CXF, has established itself as the top professional MMA promotion in the San Fernando Valley. CXF holds events bimonthly at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City that showcases many of Southern California’s top regional stars and prospects. Bash Boxing also promote local Boxing events in the Los Angeles area. Footage of several CXF fights can be found on YouTube and the FITE TV app. Check out the CXF Facebook page for more information.
  • SMASH Global: Established in 2015, SMASH Global has been producing expensive black-tie Mixed Martial Arts events since 2015, with their first events having taken place in San Diego. SMASH Global now holds events at the Taglyan Cultural Complex in Los Angeles near the Hollywood area. SMASH Global events also have dress code requirements for their events and is geared more towards an “upscale” social demographic. Footage of SMASH Global fights can be found on YouTube. For more information, visit SMASHGlobal.com.
  • Roy Englebrecht Promotions’ Fight Club OC: Several organizations tend to hold hybrid events that feature a mixture of Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts bouts. One group that holds these types of events often is Roy Englebrecht Promotions’ Fight Club OC, who run regularly in Costa Mesa at the Hangar at the OC Fairgrounds. Fight Club OC events are usually streamed on FightClubOC.com.
  • Cage Fury Fighting Championships: Founded in 2006, the CFFC holds most of their events in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area. After having promoted 63 fight cards in the Northeast, CFFC will be making their Southern California debut on March 25th, 2017 at The Observatory – North Park in San Diego. For more information, visit CFFC.tv.
  • Absolute Championship Berkut: The Russian-based MMA promotion ACB founded in 2014 made their United States promotional debut on January 13th, 2017 with ACB 51 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, CA. It isn’t known whether or not ACB will be making a return to Southern California. ACB 51 is available in its entirety on YouTube.com.

Other Organizations

Along with the regular promotions that run in Southern California, there are some that have either held events in Southern California in the past or could hold events in the area in the future. Here’s a brief look at some of these promotions.

  • Invicta FC: The Midwest-based Women’s MMA promotion that was founded in 2012 has made three trips to the Southern California area since 2015, having held an event at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles, and two events at the Hangar at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. In recent months, Invicta have held all of their events in Kansas City, MO since their previous SoCal event on May 7th, 2016. Invicta FC events can be seen on UFC Fight Pass.
  • Legacy Fighting Alliance: Before merging with Legacy Fighting Championship to form LFA, Ed Soares’ Resurrection Fighting Alliance held several events in the Southern California area that were broadcast live on AXS TV. As of this writing, there have been no announced plans about future LFA fight cards taking place in the Southern California area anytime soon. LFA events are broadcast live on AXS TV.
  • Bamma USA: Between 2010-2016, Bamma USA have held fight cards featuring both amateur and professional bouts in various parts of Southern California, with most of their events having taken place at the Commerce Casino in Commerce. The promotion has been inactive and have not announced any plans for any upcoming events in the near future.
  • World Series Of Fighting: The Las Vegas based promotion has visited Southern California twice since it began holding events in November of 2012, with their last SoCal event taking place in February of 2016 in Garden Grove. WSOF’s future has been in question in recent months with reports of financial issues and a postponed event, but with a new group of financial backers investing in 60% of the company, they’ll likely be around for a while longer, but there’s no telling if a Southern California return will happen.

Amateur Organizations

Southern California is also home to many amateur MMA promotions. The rules in the amateur circuit are different from the ones in the professional circuit. Rounds are 2 or 3 minutes long instead of 3 or 5, elbows to the head as well as knees are banned (although knees to the head are optional for fighters with more than 10 fights), rotating leg locks are banned, and fighters with less than three fights are required to wear shin guards during fights. Some professional level events in the area often times include amateur bouts on their undercards, but there are also plenty of amateur organizations in the Southern California area.

Some notable amateur promotions in SoCal include Defiant MMA in the San Fernando Valley, the University of MMA who hold events at the Novo by Microsoft at LA Live in Downtown Los Angeles, Spar Star promotions in the Los Angeles area, Knockout Promotions in Long Beach, GetDown Promotions based in Orange County, California Fight League in the High Desert have not only held amateur bouts but also pro bouts, and Epic Fighting down in San Diego. Roy Englebrecht Promotions‘s Fight Club OC events also promotes amateur MMA fights on their hybrid Boxing/MMA events. If you’re looking for more information on amateur events in Southern California, check out CAMO-MMA.org, the official website of California’s exclusive authority regulating Amateur Mixed Martial Arts and Pankration/Combat Grappling in the state of California.

Organizations That Run On Native American and Tribal Land

Before the California State Athletic Commission regulated the sport, MMA events in the state were usually held on Native American land, while others were taking place illegally in various places such as gyms or nightclubs. Even though MMA has been regulated for over a decade now, some organizations still hold fight cards at Native American casinos and resorts. Some usually use the CSAC to oversee and regulate their events on Native American land, others use independent or tribal commissions to oversee their events, and others simply don’t regulate their events. Promotions such as Bellator MMA and King Of The Cage still hold events at Native American casinos and resorts.

  • Gladiator Challenge: Much like King Of The Cage, Gladiator Challenge is a longtime staple of the Southern California MMA scene. In Southern California, Gladiator Challenge have recently held events in El Cajon, Rancho Mirage, and San Jacinto. Gladiator Challenge also holds fight cards in Northern California.
  • Xplode Fight Series: The San Diego based XFS, organization was founded by Gregg Sharp in 2011 after fighters from his gym kept having fights at Gladiator Challenge getting cancelled. The promotion has been known for their reputation of booking unqualified fighters, mismatches (including the infamous “Soccer Mom” fight), and not sanctioning their events. XFS hasn’t held an event since 2015, but in a recent Facebook post, XFS owner Gregg Sharp stated that he will be looking to run again in 2017 with an independent third-party overseeing their events.

The issue of unregulated events held by XFS (and to an extent, Gladiator Challenge) became the subject of a controversial series of articles by MMAFighting.com’s Marc Raimondi (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) resulting in the CSAC executive officer Andy Foster taking action against unsanctioned events.

Other things to note

  • Ticket prices: Tickets for MMA events are more expensive than tickets for pro wrestling shows. While you might be paying more, you’re going to be getting more value for your dollar than you would at a wrestling show. Ticket prices usually start at $30-$40 for amateur events or General Admission tickets to some pro shows, and go up from there.
  • Buying tickets: There are usually several ways to buy tickets to MMA events. Tickets are usually sold directly through the promoters, through third-party vendors, or through the fighters themselves. If you’re looking to attend a local MMA event, consider purchasing tickets directly from a fighter as they usually rely on that money a lot to help cover their training and medical expenses. CageTix.com is usually a great site that helps people support fighters.
  • Who goes to shows: A lot of people who attend local MMA events are friends, family members, or teammates of fighters. A lot of people who attend events are usually cool and looking to have a fun time with friends, but keep in mind that the people who attend these events are usually trained in some type of martial art, so starting trouble at a fight card wouldn’t be wise.
  • Getting to meet fighters and personalities: One of the coolest things about local MMA events is that you get the chance to meet various stars. From fighters, to referee,s to luminaries of the sport. Even at UFC and Bellator events, the chances of running into a known figures in the sport is pretty good. Of course there are times when trying to get autographs or take photos are inappropriate (like if someone is with friends or family, or coaching a fighter), and there will be people who understandably don’t want to be bothered. Use your best judgement if you want to get an autograph or photo at an event. Some promotions also offer fans the opportunity to meet with fighters or hold fan fests.

Useful Links

  • Tapology.com – California Section: Tapology.com is a wonderful source for MMA results and event cards around the world. The site also has sections dedicated to various regions in the world, including one for California.
  • The official California State Athletic Commission website: The CSAC website has a section on its site that lists various event dates for MMA, Boxing, and Muay Thai events.
  • CAMO-MMA.org, the official website of California’s authority regulating Amateur Mixed Martial Arts. CAMO-MMA.org also has a calendar with a list of amateur MMA events taking place in the state.

Since the nature of the MMA landscape tends to change a lot, so expect an updated version of this guide in the future.

About the Author

SoCal's favorite son. Won 1st Place in my division at the 2013 Gracie Worlds. 2019 East San Fernando Valley Water Champion. Keyboard Warrior.