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Ultimate Combat Experience was the Pioneer of Mixed Martial Arts in Utah

The Utah MMA scene has exploded in the past decade. Many ask what was the nexus of this explosion. You need look no further than the Ultimate Combat Experience. UCE was responsible for introducing many people to MMA in Utah.

Many felt the conservative community in Utah would not support the fringe sport of Mixed Martial Arts in Utah. Others said there were not enough fighters to fill cards on a weekly basis. Perhaps out of ignorance, or possible just out of his stubborn nature, Promoter Mike Stidham would not be deterred. He was up to the challenge. Strangely, the difficulties he would face wouldn't come until he had taken the fledgling sport to great heights. (More about that later.)

In fact, there were more than enough participants, and there became an overwhelming level of support for the show from the public. Stidham attributes this success to 'the packaging.' "We weren't trying to be the UFC. Every other organization that came along, tried to compete with them. We understood early on who we were, and what we were capable of becoming." He likened the Utah-based MMA organization to 'March Madness' compared to the UFC being the NBA Finals. People thumbing through the channels would see somebody they knew from high school, or somebody they were certain they could compete with inside the cage- as opposed to the 'Super Athletes' the UFC was putting in front of them. There was an immediate connection with what they were watching, and before they knew it, they were singing up to compete on Utah's MMA stage.

UCE's weekly television show gave many novice fighters an opportunity to compete in Utah MMA, and allowed those who had a little experience hone their skills to move on to bigger and better things, like the UFC. Many of those competitors found out right away, they had no business stepping inside that cage. 'It looked a lot easier on TV', says one competitor from the early days. "In the early days, it wasn't uncommon for fighters to run out the back door before the show even started. They would show up and see their opponent, and decide this wasn't for them," Stidham recollects.

Others overcame those first-night jitters, and made it to the pinnacle of the sport. There are at least a dozen Utah MMA fighters that have graced the inside of the UFC's Octagon, and 90% of them got their start in Ultimate Combat. Josh Burkman, Demarques Johnson, Court McGee, Steven Siler, Brandon Melendez, Kyacey Uscola, Derek Downey all got their start in UCE. Notable athletes form the national stage like Frank Shamrock, Jeremy Horn, Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco Rodriguez, and current UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson have all fought for Ultimate Combat. Chuck Liddel, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, Tim Silvia, Jeff Monson, and many others big name MMA figures have attended UCE events.

The Ultimate Combat Experience TV show brought Utah MMA to the fore. People were able to tune in each week on network television to watch local Utah MMA fighters compete inside the cage. In fact, Ultimate Combat is credited, by Grappling Magazine, as being the first Mixed Martial Arts TV show on network television anywhere in the world. "It wasn't easy getting on television in the beginning. I pitched this show to hundreds of TV stations that first year, and they all looked at me like I was out of my mind. Just a few years later, I had them beating down my door for my library of over 400 episodes of pure Utah MMA action."

Initially, UCE's Mixed Martial Arts programs were only allowed on late-night television. In the early days, UCE was seen on the local UPN Affiliate at midnight. But eventually Utah MMA was brought into prime time , then moved to the bigger stations, where they ultimately found a home on local television on FOX 13. (Past episodes can be seen at

Ultimate Combat accomplished a feat no other organization would be able to match. MMA fans couldn't get enough of the hard-hitting action. UCE put on LIVE MMA events every week for over a decade. For almost a year, UCE did two MMA shows a week-Friday Night MMA in Ogden, and Saturday Night MMA in Salt Lake City.

If being the pinnacle of Utah MMA wasn't enough, the Ultimate Combat Experience took their championship series to the Caribbean Island of Antigua for a Light Heavyweight Championship tournament that featured competitors from all over the country.

Ultimate Combat's next move was to be a regional product, hosting events in Elko Nevada, Rock Springs Wyoming, St. George, Vernal, Tooele, and Cedar City. It became their goal to bring Utah MMA to ALL of the fans that faithfully tuned in each week on television.

According to, The Ultimate Combat Experience is credited for having produced more MMA events than any other single organization on record. That is without counting the many events that pre-dated that website that have not been accounted for because Utah didn't have an athletic commission when UCE first started.

Currently, Ultimate Combat can be seen in over 50 countries on television, making Utah MMA athletes the most widely recognizable MMA contestants of any small organization in the world.

Ultimate Combat can also be heard on the radio. Ultimate Combat Radio primarily features Utah MMA, but has weekly UFC athletes and personalities as guests. Ultimate Combat Radio allows Utah MMA fans to call-in and interact with the sport and the athletes they love through call-ins, and text messaging during the show.

Ultimate Combat's website has always been the place to go to get the latest Utah MMA news, as well as MMA news from around the world. Ultimate Combat's web forum is legendary as being the place for people in Utah to discuss all things Utah MMA........and otherwise.

All this success has not been without pitfalls. From employees stealing from the company, to the Pete Suazo Utah Athletic Commission's attempt to put Ultimate Combat out of business, to Promoter Mike Stidham being arrested for assault, the last couple years have been rough for UCE. But like many of the great Utah MMA fighters to grace the inside of Ultimate Combat's cage, UCE is fighting back!

The Ultimate Combat Experience has taken a year-long hiatus, but looks to return to action in the Fall. Utah MMA will take another giant leap forward with the return of the Ultimate Combat Experience. This time, it will be bigger and better. FINALLY UCE has been able to garner some financial backing. Stidham has partnered up with longtime friend, Mike Memmott to bring back the show that put this sport on the map.

Memmott's 'Undisputed Fight Championship Series' will follow a tournament format that will allow for Amateur, ProAm, and Professional Utah Mixed Martial Artists to compete with others at their own level. Those who successfully navigate through the tournament will make it to the Utah MMA Championship finals, and will compete for the coveted Lonnie Foster, Utah State MMA Championship Belts.

"Mike Memmott is putting on the fights, and I will be getting them on television," is how Stidham describes the partnership. He continues, "Mike Memmott is a great guy who has a passion for MMA, and wants to give the fighters the best experience possible. He cares about the sport, and is exactly what Utah MMA needed. His honesty and character is what sets him apart from most MMA promoters. I will do what I do best, and that is produce quality MMA television content that will allow fighters the opportunity to make a name for themselves, like they never could otherwise, and give Utah MMA fans the opportunity to enjoy quality Utah MMA from the comfort of their own homes for free."

In addition to Utah Mixed Martial Arts, Ultimate Combat has Kickboxing and Muay Thai divisions that offer a little diversity for fight fans. "Interspersing stand-up fighting is often a welcome change for viewers that appreciate the striking elements of unarmed combat. Couple that with the fact that there are a lot of very quality martial artists in Utah that lack a platform to show their skills outside of point karate tournament circuit. MMA is not for everybody, and we certainly want the entire Utah Martial Arts community to feel welcome at our events," says Stidham

Grappling is another prominent element of Utah MMA. There are dozens of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Wrestling gyms and clubs in Utah. UCE was a pioneer on bringing submission grappling to Utah as well. The Ultimate Grappling Experience was the first submission-grappling tournament in Utah. UGE then started an annual 'Sub'-for-Santa tournament that raised thousands of dollars for needy children.

Over the years, UCE has been involved with dozens of charities, and has raised thousands of dollars through their Utah MMA events. Ronald McDonald House, Children's Justice Center, Red Cross, and the Utah Boys and Girls Club have all been benefactors of Ultimate Combat's charitable efforts.

The Ultimate Combat Experience was awarded Chamberwest's (Chamber of Commerce for West Valley City, Kearns, Taylorsville, and Magna) small business of the year for all it's charitable endeavors.

The Ultimate Combat Experience TV Show was the recipient of City Weekly's 'Best Locally Produced TV Show' award.

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About the Author

Mike Stidham, Ultimate Combat
1134 East Draper Parkway
Draper, UT 84020

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