The Ultimate Fighting Championship may be the underdog, but the world's top mixed-martial-arts promotion is in some esteemed company.
Officials today announced that the UFC is a finalist for "Professional Sports League of the Year" at the 2011 Sports Business Awards.
The UFC was nominated with the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).
The awards, which the industry publication "SportsBusiness Journal" launched in 2008, celebrate excellence in sports business. This year's winners will be unveiled as part of a ceremony on May 18 at the Marriott Marquis at Time Square in New York City.
The UFC never previously has been nominated for or won a Sports Business Award.
Editors, writers and researchers from the "SportsBusiness Journal" and "SportsBusiness Daily" determined the list of nominees based on excellence, growth, creativity, innovation, sound planning, implementation and outcomes. An external panel of judges from the sports industry and "SportsBusiness" staffers ultimately will decide the winners.
With continued international expansion, record pay-per-view revenue and an increasing TV and online presence, 2010 was another banner year for the UFC. The 17-year-old company has attacked the MMA market in all forms of media and with the world's most impressive roster of talent. As many organizations faced a decline or near-bankruptcy in 2010, the UFC continued to grow, especially following its merger with the WEC. In fact, just this past weekend, the Las Vegas-based promotion announced the purchase of its biggest competitor, Strikeforce.
While the "Pro Sports League of the Year" nomination is a great first step, the UFC missed out on a nomination for the "Sports Executive of the Year" category, which UFC president Dana White would seem a logical nomination. Nominations went to ESPN/ABC Sports' George Bodenheimer, Ganassi Racing's Chip Ganassi, TBS' David Levy, Under Armour's Kevin Plank, and the Miami Heat's Pat Riley.
Additionally, the UFC didn't earn a nomination in the "Sports of the Event of the Year" category, for which UFC 114/UFC Fan Expo, UFC 116 and UFC 118/UFC Fan Expo were top options. The nominations went to the 2010 ING New York City Marathon, 2011 NBA All-Star Game, 2010 NCAA Final Four and 2011 Winter X Games.