In 1984 another former New Japan wrestler, Osamu Kido, who had trained under Karl Gotch, joined the UWF. But just as the promotion fledged, Maeda and Sayama, the top two stars, began bickering with each other over the shoot-style's essence. Maeda wanted to focus the matches on submissions, while Sayama, a former kickboxer, wanted to focus on kicks. This came to a head in a brutal match in late 1985 when Maeda did not pull a kick and instead kicked Sayama hard in the groin, causing a disqualification.
Sayama, embittered with wrestling after this match, left the UWF and was not heard from again in the wrestling world for 11 years. The promotion dissolved and the rest of the roster went back to New Japan where they formed a stable and feuded with New Japan's top stars of the era in an "invasion" angle, which later inspired WCW's nWo.
Shortly after the death of Japanese Emperor Hirohito in early 1989, Maeda held a meeting with New Japan promoter Antonio Inoki, in which they agreed that Fujiwara, who had remained in New Japan but now wanted out, would be allowed to rejoin UWF and bring two of his disciples, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, with him. That year also saw the debut of Kiyoshi Tamura, who is still recognized as one of the eminent shoot-style pro-wrestlers in Japan.
1990 saw many ups and downs in the short story of the Universal Wrestling Federation. Future stars Masahito Kakihara and Yusuke Fuke debuted, and a new rulebook was devised in which the first person to score 5 knockdowns (in which the opponent could not get back up at once, similar to boxing knockout attempts) would win, giving the 5-knockdown situation the same weight as a submission. Shinji Jin, a non-wrestler who had taken over for Maeda as promotion president the previous year, wanted to co-promote with other federations and styles, particularly SWS and Hamada's Universal Lucha Libre, but Maeda, resenting other forms of professional wrestling from his New Japan days, decided to put the idea off. This, and the general Japanese economic downturn of the era, prompted UWF to close its doors with a farewell card on December 1, 1990, in Matsumoto, Nagano.
The UWF wrestlers thus went their separate ways. Most of the roster (Takada, Yamazaki, Anjo, Nakano, Tamura, Kakihara, and Shigeo Miyato) founded UWF International, while Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki and Fuke founded Fujiwara Gumi, which made Jin's co-promoting idea into reality. As for Maeda, he, some rookies from the former UWF dojo, and foreign fighters Chris Dolman and Dirk Vrij founded Fighting Network RINGS, which would dedicate itself to pure shoot-style wrestling without actually billing itself as wrestling.
The UWF's wrestling style has made inroads in its root promotion, New Japan, where natives Yuji Nagata, Koji Kanemoto, and Katsuyori Shibata use UWF-style kicks despite having never competed in a shoot-style promotion as their peers Minoru Tanaka, Masayuki Naruse, and Kakihara (who joined New Japan in the early 2000's) have. Other natives who turned to martial arts fighting such as Tadao Yasuda, Kazuyuki Fujita and Kendo Ka Shin also have UWF inspiration. Above all, however, UWF made it possible for mixed-martial arts circuits to exist and be viable.