• The UFC and its expansion continues

  • ufc logo 300x182 The UFC and its expansion continuesAs the they geared up for UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson vs. Manuwa this week in London, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta took the time to sit down with various figureheads for UK Sport. This meeting was an opportunity for Fertitta to outline his understanding of how the UFC would fit into the UK sporting landscape both now and in the future.

    Fertitta has long been seen as the businessman behind the UFC, with Dana White providing the promotional mouthpiece for the company. It seems that when the UFC acknowledges they need to make a good impression, it will normally be Fertitta who will be on call to represent the company.

    As such, it is a very good sign for the UK market that the UFC deems it appropriate for Fertitta to be the man to sit down with all the key players when it comes to UK sport to discuss the UFC and its ambitions.

    Those ambitions have always been there but they finally seem to be being realised thanks to a mutually beneficial TV deal that has been in place with BT Sport in the last year. Since its creation, BT Sport has captured key contracts across a wide range of Sports which notably includes Premier League Football and from next year, Champions League football also.

    This will undoubtedly attract many homes throughout the UK to sign up to the BT Sport channel and in doing so will attract a lot of fresh eyes to the UFC’s product. It is perhaps thanks to this exciting prospect in the UK that the UFC have decided to increase its presence throughout Europe in an attempt to capitalise on the exposure that BT Sport provides.

    Throughout the day, various announcements were made regarding live shows that fans can look out for across Europe in the near future.

    It was announced that the UFC would firstly be returning to Abu Dhabi on April 12th for the first time since we saw a strange display from Anderson Silva against Demian Maia for UFC 112 back in April 2010. This return is a move that is seemingly designed to keep another co-owner of the UFC and founder of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, Sheik Tahnoon content.

    Additionally, Abu Dhabi will not be the only country the UFC will return to in Europe later this year. The UFC has announced that it will be heading to Berlin on May 31st which is another European city that the UFC can now tick off its list of places clamouring for the opportunity to host a UFC event.

    However, the UFC have made a brave move to place this event on the very same night when there will be another UFC event taking place in Brazil, with Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva likely to serve as the main event in that one.  Furthermore, it seems that fans of Combat Sport’s the world over will be spoilt for choice even more when May 31st does arrive, as not only will the two UFC event’s be airing on the same night but a third major fight will be taking place that night. As on that night, the biggest UK fight of the year takes place between George Groves and Carl Froch with a score to settle from both sides.

    How the UFC cards will do bearing in mind this mammoth fight is unclear but it is bound to severely affect the audience that the UFC reaches that night.

    With all of its plans to expand, it seems the UFC is not worried about flooding the marketplace with too much MMA. Nor are they concerned with the constant discussion about the dilution of the quality of UFC cards, with several other fights scheduled in Europe later in the year. The destinations for these are Dublin (July 19th), Stockholm (October 4th) and Istanbul (November 2nd).

    It will be interesting to see how the UFC puts together the fight card for all of these European fights this year given their tendency to try and select well known local fighters. For instance, this weekend UK fans will get to see no less than seven UK fighters with several more taking part coming from all across Europe.

    This serves as perhaps the strongest indicator that the growth of the UFC is gathering pace. Despite a strong European feel to the card, it still holds up as a good fight card and one that will attract interest not just in the UK and Europe but in the US and elsewhere also.

    There can be no doubt that the UFC will be looking to place Conor McGregor as the main attraction for the Dublin card given the meteoric rise of the “Notorious” one and there is also a fair chance that Alexander Gustafsson will be in contention to feature on the Stockholm card, if at all possible. Who knows, Stockholm may even play host to a rematch between Gustafsson and Jon Jones.

    The end result of all these announcements is that MMA will have its chance throughout 2014 to really break through and make its mark in the UK and elsewhere across Europe. Whilst it may have taken the UFC some time to really get a foothold in the UK Sporting market, it now seems as though with the assistance of the creative team at BT Sport, they are doing just that.

    This creative partnership has also been boosted by the news that Channel 5 will be co-hosting several UFC events throughout 2014 which will open the Sport up to an even wider audience. This further exposure is something that BT Sport will then be hoping will turn into regular custom when it comes to events taking place outside of Europe.

    About The Author – Greg Byron

    Greg started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.

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