The UK has proven to be a puzzle for the UFC.
Always pegged as a ‘natural fight country’ by UFC execs - the others being the US, Canada and Mexico - it was assumed that the UFC would take Britain by storm when it made its return in 2007. But things didn’t quite work out - fans there were aplenty, but there was little space to be found in the crowded television market.
The result was that the big events the UFC brought over from 2007 to 2009 ended up costing the company money. The difference in time zones meant that American viewers were being offered the pay-per-view in the middle of their Saturday day, and take up was low compared to what it would have been in a regular US evening slot.
And so the UFC downgraded its UK operation - and Europe in general, having lost money on Dublin and German ventures as well. But like a dog with a bone, it has refused to let go of plans to ignite the UK market in the way that it so obviously can be.
Former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook was brought in to head up the British operation, and UFC president Dana White professes himself to be excited about the future.
“This [market] is what we are working on right now. We are working on dates where we end up in London, Manchester, Dublin and several other places around the UK. We do them every year, same date every year, and with the right television deal we bring big fights over here,” he said today.
“You work out a deal for three years - hopefully thirty years but we will start with three and see how it goes - and we do big events at the same time every year. That way people can count on it, they know when it is coming. Its a destination; when you know there is going to be a date every year at the O2 in London, people will travel.
“This guy has been in this position for months; he is the right guy, he has all the right ideas and he is getting sh-t done over here. It is going to happen. Finally this stuff is going to get taken care of and its going to get done the right way, we are going to get the UK sorted out.
“Not just the UK, he is doing work all around the UK and down in South Africa too. We are working on some pretty cool stuff.”
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