MONTREAL — UFC president Dana White says a return visit to Canada is a given in the wake of the success of UFC 83.
“After this event, I’d come here every weekend if I could. Believe me,” he told members of the UFC Fight Club at a question-and-answer session before Friday’s weigh-in for UFC 83 at the Bell Centre.
“We’ll be back,” he added.
White said he hopes to bring Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee into the mixed martial arts fold by the end of the year. “Then we start working on Canada, baby.”
“Everywhere I go, it doesn’t matter if we do a fight in Houston, Texas, Anaheim, California, if we do fights over over in the U.K., so many Canadians show up, it blows my mind. We never expected this thing to be this big in Canada. Not only are there a ton of fans, but there’s a ton of great talent coming out of Canada.
“Canada is going to be a part of our roadshow from here on out.”
As for convincing Ontario, which does not sanction mixed martial arts, to come on board, White said it was a matter of education.
“It’s going to take time but we’re going to get all these other provinces done.”
It took at least four tries for the UFC to secure a date in Quebec, which has shown it is more than UFC-friendly.
A UFC official said the UFC 83 gate was expected to hit $5 million, which would make it the organization’ second best behind UFC 66 in December 2006 which pitted Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell against Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz.
Zuffa Inc. only paid US$2 million for the ailing company back in 2001.
White, a Boston native, wore a Canadiens shirt with his name and No. 83 on the back, during the fan session. He later gave it to a woman who asked for it.
The UFC president has been battling sickness since a full day of media interviews Wednesday in Toronto and skipped the pre-fight news conference Thursday to stay in bed. But Friday, he spent an hour after the Q and A, posing for photographs and signing autographs.
UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are featured on the cover of the new issue of Forbes magazine under the headline “Ultimate Cash Machine.”
The brothers and White have turned the organization into a business worth “maybe (US)$1 billion,” according to Forbes. The magazine says the UFC will generate US$250 million in 2008, accounting for 90 per cent of revenue in the sport.
The Fertittas share 90 per cent of the UFC, with White owning the rest.
White says the UFC has no plans to introduce a 145-pound weight class. “That’s why we bought the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting).”
In fact, he said they are going to take steps to make the two circuits more distinct.
“We’re going to make the WEC the smaller weights and the UFC will be the heavier weights. We’ll probably take some of the guys in the higher weights, the champions over there and bring them into UFC. We’re still trying to figure that out.”
WEC features 135- (bantamweight) and 145-pound (featherweight) weight classes as well as 155, 170, 185 and 205. The UFC has 155, 170, 185, 205 and heavyweight.
—— The UFC president took the opportunity to once again dismiss Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, who remains one of the biggest names to spurn the UFC.
“The guy hasn’t fought anybody since 2005 and people want to call him the pound-for-pound best in the world?” White said incredulously.
“Give the respect to the guys who deserve it. The guys who come in and fight everybody three times a year, they fight the best fighters in the world. (FC middleweight campion) Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. End of story.”
White also repeated his invitation to disgruntled heavyweight champion Randy Couture to fight interim title-holder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Couture and the UFC are currently locked in a court case over Couture’s contract.
NOTES: White says the UFC is still in negotiations with out-of-contract heavyweight Andrei Arlovski … He also opened the door for Brazilian light-heavyweight Renato (Babalu) Sobral to return, providing he puts together a few wins over quality opponents … White dismissed the idea of a women’s division, saying there aren’t enough elite female fighters out there … The UFC president said he’d love to see a fight between WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber and Kid Yamamoto, but the Japanese fighter comes with a big price-tag. … White said he blocked UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva from meeting boxer Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match because Silva is not a boxer. “I’ll put him against Anderson Silva if he wants to fight MMA. Anderson Silva is not a boxer. Boxing is not what we do.” … Asked about HBO, White also said the UFC will have a “major deal” soon. … The current season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show is the “worst ever” for fighters losing control inside the house where there were cooped up for six weeks, according to White. “It’s out of control … it’s getting ridiculous.”