By Gareth A Davies
The Daily Telegraph
Dana White gave the strongest hint yet at yesterday’s London press conference that the UFC is moving towards a new television deal in the UK this summer — without revealing the network — and indicated that events in the future will be programmed into set dates throughout the year.
“Here’s what we are working on – dates in London, Manchester, Dublin and several other places in the UK. We do them every year, the same date every year, and with the right television deal we bring big fights over here,” he explained at the news conference to announce Saturday’s main event fights at Wembley Arena, with Renan Barao headlining in a defence of the interim bantamweight title against Michael McDonald.
“[The plan is that] we work out a deal for 3 years – hopefully it would be 30 years – but we work out a deal and we see how it goes, and build big events in these places same time every year,” added White.
“That’s what we are working on with Garry [Cook, the UFC’s EMEA CEO] right now. That way, people can count on it, people know when it is coming, it’s a destination. When you know there’s going to be a date every year at the 02 in London, people will travel from all over the country.”
White is convinced Cook understands the landscape. “We have the right guy, he has the right ideas and we are getting s*** done over here. Finally this stuff is going to get taken care of, and it’s going to get done, the right way.”
“We are going to get the UK sorted out. But not just the UK. We are doing work down in South Africa, too. Working on some pretty cool stuff too?”
White was asked if he expected that to be a done deal this year. That, he said, lay with the UFC’s EMEA CEO Cook.
Given the UFC’s current strategy of wanting to maintain itself as a global company, but keep relevant regionally, it appears that the UFC may plan to have a series of regional events annually, with a “headliner” each year.
That, one suspects, would be the 02 Arena event White hinted at today, which would also lend itself to a fan exposition, an oft-requested addition from fans after the success of the London Expo in 2011. The issue with that one was that Earls Court was so far from the 02 Arena.
As the UFC seeks to open new markets, and develop others, it seems that regionalised norms may fall into place. That would develop the local markets to meet the top of the food chain which currently exists in the UFC, with the top 450 fighters currently on its roster across eight weight divisions.
Elsewhere, White revealed yesterday that “people were making fake IDs to get in” at Trinity College in Dublin on Tuesday this week, where he picked up an honorary award, and admitted that while in Temple Bar, “yapping my big mouth off” had set off a series of news tweets from Irish fans.
White also hopes that the winner of Barao and McDonald for the interim 135lbs title will face injured bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz this summer.
“He’s gonna have to get back into training,” said White, who does not want to strip Cruz of the title. “Fox loves him. We’ll see how this thing plays out. I’m hoping the winner of this fights him in the summer.”
White also revealed that female fighter ‘Cyborg’ Santos had behaved in a peculiar manner with the organisation after being offered a contract, and the prospect of fighting on other organisations while opponents for the featherweight fighter were sought.
On the heavyweight scene, White insisted that Antonio Silva had earned a rematch with Cain Velasquez, this time for the UFC title, given his explosive third round victory over Alistair Overeem earlier this month.