With many of the world’s martial arts originating in Asia, most UFC fans figured it was just a matter of time before the mixed martial arts organization would head there to hold cards. UFC president Dana White recently confirmed that he plans on taking his show on the road to the Far East in the near future.
With a new American television deal in its back pocket, the UFC is pretty stable in the U.S. and Canada for the time being and also has its foot solidly in the door in Great Britain and Australia. Lorenzo Fertitta, CEO of the UFC, said the company is now planning on growing globally to make sure its long-term future is just as solid as the present.
Fertitta said the UFC plans on holding cards in Macau, China in 2012 and then the next year hopes to break new ground in Singapore as it makes its way across the Asian continent. He said the organization has been laying a lot of ground work in China and they’re going to dip their toe in the water to test things out, but are hoping it turns into something more permanent.
He said the show in Macau will depend on what dates work with local Chinese authorities and the broadcasters around the world, but it should take place next year. He added that the UFC recognizes Singapore as a growing market and they’ve been focusing on that nation for some time now for an event in 2013, possibly at the Marina Bay Sands, which is a popular Singapore casino-resort.
It took the UFC a little while to get up and running since the first few years of broadcasts weren’t on mainstream television networks. But you can now see UFC events in over 130 different nations across the globe. In America alone, the seven-year deal it signed with Fox in August rakes in close to $100 million each year. The first card aired on Nov.12 when heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez lost his title to Brazil’s Junior dos Santos by first-round KO in the main event.
Fertitta and his brother paid just $2 million for the UFC in 2001 and have turned it into one of the world’s most popular and recognizable sports organizations. However, some fans still see MMA as nothing more than sheer brutality with little skill and several American states refuse to sanction fights, including New York.
The company started out under the Fertittas with four employees in 2001 and now has about 300 people working for it with offices in Toronto, Las Vegas, London, and Beijing. They’re planning on opening another in Sao Paolo, Brazil and Mumbai, India in the next year or two. In addition, the pay-per-view numbers for the UFC were about 40,000 a year a decade ago and have now grown to approximately seven million, making the company the biggest pay-per-view provider in the world.
Fertitta realizes he’d have a better shot at cracking Chinese market if the UFC had a Chinese fighter to draw crowds. The country’s interest in the NBA rose rapidly when local player Yao Ming made it big and it could be the same scenario if the UFC can find a Chinese fighter that will be able to challenge the best the UFC has. Fertitta said several Chinese fighters will be brought over to train for a month in Las Vegas and it’s his organization’s job to find somebody with MMA talent or to help develop it.