by Ken Pishna
On Monday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced the hiring of Marshall Zelaznik, former Vice President of Programming for iN Demand Networks. Zelaznik joins Zuffa (the UFC’s parent company) in the newly created position of President of their UK Division.
With the announcement of Zelaznik, the UFC stated that the fundamentals of his job will be “exporting and managing the UFC brand overseas to the United Kingdom and other parts of English and non-English speaking Europe.”
It had been believed for quite some time that the UFC would be making a return to Japan in the near future. That isn’t necessarily out of the question, but given the formidable presence of both Pride Fighting Championships and K-1 in Japan, it makes sense for the UFC to go after the United Kingdom and the rest of continental Europe first.
While mixed martial arts has seen tremendous growth in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, neither Pride nor K-1 have taken any real steps to establish themselves there. With the UFC on an extremely successful run right now, they could take this opportunity to expand their operations to more of a world-wide presence without having to work in tandem with either Pride or K-1.
The UFC had announced a fight between their 205-pound champion, Chuck Liddell, and Pride’s champion, Wanderlei Silva, which promised to usher in a new era of cooperation between the organizations. But UFC President Dana White’s recent comments in a Canadian interview – “I don’t even know if Silva’s going to happen… the Japanese are very hard to do business with and you never know what’s going to happen” – seems to put such a relationship in doubt.
Perhaps the UFC’s move into the U.K. and Europe is a move by the company to position itself farther away from any need to rely upon the major Japanese promotions.