by Daniel Frias of the Long Beach Press-Telegram
White has big plans for UFC
President looking to Canada, Europe and beyond
By Daniel Frias, Long Beach Press-Telegram
The way things are going for the Ultimate Fighting Championship these days, it only seems realistic to see the fight company, headed by it’s president Dana White, on the verge of “world domination.”
The UFC, which is now owned and operated by Zuffa, LLC, has witnessed tremendous growth over the past year, mainly due to its popularity among young male adults and the success of their reality television series, “The Ultimate Fighter” on SpikeTV.
“We can’t be denied anymore … we are a real sport,” said White on a recent conference call.
Since Zuffa, LLC and White took over, UFC has seen its popularity reach new heights. The reality television show has received higher ratings than both NBA and NHL playoff games when aired up against one another. More importantly the Internet and mainstream media are helping it grow.
“We are pulling in the numbers,” White said. “The male 18-34 demographic that all newspapers are trying to get to read their papers. Our Web site is a real machine for us. We get a lot of hits. They can’t go anywhere else to read it. So they come to us. More mainstream newspapers are coming to us to cover us like they would do boxing. They are noticing a difference in readership because of the UFC.”
The recent approval of MMA regulations in states like California have allowed the UFC to hold sanctioned fights in states where it was previously banned.
The “old” UFC was banned in many states because it had no rules and was seen as a bloody no-holds barred style of combat. The new UFC, with its rules and safety of fighters a main concern, has just named the former executive director of the Neveda State Athletic Commission as its new Vice President of Governmnet and Regulatory Affairs. Marc Ratner will help spearhead the campaign to educate State legislatures and commissions on MMA in hopes of having them sanction MMA fights in the future.
The UFC will put on its second event in the Golden State the first being last month in Anaheim at Staples Center on Saturday in Los Angeles. Headlining the event will be MMA legend Royce Gracie versus long-time reigning welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
Of course White has bigger plans than just the United States. He has been in talks with Canada mainly Edmonton and Montreal and has recently visited London in hopes of turning UFC into a global phenomenom much in the same way Vince McMahon Jr. did for the World Wrestling Entertainment in the mid-1990’s.
“We do want come to Canada and we will come to Canada,” White said.
No date has been set for such an expansion, but White did mention that UFC will be in Europe by the end of this year.
“We are putting together a game plan,” White said. “Starting in London and going from there. We will open an office in October and have a fight in March. I have no one to run it over there so it looks like I’m moving to London for a little while.”
Aside from Canada and the UK, White also mentioned that their will be an Ultimate Fighter Mexico.
“I think we will do well (in Mexico),” White said. “The (TUF) show airs down there and its done well. Soccer is king in London and football is king here. The Hispanic market likes fights. I think we will do fine.
“We’re very lucky. I think of the NFL and what a monster it is over here. There is nothing bigger than the NFL (in America). But they have not figured out how to get into other countries. I don’t care what color, race or culture you are. One thing that crosses over is fighting. Everybody understands fighting. We can make the move to other countries that other sports like NFL have not been able to do.”
Of course with more visibility comes the problem of overexposure, something White doesn’t worry about.
“Is baseball overexposed?” White said. “How many baseball games do you see on TV? As long as we put on good fights and fights people want to see, we should have no problems of overexposure.”
While some people liken the UFC’s recent success to the popularity explosion pro wrestling had in the 90s with companies like World Championship Wrestling (no longer in operation), the WWE (run by Vince K. McMahon), and to a lesser extent ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), White feels the UFC still has a long way to go before it reaches those levels of acheivement.
“We are not that high yet,” White said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of how big this thing can become. Every year we’ve taken it to another level. We have a lot of things planned. We will start doing fights all over Europe. We haven’t got to the level of Pro Wrestling was in the 90s or even boxing. We are still in a growing phase. We have big plans.”