by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship today officially confirmed what has been rumored for quite some time now, their official return to the United Kingdom on April 21, 2007. Their first show in Great Britain in nearly five years is set to take place in Manchester, England at the MEN Arena, with tickets going on sale on Monday, Feb. 19.
“We are very excited to be back in the UK,” said UFC President Dana White in a release from the UFC. “We had a lot of obstacles over the last six years, but I never gave up on bringing the UFC back to the UK. Now we have our UK office up and running, we’re going to have fights in the UK and throughout Europe, so the UFC is here to stay.”
As White stated, the return to England has been a long time coming, but really got some legs to it in autumn of 2006 when the UFC announced the hiring Marshall Zelaznik as the President of their UK division.
England has been a bastion of development for mixed martial arts in Europe over the past couple of years with Cage Rage rising to the top of the native promotions in the UK. It appears that Cage Rage isn’t quite ready to give up their position as the leader in the UK without a fight as they have a show scheduled for the same day as the UFC’s return, just 3 hours away at Wembley Arena in London.
Cage Rage is doing their best to stack the card not only with top UK talent – including Mark Weir, Mark Epstein, Paul Daley, Alex Reid, James Zicic, and others – but they have also signed K-1 and Pride veteran Bob Sapp and UFC and Pride veteran Vitor Belfort to separate bouts. Along with the fight card, Cage Rage has also extended a 20% discount to people who buy their tickets by March 17th in an attempt to secure their live audience.
Despite being so entrenched in the UK market, Cage Rage still faces a difficult battle as the UFC has ballooned in popularity worldwide over the past year and has a multitude of marketing resources to draw upon. It appears they are also looking to ramp up their returning roster as early rumors suggest the inclusion of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, and Andrei Arlovski as likely participants on the April 21st fight card.