by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has not hidden its desire to expand its brand across the world. The UFC has yet to return to Japan and Brazil, countries that they haven’t been to in many years, but they have recently expanded into Canada, following a strong building process in Northern Ireland and England.
“We’re focused on Germany, the Philippines, and Australia next,” UFC president Dana White stated earlier this year. “Germany is what we’re looking at next.”
Some of the speculation about Germany has quieted recently, but don’t be surprised if the promotion announces a date at the O2 World Arena in Berlin sometime soon.
“The Philippines is definitely happening, we’re working on that right now, Australia and Germany, those three are right now,” said White.
After UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta and Octagon star Chuck Liddell’s recent publicity junket to the Philippines drew more than 4,000 fans to a one-hour open work featuring Liddell, no one should be surprised that a more strict timeline has been factored into the UFC’s planned expansion for Southeast Asia.
Company projections currently call for a UFC landing in the Philippines sometime in the summer of 2009, according to a report on UFC.com.
“Chuck is a rock star over here,” Fertitta told UFC.com from his stop in the Philippines. “He walks in the hotel and there are people all over him, and then we ended up doing a public training session and over 4,000 people showed up at the Mall of Asia just to see him. It was very interesting, even at times a little bit scary because there were so many people there.”
In some way, the UFC, which already has a broadcast television deal with the ABS-CBN network in the Philippines, has arguably gone more mainstream in Southeast Asia than it has in America.
“When we came to the hotel, we checked in about 6:30 in the morning and there were about 20 photographers waiting for us. Then we held a press conference at nine and there were multiple TV stations and reporters. It’s beyond the imagination. They have a full day of press for us tomorrow, and I’ve got to be honest, I knew that we were growing internationally, but I don’t think I really had an appreciation for the amount of momentum we truly have until I came over here and saw it for myself.”
With Summer 2009 now penciled in on the docket, Fertitta says the UFC is already planning for its first event in the Philippines. Not only will they bring stars like Liddell to Southeast Asia, but just as they did in Canada, England, and Northern Ireland, the UFC plans to use regional fighters in the Octagon.
“It will be a combination of bringing over some of our stars and then hopefully having some local Filipino fighters, and maybe bringing in some of the guys from Japan and South Korea,” said Fertitta.
As many other promotions have fallen to the wayside or are currently struggling financially, the UFC machine only seems into ever-higher gears as the days roll on. With Germany and the Philippines starting to take shape, maybe fans in Australia can start holding their breath.