September 25, 2006

by Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com
At the post-fight press conference following the BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes fight in Anaheim, California, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White answered questions about Pride Fighting Championship’s move to U.S. soil; the on-again, off-again fight between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva; and the UFC’s plans for expansion.

Speaking briefly on the topic of Pride’s emergence in the U.S. market, White stated, “I think it’s great for the sport… There are going to be a lot of guys up-and-coming. There are a lot of opportunities for these guys to make money, so I can’t have everybody. I can’t pay everybody… I think it’s necessary.”

White was a little more direct with his comments when asked about Pride Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva, who lost to Mirko Cro Cop in Pride on September 10th. White said, “I think he just got executed. Isn’t that what happened to him?”

He was even more direct when asked if Silva would be seen in the UFC anytime soon. “Did he wake up yet? Let’s put it this way, everybody’s terrorized me about the fight with Wanderlei Silva. I’ve been trying to make that fight for five years,” White stated. “If that fight happened in the United States right now, he’d be on a ninety day suspension for getting his head kicked to another planet. He’s out. There’s no way he can come fight in the United States right now. When he gets back up and wins another fight or something… trust me when I tell you, I’d love to have Wanderlei Silva under contract with the UFC. I joke around, but I’d love to have him under contract.”

Of course, it had been believed since August that the Silva vs. Liddell fight was already off, but when Tito Ortiz announced at the UFC 63 weigh-ins that he had just signed a contract to fight Liddell on December 30th, there were no remaining doubts left about the possibility of a Silva vs. Liddell fight.

In regards to the UFC’s business plans, White commented that, “We’re going to get real aggressive over the next two, three years. We’re going to expand our market. We’re going down to Mexico. We’re going up to Canada. We’re going over to the U.K. in October. We’re going to do 4 or 5 fights a year over there. We’re going to see how that goes and then possibly reaching out into Europe.”

He did not go so far as to clarify what he meant by going over to the U.K. in October, but White did make some interesting comments in regards to the Hispanic market that they have had a difficult time breaking into.

“We’re going to aggressively go after the Hispanic market over the next couple of years. Right now down in Mexico, they get the Ultimate Fighter on DirecTV. Every time I go down to Mexico, people know about the sport and the show and we’re looking for a television deal.”

As Pride has already begun testing the waters of the world market, it appears that the UFC has answered back by planning their own expansion, which makes sense considering that it is a concern that they could be approaching a saturation point in the United States.