PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 12, 2014

David Estrada column: UFC is touching all global bases

David Estrada
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — With World Cup soccer starting to get in people’s minds, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has proven itself to be the combat sports equivalent of FIFA. One can look at the months of March and April to make this comparison.

 The UFC has touched most of the corners on the globe in these months. In March, the promotion held events in China, England, Texas and Brazil. On Friday, they held an event in Abu Dhabi and have other scheduled April events in Quebec and Maryland.  

 The Ultimate Fighter reality, show which was created to discover and showcase talent, is currently airing a season in Brazil, pitting American coach Chael Sonnen against Brazilian Wanderlei Silva’s team. The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, which pairs each of the two countries’ fighters against each other, will have its finale later this month in Quebec.

 With such expansion, the UFC adapted logistically.  With so many events going on around the world there are now three sets of English announcing crews; longtime staples Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan could not do it alone. There are Octagons around the world and new Octagon Girls that work events held on their continents.  

 The key component to the UFC’s globalization success is, of course, the fighters. The UFC brilliantly places the perfect fighters on the right fight card in a city or country to make it the biggest draw possible.  

 Take for instance the UFC Fight Night 39 event held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi holds the annual World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup and ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship which are two of the most prestigious grappling combat tournaments in the world.  

 Tailor-made for the Abu Dhabi audience, headlining the event was Brazilian Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira, who is world-renowned for his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu abilities. He faced off against American Roy “Big Country” Nelson who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt as well. In fact, the entire card was peppered with grappling-inclined fighters – perfect for the ground fighting-knowledgable Abu Dhabi spectators.  

 The UFC also places fighters from the area on the card. A recent example of this is Dallasite Johny Hendricks headlining the UFC 171 card in Dallas. This area-known person for the UFC Fight Night 39 event was Japanese MMA legend Tatsuya Kawajiri. Although not from the Middle East, Kawajiri is familiar to the Abu Dhabi audience after fighting in many Japanese PRIDE and DREAM contests which is closer time-zone wise allowing for a fan following to develop.

 With fights being held at so many different areas and times on the globe, airing these on television became a TV executive's nightmare. The Abu Dhabi event was held in their evening, which equated to Friday 1 p.m. CDT in the United States. The TV ratings would be virtually non-existent if aired in the middle of a workday.

 That is a reason why the UFC rolled out UFC Fight Pass. For a monthly subscription fee, UFC fans could view fights from the other side of the world by streaming them on their computers or tablet devices. This service may be for just the hardcore MMA fan and not the casual viewer but the 24/7 access it provides is quite impressive.  

 In other recent news, the UFC will be coming back to our part of the globe in June. UFC President Dana White announced the global MMA juggernaut will hold a June event in San Antonio (coincidently right in the middle of FIFA World Cup soccer).

 The fight card is yet to be set but, if the UFC continues with its formula of stacking cards with familiar or area fighters, one could expect some Texans fighting down in San Antonio.

  David Estrada is a Mixed Martial Arts columnist for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at DavidEstrada@DavidEstrada.com