On Saturday night the UFC will host a show in Germany for the second time, but it’s fair to say that introducing to the German market hasn’t been plain sailing so far.
There was considerable media and political backlash before and after their debut at UFC 99 in Cologne last summer, with the old, “human cock-fighting” arguments once again rearing their ugly heads, and as a result the sport was later banned altogether from German TV.
That ban remains in place for the time being, but the UFC have remained undeterred and while their legal team continues to battle to have that overturned they’ve boldly moved ahead with a second event.
A positive sign for the promotion is that so far UFC 122’s presence has created considerably less of a stir this time round.
“There was no controversy whatsoever regarding UFC 122, absolutely none,” says Marek Lieberberg, an influential entrepreneur who has helped the UFC gain traction in the region, during today’s pre-fight press conference. “Either politically or elsewhere, there was a deafening silence in that respect. I think they ran out of arguments, quite frankly.”
Despite the lack of TV exposure to help promote the fights, MMAJunkie reports that between 8,000-9,000 tickets have been sold so far for the 11,000 strong Konig Pilsener Arena.
“The UFC community is so connected [on] Twitter, Myspace or YouTube that the fans of the UFC in Germany know what is happening,” Lieberberg says. “They don’t need television to be guided to an event.”
The UFC will also take advantage of the fact that their fans are “web savvy” by airing the event for free on the net in Germany via spox.com.
“We know the market likes combat sports,” the UFC’s Marshall Zelaznik noted at the pre-fight presser. “They’re prepared to watch one-sided boxing and millions turned out to it. There’s no doubt they’re going to like what UFC has to offer.”
The ticket sales they are getting here under trying circumstances seems to back up that argument and justify the time and resources they are dedicating to gaining a strong foothold in this potentially lucrative market. The hope now is that a successful show on Saturday night will further boost their efforts to break down barriers and legitimize the sport in the country.