While not seen in front of the camera as much as Dana White, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta is a major player behind the scenes for the promotion, not only in terms of the money he and his brother Frank have invested in it over the years, but also in his day-to-day role which in particular focuses on international expansion.
After making a rare appearance at a UFC media conference in New York yesterday to help promote the legalization of MMA in the state, Fertitta took time out to talk to MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani about new regions which could host events in the coming year.
Japan has always been a country that’s been mentioned as a possibility for the UFC to visit, but certain factors such as the Yakuza’s influence in the region, have all but ruled it out. Fertitta reveals however that there may now be light at the end of the tunnel.
“One of the things we’ve always wanted to do is to figure out a way to go back to Japan and hold a live event,” Fertitta says. “Now that we’ve hired Mark Fisher who ran the NBA in China and all over Asia for the past 10 years, very successful, he’s made a lot of progress over just the past couple of months. Now we certainly don’t have anything in place, but the goal would be to potentially have a live event in Asia by the end of this year.”
It appears that there’s plenty of other destinations that the UFC would like to get to sooner rather than later.
“Scotland is a priority,” Fertitta states. “We have a huge fan base there. We’ve wanted to go there for a number of years. The problem we’ve had so far is they don’t have the facilities we would like to have to go there. You know we typically like to go to an arena like the 02 [in London] where you can get 20,000 people there.
“My understanding is that Scotland has a venue that holds anywhere from 6-8,000 people. Certainly we could do that, but it’s not necessarily maximizing the size of the event it could potentially be. With that said we will make Scotland a priority, we will be there.”
Wait, there’s more…
“Beyond that, obviously right now we have a lot of focus on Brazil. We announced the fight in Rio. We’d like to do something in Mexico in the near term. In addition to that, obviously Asia is really the big focus. Whether it be in China, whether it be in Macau, Hong-Kong, Singapore, obviously we talked about Japan. Potentially somewhere in Malaysia.
“It’s a matter of just trying to prioritize things. You come into work every day trying to figure out what makes the most sense. So it’s a big puzzle, put it that way.”
Watch Fertitta’s full interview below which also features his thoughts on the UFC’s struggles to legalize the sport in New York.