There’s been rumors during the past few days that the UFC is set to make a major announcement regarding the UK, and at the weekend The Telegraph and MMA Live pundit Gareth A Davies confirmed that news is in the works.
“Major news for the UK relating to the UFC is also forthcoming for this week sometime, I’m told,” says Davies. “I have not been party to the details, but I understand it could be seismic.”
So what could the announcement be?
My best guess would be that it relates to forthcoming events in the UK.
Recently the UFC’s UK president Marshall Zelaznik hinted that the UFC may be looking to bring a series of Fight Night events to the UK, including taking the show further afield than just the usual London and Manchester venues.
“My hope is that it will provide four to six guaranteed UFC events in the UK next year,” Zelaznik told ESPN.co.uk in July. “We’re hoping to hold one more European event [in addition to UFC 120] before the end of the year, and then we’ll get these extra nights planned for next year.”
“We’d like to come to Liverpool, Scotland, Newcastle, Birmingham, these places provide 10,000-seaters which will be great for Fight Nights.”
There’s been some speculation that the promotion could be ready to head into the pay-per-view market in the UK, mainly based around a comment from Dana White last week in an interview with mmaweekly.
“You get into these countries and you have to go in there and cultivate the market. Look at how long we’ve been in the U.K. and how much money and effort and energy we put into there, and we’re not on pay-per-view yet. It’s driving us crazy.”
Some people have pointed to the ‘yet’ in that statement as evidence that something is afoot on that front. It should be noted that it’s now been almost exactly a year since the UFC first appeared on ESPN UK and so the timing is about right if they are thinking to move in that direction.
Personally, I, like many others, think this would be a bad move for the company if this is indeed what they are planning. Unlike the US market, the UK is not as accustomed to the pay-per-view model, and with overseas events generally broadcasting live at 3am in the British Isles, it will be hard for the promotion to convince fans to dig into their pockets for the events.
A similar move to PPV by boxing in the 90’s onwards in the UK is often attributed to a stark downturn in interest in the sport here. Overnight major fights went from being watched by millions on commercial TV, to thousands on pay-per-view.
WEC On TV?
At this time the UFC’s little sister, the WEC, is not broadcast in the UK, but it’s known to be something that Zuffa are interested in establishing.
In fact speaking in November of last year Zelaznik revealed that they had been hoping to put together a TV deal for the promotion ASAP.
“We are right now trying to get a WEC deal done for TV. I think that has to come first (before a WEC card in the UK),” Zelaznik said. “We will hopefully get a TV deal done here within the next couple to three months. Once that’s done we’ll get Ireland…we’re hopefully launching soon with WEC in Ireland.”
Those three months passed by without any further news, but could there now be movement in the situation at last?
So those are the three most likely options in my opinion. Hopefully we should know for sure by the end of the week.