Boxing

UFC still shows plenty of love to U.S.

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By Mitch Ciccarelli, Inside Fights

UFC President Dana White has global domination on his mind. For the Zuffa-owned fight promotion, 2009 was a prominent year in their worldwide expansion. The UFC graced European nations such as England, Ireland and Germany with compelling fight cards resulting in an increased growth of UFC fans overseas.

Heading into 2010, White made known his intentions to take the UFC to exciting new heights globally. Saturday marks its first trip to Australia for UFC 110 and just two months later the promotion will head to Abu Dhabi, also for the first time, for UFC 112.

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Both fight cards are loaded from top to bottom with gripping matchups and intriguing storylines. The same cannot be said for the recent events that have been promoted here in the United States.

While laying out blue prints for mega-events in other continents, it seems the promotion has neglected its base.

The first two pay-per-views of the year took place in Las Vegas and needless to say both cards were relatively dull, at least on paper. There was nothing that really stood out as a “must-see” reason to shell out $50 to order the event.

UFC 108 did feature some explosive knockouts courtesy of Junior dos Santos and Paul Daley, as well as an exciting three-round war between lightweights Joe Lauzon and Sam Stout but the main attraction between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva failed to generate any buzz.

The same can be said in regards to the recent UFC 109 card which was headlined by Hall of Famers and 40-somethings, Mark Coleman and Randy Couture. If it weren’t for the compelling middleweight showdown between Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt, fans would have felt cheated out of their money.

It is easy to understand American fans’ frustrations when it comes to the lack of stacked fight-cards in the States lately. Interestingly enough the last time the UFC showcased a supremely stacked event in the United States was for the historic UFC 100 back in July 2009.

Nevertheless, to accuse the UFC of neglecting their American fans is absolutely asinine to say the least. Yes, to a certain extent their last two events lacked extraordinary star power but it is not like they were horrendous shows altogether.

Just because White and the Fertittas have been developing a sound marketing strategy abroad, it does not mean they have forgotten about their loyal fans in America.

Just take a look at what is on the UFC’s radar in the coming months. Several big events are coming to the states including UFC 111 in March which features two title fights and a talent rich main card.

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will look to make his fourth straight title defense against England’s Dan Hardy plus an interim-heavyweight titleholder will be crowned as Frank Mir battles the hard-hitting Shane Carwin.

Another ultra-stacked card on the horizon is UFC 114 which is set to take place in Las Vegas on May 29. A title will not be on the line but a highly anticipated grudge match between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and the aforementioned Evans will serve as the night’s main event.

Surely with what is coming up in the near future, Americans don’t really have much to complain about. Perhaps we have become so spoiled to the point where we expect an amazing card every single time but realistically that is no easy feat. Injuries happen often and at the rate the UFC are promoting shows it is getting nearly impossible to guarantee a blockbuster main event each time out.

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Besides, even cards that appear lackluster on paper have been known to exceed expectations in the octagon. Although casual fans likely won’t be able to pick Paulo Thiago or Sonnen out of a lineup so their complaints are justified in that sense.

You can’t fault the UFC for wanting to expand globally and turn the promotion into a worldwide monster. After all they are merely following a sound business strategy that if done right can set MMA apart as the No. 1  sport in the world.

But it can prove disastrous for them if they begin to focus all of their efforts away from their main base. Despite a constant rise of popularity, the sport still has a long ways to go before it is truly accepted by mainstream American media. It is crucial that the UFC continues promoting high caliber events and accomplish their goal of getting the sport sanctioned in all fifty states.

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