The last five years have seen the UFC spread its wings and visit more cities than ever in an effort to improve their popularity worldwide. That, however, has resulted in a few major cities being left out of rotation during the UFC’s emergence as a global powerhouse.
Here are nine great American cities who, like Buffalo, home to UFC 210, that deserve a big UFC event.
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The last time the UFC hit Columbus, Ohio was at UFC 96, where they filled the Nationwide Arena with over 17,000 fans, the fourth highest attended event that year -- behind events in much bigger cities. Our own Damon Martin, an Ohio native, explains why C-Bus deserves another big card:
“Columbus is always one of the top markets for ratings on TV and the UFC consistently did big shows here around the Arnold Classic but they haven't been back in years. Nationwide Arena is a perfect spot for a card plus, it's 3 hours from Pittsburgh, 2 hours from Cleveland, 2 hours from Cincy. Good middle spot and tons of fans here.”
Notable fighters from the area: Cody Garbrandt (Uhrichsville), Stipe Miocic (Euclid), Matt Brown (Jamestown)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLCGeneral view during UFC 68 at Nationwide Arena on March 3, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio
San Francisco/Oakland, California
The UFC’s first and only visit to the San Francisco/Oakland area saw the promotion bring a star-studded matchup between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 to the Oracle Arena. The UFC hasn’t been back yet, but the area has only seen its profile raise as both the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors have won championships since the then.
Notable fighters from the area: Nick Diaz (Stockton), Nate Diaz (Stockton)
Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLCChael Sonnen kicks Anderson Silva during the UFC Middleweight Championship bout at Oracle Arena on August 7, 2010 in Oakland, California
Between 2011 and 2013, Seattle was home to some of the UFC’s biggest non-PPV cards. The Key Arena hosted Lil’ Nog vs. Phil Davis in 2011, a lightweight title fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz in 2012 and hometown fighter Demetrious Johnson’s second title defense in 2013.
It’s been nearly four years since the UFC last visited, but “Emerald City” should be on the shortlist for Johnson’s record-breaking 11th title defense if he can get past Wilson Reis later this month.
Notable fighters from the area: Demetrius Johnson (Parkland), Julianna Pena (Spokane), Michael Chiesa (Spokane Valley)
Charlotte, North Carolina
The UFC visited Charlotte, North Carolina twice in its first four years at UFC 3 and UFC 5. But after hosting Florian vs. Gomi in an 8,000-seat arena in 2010, the promotion has stayed away from the state.
Both the UFC and Charlotte have grown tremendously since then and with the Hornets poised to make the NBA playoffs for the second straight season, The Spectrum Center is primed for a big UFC event.
Notable fighters from the area: Derek Brunson (Wilmington)
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Washington, D.C., despite its misery, is one of the most passionate sports cities in America. The one time the UFC visited the city, they brought a card headlined by an exciting tilt between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson.
The event didn’t live up to its billing in regards to attendance -- just over 9,000 people filled the Verizon Center -- but when the UFC brought champion Jon Jones to neighboring city, Baltimore, they fared much better.
Given the increased popularity of the sport and its success less than 50 miles away, the UFC should give the national’s capital another shot.
Notable fighters from the area: Angela Hill (Clinton, MD), Sara McMann (Tacoma Park, MD)
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A UFC event in paradise? Yes, please!
Despite one of the UFC’s biggest stars, BJ Penn, being born and bred in Hawaii, the promotion has never hosted an event in the state. They have a huge opportunity to change that with current interim featherweight champion and Hawaii native Max Holloway now clamoring for a stadium show in in the state.
Aloha Stadium, the part-time home of the NFL pro bowl, might be a little big for the promotion’s debut, but if you get Holloway in a title fight, BJ Penn on the card and the rest of the talented Hawaiians on the roster, seats will fill up quick.
Notable fighters from the area: Max Holloway (Oahu), BJ Penn (Kailua), Travis Browne (Honolulu), Brad Tavares (Kailua), Louis Smolka (Honolulu), Yancy Medeiros (Makaha)
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The first ever event in Philadelphia at UFC 101 in 2009 was an absolute banger, with Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin in the main event and BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian in the co-main. Over 17,000 people packed the Wachovia Center, producing an excellent $3.5 million gate for the promotion.
The UFC returned two years later and despite a litany of injuries and cancelled bouts, the event still performed modestly and proved it could be a reliable market. But it’s been six years since that theory has been tested.
Notable fighters from the area: Eddie Alvarez (Philadelphia), Paul Felder (Philadelphia), Tom Boetsch (Sunbury)
Corbis via Getty ImagesFans pack the arena during UFC 133 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia
In the UFC’s first 20 events, only two cities cracked 10,000 in attendance -- Bayamon, Puerto Rico and Detroit, Michigan. That, however, was the first and last time the UFC visited Mo-Town.
It’s no secret that Detroit was one of the hardest hit by the recession and that could be one of the reasons the UFC hasn’t been back. But the resilient city has regained much of its luster and could be on the UFC’s list of target cities. Especially with the brand new Little Caesar’s Arena opening in late 2017.
Notable fighters from the area: Kevin Lee (Detroit), Mike Perry (Flint), Daron Cruickshank (Wayne)
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St. Louis, Missouri
The UFC has never been to St. Louis but now with no football team to compete with on weekends in the fall and a champion, Tyron Woodley, hailing from the city, now is the time to break into the market.
Notable fighters from the area: Tyron Woodley (St. Louis)