The UFC's Top 10 International Assets

Darren WongSenior Analyst IFebruary 28, 2011

The UFC's Top 10 International Assets

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    UFC President Dana White often says that he thinks the UFC will eventually become the biggest sport in the world.

    Lofty as that ambition might be, if the UFC is ever going to get anywhere close to that level, the UFC is going to have to become a truly international sport like soccer (football).

    Dana White has argued that the UFC is particularly well-suited for this kind of growth because while some sports have trouble translating into different cultures, fighting transcends those national and cultural boundaries.

    While there may be some truth to this, sometimes it takes a homegrown star to ignite fan interest in a given sport.

    Americans didn't seem to care about chess in the least, except when Bobby Fischer was on top. The popularity of basketball in China is rightly attributed greatly to the existence of Yao Ming.

    Mixed Martial Arts is no different.

    Bob Arum is at least partially right when he said that at the present time MMA draws primarily from an audience of white people. 

    As much as MMA is still not considered by some as a mainstream sport even in North America, it's even less popular everywhere else.

    In order for the UFC to change that, it has aggressively promoted its international stars in hopes that their home countries might take notice.

    Here are 10 fighters the UFC can market based on their national identities or ethnic backgrounds.

    The criteria is based upon potential value to the UFC, not on fighter rankings or perceived skill.

    Due to the plethora of elite Brazilian fighters, Brazilians were not considered for this list.

International Fighters the UFC Wished They Could Get

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    Despite being far and away the biggest MMA promotion in the world, the UFC doesn't have a lock on all international fighters.

    If there is one fighter who the UFC could potentially hold up for international consumption, it would probably be Alistair Overeem.

    He's physically impressive, multi-lingual and fan friendly.

    Aside from potentially being able to draw a Dutch audience, Overeem is also the kind of guy who could really make it big in Japan if given the proper push.


    Other Notables outside of the UFC include:

    Fedor Emelianenko

    Hatsu Hioki

    Gegard Mousasi

    Satoshi Ishii

Other UFC Internationals Worth Mentioning

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    Outside of the top 10, there are plenty of others worth mentioning. I'll mention 15.

    Some of these, like Nam Phan and Mark Munoz are American, but due to racial backgrounds, they might still potentially be able to attract interest from Asia.

    Nam Phan
    Mark Munoz
    Ross Pearson
    Dan Hardy
    Cheick Kongo
    Alexander Gustafsson
    John Hathaway
    Stefan Struve
    Martin Kampmann
    Yushin Okami
    Takanori Gomi
    Rory MacDonald
    Alessio Sakara
    Stefan Struve
    Sam Stout
    Michihiro Omigawa

10. Tie Quan Zhang

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    As the UFC's first and only fighter from China, Zhang carries much of the UFC's hopes for Chinese expansion on his shoulders.

    But does he have the talent to rack up enough wins at featherweight to really get the attention of China?

9. Mirko Filipovic

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    Filipovic's best days may be behind him, but he still has a big and loyal international following.

8. George Sotiropoulos

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    He's lived in America for years, but despite this, the UFC plays up his Australian background to no end.

    Also, his Greek background might someday come in handy for the UFC.

    He'd be higher on this list had he not lost to Dennis Siver.

7. Dong Hyun Kim

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    Kim has struggled to really catch on in America due to his grapple-heavy arsenal.

    But in his homeland of South Korea, fans are taking notice.

6. Dennis Siver

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    When Siver first fought in the UFC, most observers didn't think he'd go far.

    Recently though, he's gone on a bit of a tear and now is on the verge of contendership.

    Germany is a pretty big boxing nation. If the UFC can convert some of those boxing fans into UFC watchers, they may have Siver to thank.

5. Yoshihiro Akiyama

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    Yoshihiro Akiyama has had only mixed results in his UFC career, but his star power is unquestionable.

    More than just being a successful judoka and MMA practitioner, he bring "teh sex" {sic], which is a combination of fearless brawling, sex appeal, and pure awesomeness. Or so his fans tell me.

    His Con Te Partiro entrance is also pretty good.

4. Norifumi Yamamoto

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    Kid Yamamoto hasn't won in the UFC yet, but when he fought in the UFC for the first time last month, he brought with him many people from the Japanese media who wouldn't cover the UFC otherwise.

    When he's at his best, Kid is flashy, dramatic, and exactly the kind of fighter who could get the Japanese fans interested in the UFC.

3. Michael Bisping

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    Love him or hate him, you'll probably pay to see him fight.

    England has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Bisping.

    On the one hand, he's an exciting homegrown elite talent with a bit of attitude.

    At this point he's still England's best MMA fighter, still head and shoulders about the John Hathaways, Dan Hardys and Ross Pearsons.

    On the other hand, some English people resent the fact that the UFC occasionally seems to try to force Bisping down their throats.

2. Cain Velasquez

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    Velasquez wasn't born in Mexico, but the Latino community seems to have embraced him, as you could see when he defeated Brock Lesnar.

    Given that he's quite possibly the baddest man on the planet today, combined with how fiercely the Mexican population has supported their boxing stars, it's no wonder why the UFC has high hopes for Velasquez.

1. Georges St. Pierre

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    55,000 tickets sold.

    $11 million gate.

    St. Pierre will be a draw wherever he goes, but his influence in how Canada has become an MMA-crazy nation cannot be overstated.



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