The UFC has some making up to do to its UK fans. They were promised multiple events in 2011, which even included talk of a possible event in Scotland, and that has been slowly whittled down to a single event that so far has no name, no fighters, and not even a name yet.
2010 didn’t fair much better either. One single event in the form of UFC 120 that barely earned its numerical title instead of being a Fight Night or Live on Versus show, and was headlined by Bisping and Akiyama.
As much of a draw as Bisping is in the UK, most MMA fans know that unless he achieves his dream of fighting for the title or a top three opponent he is co-main event at best on a normal card. So why treat the UK fans differently to other fans?
Thousands of fans still clambered into the O2 Arena and paid good money to be there to see Bisping point strike his way to victory, but you simply just can’t compare that event to the one just a week later in Anaheim where Cain Velasquez pounded Brock Lesnar to claim the heavyweight title.
And to make things worse, this was also after nearly a whole year’s absence. UFC 105 was another typical “home country vs. foreigners” deal, but it included the two recent TUF winners, the two biggest names in UK MMA in Bisping and Hardy, topped off neatly by a legend in Randy Couture.
Every fan wants to see Couture fight, regardless of who else is on the card, and this is the kind of event the UFC needs to bring back to the UK.
Up until recently this was what UK cards were like as well. The first events in the UK featured the likes of Matt Hughes, Cro Cop, "Rampage" Jackson, and Dan Henderson. After his Ultimate Fighter win, Michael Bisping was also regularly on the cards, but again, it’s tough to argue that he’s done enough since to elevate himself to main event status like the UFC thinks he has.
The UFC needs to concentrate on important objectives like legalising MMA in New York and working on opening up brand new markets in their quest for world domination, but they can’t forget what markets helped to get them to this point. If they can get big names, former champions, and No. 1 contender matches to Australia in their last two outings, they can certainly do it in the UK.
And yet after all this all would be forgiven if the UFC gave the UK a title fight. UK fans would have nothing to complain about and American fans have enough title fights to not need to complain about missing out on one anyway. Better yet, Cain Velasquez is pencilled in for an October return just like the Liverpool Echo Arena, and what better to appease some disappointed fans than a heavyweight title showdown.
Both Velasquez versus Junior Dos Santos and a Lesnar rematch are big PPV business and the UFC could afford to sell either with a time difference for their American fans.
Personally I think Dana White will remember the anger he caused last year with UFC 120’s lack of big names and at least up the ante a little bit. A title fight may be a bit of a pipe dream, but he has to put at least one big name in there if he doesn’t want to risk losing fans in a country with a long history of appreciating combat sports.
If he can’t find a way to put a big name on the card then he will certainly have to at least promise more regular events.
In the end Dana White needs to weigh up quantity and quality, and hopefully come up with both for a restless nation.