UFC 134: 5 Possible International Destinations for Future UFC Events

Chris TernateCorrespondent IIAugust 9, 2011

UFC 134: 5 Possible International Destinations for Future UFC Events

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    After successful shows throughout Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the UFC's reach is growing.

    The promotion will next return to Brazil, where the organization will hold UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro on August 27 with more international shows to come. 

    Dana White has already vocalized a desire to expand the UFC outside of the United States and over international waters, talking about the promotion returning to Canada and the United Kingdom. 

    However, with arguably the second largest market for combat sports, Asia, currently untapped by the UFC, it can be expected that White and company definitely have their sights set on the Asian market, most notably Japan.

    Add to that Zuffa's acquisition of Strikeforce and its roster of fighters and the opportunities for expansion overseas become abundant with the addition of even more international fighters. 

    Whether its Asia, South America or Europe, expect the UFC to get the ball rolling and get events set up all over the world to make the UFC a global force.

    That said, here are five possible destinations for international UFC events not yet touched by the UFC. 

Japan

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    Arguably the biggest market for mixed martial arts outside of the United States, Japan is a country with just as rich a history in mixed martial arts as Brazil and next logical choice for an international event. 

    The UFC is already getting an event in the works for February, however if things don't pan out, there will surely be one in the near future. 

    With a new abundance of Japanese fighters in the UFC roster, the organization definitely has the big names necessary to make a splash in the Japanese market.

    Popular fighters like current number one middleweight contender Yushin Okami, recently signed top featherweight Hatsune Hioki and japanese stars Yoshihiro Akiyama and Takanori Gomi, are more than enough to draw crowds in Japan. 

    Add to that the relatively weak competition from organizations like DREAM and the market seems like the UFC's for the taking. 

    Also, given Zuffa's purchase of Strikeforce and Strikeforce's joint relationship in sharing fighters with DREAM, the possibility of adding DREAM stars like Shinya Aoki, adds depth to any possible card. 

    While the UFC had previously held a card in Japan back in 1997 title UFC Japan: Ultimate Japan, any future card would be the first UFC under the Zuffa banner. 

    At that previous card, mixed martial arts legend Kazushi Sakuraba made his UFC debut, eventually winning the UFC Japan Heavyweight tournament. 

    In a future card, the UFC could definitely blow that previous event out of the water with possible title fights or contender bouts or even a tournament style either way, paying tribute to its Pride FC roots. 

Philippines

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    With Filipino American light heavyweight Brandon Vera reinstated following his no contest bout with Thiago Silva, the UFC regained arguably their most popular fighter in the Filipino community. 

    Now with the emergence of middleweight Mark Munoz in the middleweight title picture, the UFC has another asset to help further its cause in the fight crazed Philippines. 

    Already led by pound for pound boxing champ Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines was originally announced as the first country to host the Ultimate Fighter series overseas and with an abundance of lighter weight fighters and the inevitable addition of a flyweight division, Asian countries like the Philippines are prime candidates for events. 

    Add to that Strikeforce heavyweight Shane Del Rosario and the possibility of former lightweight favorite Phillipe Nover returning, and the Zuffa roster has enough to hold its own in the Philippines. 

    Current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre's arrival in Manila was a huge success when it came to promoting the sport and when the champ met with Pacquiao, it was a huge step for the sport and the already immensely popular St. Pierre in the Philippines. 

    If the UFC wants to expand into Asia, the USA friendly Philippines is definitely a good launching point for their campaign.  

Netherlands

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    Given the country's already well documented history of producing world class kickboxers, the Netherlands has also been a hub for fighters making the transition to mixed martial arts. 

    Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten emerged as a forefather of MMA in the Netherlands, only to be followed by the likes of champions and former Strikeforce fighters Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem, Marloes Coenen as well as current DREAM Light Heavyweight Champion Gegard Mousasi. 

    While Golden Glory members Overeem, his brother and Coenen were released by Zuffa, no longer fighting under the Strikeforce banner, its not entirely unlikely that they could return under the UFC banner. 

    With such a rich history in combat sports, its hard to deny the Netherlands a UFC event, especially with young heavyweight prospects Stefan Struve and Antoni Hardonk also on the roster. 

    While Overeem remains the most desirable Dutch fighter not yet obtained by the UFC, Mousasi and even the exciting Melvin Manhoef remain under Strikeforce contract and if the UFC wants to add women's divisions, Coenen would also be an obvious choice. 

    Either way, the Netherlands definitely provides another territory for the UFC in Europe as well as an opportunity to re-introduce some fan favorites, like Overeem, under the UFC banner. 

South Korea

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    While not as well known as their Japanese counterparts, South Korean UFC fighters have been making a name for themselves, particularly welterweight Dong Hyun Kim, middleweight Yang Dongi and fan favorite "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung.

    Kim and Jung especially have emerged as not only popular fighters, but names to beat, and even Yoshihiro Akiyama, who is himself a zainichi korean, a fourth generation Japanese of Korean descent, have made a name for fighters of Korean descent in the UFC. 

    With so many fighters coming out of Japanese feeder promotions like Deep and Sengoku before making their way into larger organizations like Dream and the UFC, the roster of South Korean fighters has since grown past notable heavyweight Choi Hong-Man. 

    With the UFC holding onto some of South Korea's best MMA talent, why shouldn't they make a move into Korea to gain footing in the post-Pride FC Asia, which has become filled with organizations ranging from Dream to DEEP, all the way to the emerging ONE FC. 

    South Korea has already been host to K-1 events and with the growing popularity of its fighters, like Kim, who gained a national following, the UFC has a few fighters who could definitely help bolster a card in the country.  

Mexico

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    Prior to becoming the first Mexican American Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez was already being popularized as the UFC's Mexican-American poster boy.

    Now that he's become the champion, Velasquez is the perfect fighter to spearhead a campaign south of the border to further the UFC. 

    For a country already rich with arguably boxing's deepest history, Velasquez himself has noted that fighting is deep rooted in the culture and the UFC / MMA and Mexico would be a perfect fit. 

    Already riddled with fighters of Mexican-American descent, ranging from former light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz to UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, the UFC has a roster full of easily recognizable fighters who could market a Mexico based event.

    Add to that, Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez, bantamweight contender Miguel Torres and welterweight contender Carlos Condit and the possibilities for the card grow even more.

    Also with the UFC's hopes of adding a flyweight division, the possibility of Mexican or Mexican-American fighters who could populate the smaller divisions becomes more likely.