UFC 136 in Houston Will Grow Sport in Untapped Market
The list of cities that have held UFC events reads like you would expect.
With the exception of the occasional event in a city like Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee, most of the major cards have taken place in Las Vegas and similar hubs of combat sports like boxing and mixed martial arts.
Largely absent from that list is the city of Houston. Houston is the nation's fourth-largest city and they feature a growing fanbase of MMA. You would think that events in Houston would be a no-brainer, but that hasn't been the case.
The UFC hasn't been to Houston since 2007, where over 15,000 people packed the Toyota Center for the card.
That card featured a main event of UFC legend Georges St-Pierre against Matt Serra, two highly-marketable fighters at the time.
The UFC 136 card may not feature GSP, but it is one of the strongest cards in recent memory, featuring two title bouts—Part 3 of the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard trilogy for the lightweight title, and the electric Jose Aldo defending his featherweight crown against Kenny Florian.
Amazingly, the most highly-anticipated matchup of the night may belong to Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann, with fans eagerly anticipating Sonnen's return from a 14-month layoff.
The crowd will be electric once again and I wouldn't rule out having over 16,000 fans at the Toyota Center Saturday night.
Having similar major cards in cities like Houston is the next step the UFC needs to take in their ongoing quest to make their brand of MMA a mainstream sport in America.
It's getting there, but they are still overly reliant on the same cities that they always have, including Las Vegas and Southern California.
The UFC needs to capitalize on untapped markets, giving previously neglected cities and fans a piece of the action to broaden its reach and following. Putting a major card back in Houston is a big step in the right direction.
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