As anyone witnessing the broken English commonly found on Sh*tdog forums can tell you, the IP log of pretty much every MMA website out there reads like a European Union quorum call or the vineyard location list from a snobby wine tasting. Judging by the number of European UFC fans out there, it’s surprising that they have yet to hold shows in many European markets. Sure, they’ve had 6-7 international shows per year over the past couple of years, but that’s like, one for every billion people outside the United States. Or one for every 300 million people outside the United States who can afford a ticket by not eating for four months. Whatever.
So it makes sense that the UFC has now decided to make a big push into Europe. The UFC is now eying events in several new European countries, and it should surprise no one that France was one of the first to allow its defenses to crack:
“France is a massive opportunity,” he said. “[The] Sports Ministry is definitely positive on the issues. They are more in tune with the Olympic style of regulating things where you have a federation. So they’re fine with it, as long as there is a federation put in place to oversee the rules and regulations. So a federation has been established, so it’s just a matter of getting it recognized by the Sports Ministry, which we actually have met with. We’re very encouraged that you’ll be eating croissants watching the UFC pretty soon.”
“We just launched in Spain on a major market where we launched The Ultimate Fighter, and I just got an e-mail this morning, ratings continue to go up. I think we’re doing well over 250,000 viewers, which is a big number for that market given the population. So that’s another market that we’ll be looking to go to pretty soon.”
“I think Italy will be next. There’s really only one venue in Italy that makes sense for us. There’s an arena right outside of Milan, it’s owned by a family, and once again, they had these misconceptions about what this was. ‘Oh my gosh, you’re going to have these guys get in there and fight in a cage.’ But we went out there, sat down with them, explained who we were, what our background was, safety, regulation, all those things. [We] invited them to the fight in Birmingham, and they were blown away. They said, ‘You guys are welcome any time you want.’
“So I get an e-mail from Lawrence Epstein, the UFC’s general counsel] earlier this week. They’re having a fight later this month; they’ve already sold 15,000 tickets.” That event, the first for the upstart promotion Oktagon, will take place on March 24 at the Forum Assago di Milano and will be headlined by Valentijn Overeem vs. Michael Kita.
It’s kind of a shame that “the one place that makes sense” in Italy isn’t the Roman Colosseum, but I guess if there are no tridents involved or Anderson Silva can’t fight a lion, then it isn’t really worth it anyway. At any rate, it’s pretty amazing that the Italians will somehow put over 15,000 Gucci-covered asses into seats to see Valentijn Overeem fight Michael Kita. And if they actually do use an “Oktagon” as the cage, that means the UFC has probably given them a patent exemption for the use of their trademark eight-sided fighting enclosure, and therefore, they probably won’t get squished like bugs by the UFC anytime soon.
UFC VP of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner even told MMAJunkie that the UFC would support the creation of an MMA version of the United Nations:
UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Mark Ratner would like to see a single agency take the lead in regulating international events, overseeing officials, conducting drug tests and enforcing the unified rules of MMA. He said the promotion is pushing for an “international federation” to do the job.
“We’d like to get it over to France, and someday to Brazil and to Italy, so we have one set of rules, one set of medical standards. That’s our long-term goal. We do need a worldwide federation. We want to keep growing the sport. The reason we self-regulate is that there’s no commissions in certain countries, so in order to grow the sport, we have to put them on. But I would just as soon have an independent body regulating these fights.”
It would be so European to form a United Nations of MMA. The next thing we know, we’ll have fighters being translated into six languages and listened to through silly tan earpieces at disciplinary hearings when they say “I dunno, man, I just walked into GNC and asked for ‘the good stuff.’”