In 2014, the UFC will hold at least half a dozen events in Europe, and is eyeing the Middle East and Africa too, according to Garry Cook.
Cook, the UFC’s executive vice president and managing director of Europe, appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and spoke about the importance of the promotion’s European "Fight Night Series." The reason for the influx of European events is simple: Prime time.
"I think I underestimated the amount of content that was on after 3 o’clock in the morning," he told Ariel Helwani. "You really have to be a hardcore fan to see all the live events, the great events. Look at the last two -- look at Houston over the weekend, and look at [Jon] Jones and [Alexander] Gustafsson. I mean, these are monumental moments in our sport and in the history of the UFC. And yet the mainstream [in Europe] don’t get to see them. The next part of our strategy around the globe, and around Europe in particular is to get the sport in to prime time television. Give the fans more events, and give the fans more prime time viewing, and that’s the way forward for us."
Though nothing is set in stone on the exact locations and dates, Cook said that the UFC is planning visits to London in March, as well as Dublin, Istanbul, Poland (either Lodz or Warsaw), Germany (Hamburg or Berlin) and Sweden (either in Malmö or Stockholm). Glasgow is also a possibility for a visit, as is parts of the Middle East (Cook mentioned Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and Africa.
In the UFC’s attempt to localize the events and mesh time zones for the European theater, Cook envisions expanding on the 2014 slate in the years to come.
"I think you’ve seen delivered by the UFC over the last ten years, no restrictions on their capability to go in a market and make a difference with the UFC," he said. "Not only impacting MMA, but in my mind, changing the landscape in sport. So, there is no limit. Where the is an arena, there is a capability, in my mind."
As for the Dublin show, which is still in the early planning stages, Cook said that it could be tailored around the return of the country’s national treasure, Conor McGregor, who is current rehabilitating a knee injury.
"Of course, [Conor’s] taken the world by storm, hasn’t he?" he said. "Just four months ago, five months ago the boy was in a very different part of his life, different point in his life. Since he performed as well as he has done, we were fortunate enough to have him on one of our cards [in Sweden]. I mean he’s on every national television show, every talk show…he’s taken the world by storm. Everybody in Ireland cannot wait for him to return."