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UFC executive Garry Cook discusses UFC plans for 2015

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC has announced its full schedule of events for 2015, but there's room for more.

Garry Cook, the former UFC executive vice president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa who recently became the UFC chief global brand officer, told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour that oversaturation is not an issue. In fact, local markets are hungry for more UFC events.

"We’d like to be doing a lot more. I notice this in Brazil, I notice this in Asia. There’s call for another 20, 30 events," Cook said. "If you had the capability, that’s what people are asking. That’s what people wanna see in the local markets, but we’re trying to manage our business sensibly and in a measured way. You can never be too aggressive, (but) believe me, there’s a lot to come yet."

"My job, I believe, is to help converge not only those, but the already knowledgeable and passionate (fans), but to bring a new audience to the sport," he continued. "I think that’s what we have to do as we look forward to the next 15, 20 years. We want to be one of the major sports in the sports landscape around the world.

"Will we change everybody’s perception (of the sport)? I don’t necessarily think that’s the goal. To try to please everybody all the time can often be a recipe for failure. I think we’ve got to make sure that people know who we are, what we do, and know about our business and know that we are serious players in the sports landscape. It is getting easier, but it’s not easy."

With 45 events scheduled for 2015, including 13 pay-per-view cards, the UFC wants to establish itself as a global brand.

"We’re truly a global brand. We are not an American brand trying to take our product around the world. That’s very different," Cook said. "You have to have local events in local markets, with local fighters being the focus, and actually helping the U.S. audience become fans of what’s coming from around the world."

"We’ve continued to grow around the world," he continued. "We’re more of just a promoter of events now. We have 340 people working in our organization and as we continue to grow, we have to make sure that we are planning and aligning our business with all we wanna get after. We make sure people know we’re in television business, we’re in the event management business, we’ve got strategic partners in the commercial space. There’s a lot going on here. It’s not just about matchmaking two fighters in the Octagon."

Entering new markets is a tough challenge, but Cook has done a great work for the promotion in the past -- and having guys like Alexander Gustafsson and Conor McGregor makes that easier.

"If you look at Gustafsson and you look at McGregor, they are byproducts if you like of having a very clear plan, of having a very clean understanding of what the responsibility is in the region, and that is develop local fighters to meet the needs of local fans and local television network," he said. ... "We’ve got to understand how they want to consume it, what they wanna see, what they need, and that’s our job. At the end of the day, we’re asking people to be part of this all the time, and we have to make sure that we’re serving their needs."

The UFC has yet to announce which new markets are going to be explored in 2015, but they are happy to finally enter Russia with a big television deal.

"We’re just about to announce a television deal in Russia. 55 million households," Cook said.  "We’ve never done an event in Russia. The growth is all of that, a global business is how you make sure you create relevant content in the U.S., relevant content for all the other markets, (…) creating more content, creating local heroes, national fame.

"The story is two people in combat. There’s gonna be a winner, there’s gonna be a loser. There’s no more drama than that. And that sells, wherever you are in the world."

With deals yet to be finalized, the promotion also targets shows in Scotland and Poland, Cook said.

"We’re gonna be on television in Russia. Eventually, there will be a show in Russia, but we don’t know if that will be next year. Poland, we’ve got some plans there. They have been calling us for having an event in Poland. Scotland, you can’t help but think of Joanne Calderwood, who’s becoming a starlet there. We’d like to think about doing something at Glasgow. We have some plans."

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