Dana White says Asia and Australia are back on the UFC’s post-pandemic menu

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Singapore (AFP) – UFC boss Dana White has said his mixed martial arts promotion is “ready to roll” again in Asia as it returns to the region this week after a pandemic-enforced hiatus.

The U.S.-based Ultimate Fighting Championship will be back in full force in Singapore on Sunday morning – prime time Saturday night in the US – with two world title fights headlining a UFC 275 card. quality.

The last time the UFC held an event in Asia was in Busan, South Korea, in December 2019 and White said he was looking to reinvigorate the state-based operation’s expansion plans. States who have been suspended for more than two years because of Covid-19. .

“Wherever we can, I’m ready to go,” White told AFP. “I want to show that as soon as we can go back to business as usual, I’m ready to roll.”

Headlining the Singapore Indoor Stadium is the light heavyweight clash between Brazilian world champion Glover Teixeira and Czech Jiri Prochazka.

It will be preceded by a women’s flyweight world title fight between Kyrgyz Valentina Shevchenko and Brazilian Taila Santos.

Hugely popular former Chinese world strawweight champion Zhang Weili also features on an undercard of Asia’s top MMA talent.

Ahead of that, a “Road to UFC” tournament, designed to unearth the next generation of Asian fighters, will showcase 32 fighters from traditional MMA strongholds of South Korea and Japan on Thursday and Friday to emerging countries such as India and China.

“Our goal in every country in the world is to cultivate talent and grow the sport,” said White, who revealed he wanted to explore adding an atomweight (48kg) women’s division to the sport. ‘UFC with an eye on the Asian market.

Atomweight is a traditional power base among Asian female fighters, but so far they’ve had to bulk up to a strawweight (52kg) to have a chance in the UFC.

“I think we’re going to have to dive deeper into Asia and start building more there, but I can absolutely, positively see us adding this division,” said White, who spoke to AFP from his office. from Vegas. .

Attendance record

The pandemic swept the world in 2020 just months after the UFC opened the doors to a $14 million performance institute in Shanghai – a world-class training center created to develop MMA fighters from China and Besides.

Auckland in New Zealand managed to hold a UFC Fight Night card in February 2020 weeks before the sports world came to a standstill due to the coronavirus.

But there has been nothing since in Asia or Australasia, a market that still boasts the two largest UFC crowds in the promotion’s history.

Melbourne saw 57,127 packs into Docklands Stadium in 2019 to surpass the previous record of 56,214, set at the same venue for Ronda Rousey’s shock loss to Holly Holm in 2015. White is understandably keen to return to Australia soon.

“The last few years have been huge for us, absolutely huge,” White said.

More than 56,000 were in Melbourne to watch Holly Holm (right) knock out Ronda Rousey in 2015 PAUL CROCK AFP

“Look at the amount of talent coming out of the region now.

“Singapore has been amazing working with us and getting this thing done and it’s a sold out event so I would love to do more in other places.”

Despite the distance between events in Asia, fighters from the Asia-Pacific region have continued to climb to the top of the UFC ranks.

The middleweight division is led by New Zealander Israel Adesanya and the featherweight division by Australian Alexander Volkanovski.

Former Chinese world strawweight champion Zhang, rising bantamweight star Song Yadong and Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa are all on course for title challenges.

“We now have China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand,” White said.

“Being able to attract competitors from all these different places is exciting. So any place that wants to do business now, we’ll be there.”

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