There’s only two US-based reporters covering UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi — Yahoo’s Kevin Iole and MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of news from UFC president Dana White. Here’s a rundown of the UFC 112 pre-fight news and notes along with an interview with Dana White above.
— The UFC is headed to Afghanistan probably within the next few months to stage an event for the troops, and we might not get to see it, at all. They’re still working out the details, but it may be the first UFC event they hold without a camera crew to shoot it. This one is about supporting the troops.
— The UFC is invading China and its “closer than you might think,” says Dana White. He wouldn’t give a specific timeframe, but they’re working on it now and it’s going to happen “really quickly.” The partnership with Flash appears to be paying off a lot sooner than anyone expected.
— A Middle Eastern version of TUF is in the works. They’re still working out the details, including whether or not Dana will be present for the taping, but a season of TUF will be filmed in Abu Dhabi and will be separate from the US version.
— The UFC will head to the Philippines when the economy improves.
— Dana White is predicting 150,000 pay-per-view buys for WEC 48. It sounds like he will be promoting the show, not Reed Harris, and there are rumors Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan will do the commentary. Ariel Helwani has also confirmed that Stephan Bonnar has permanently replaced Frank Mir as the WEC color analyst. Dana said it has nothing to do with the Brock Lesnar death comments Mir made.
— In the video interview above, Dana says Renzo Gracie was not involved at all in the UFC-Flash deal, but that’s not true if you ask Renzo.
That’s because Renzo Gracie facilitated a meeting between UFC management and Flash Entertainment, the Emirates-owned company which in January purchased a 10 percent stake in the UFC. That partnership may lead to more explosive growth for both the UFC in particular and mixed martial arts generally.
“I probably had more to do with (the UFC-Flash partnership) than people will probably ever realize,” said Gracie, who will make his UFC debut on Saturday. “When I found out they were looking for investors, I was in Singapore and I brought back this package they were sending out to investors. I brought a copy of that back to the Sheikh and he was very interested because he loves fighting.
“After that, they got in touch through a lawyer and [UFC president] Dana [White] and [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta], came over and they got a deal done.”
— Dana is still playing Fedor games with the media.
Emelianenko, the top-ranked fighter not in the UFC, “has become my obsession now. I want it worse than the fans want it.” He said he spoke with Emelianenko’s management about a UFC contract “more recently than you would think.” He was coy when asked about Emelianenko’s contract with Strikeforce and CBS, saying only: “I would never interfere with someone else’s contract.”
— IF Anderson Silva can make 170 lbs., Dana is interested in putting on the GSP-Silva superfight. At 185, not so much. Dana isn’t crazy about GSP moving up in weight.
— Dana believes Kimbo Slice is responsible for the strong TUF 11 ratings thus far. Says many of the fans he brought in are sticking around.
— The Octagon girls will be wearing their normal ring girl outfits in Abu Dhabi despite the cultural differences in attire for women.
— Concert Arena was built in 2-3 weeks. It will be torn down on Monday.
“I would love to get UFC together with either ESPN or a major TV network, but we haven’t been able to do that yet. We’ve been close to big deals like this. But I’m not gonna just jump at something. This might be stupid, but I think we’re bigger than HBO or CBS. I really do think UFC is bigger than any of those networks. I’m not gonna go in and cut some deals just because they are who they are. We’ll do what’s right for UFC and for our events.”
“We’re the NFL of MMA. The NFL is football; it’s the only football people think about. And that’s what UFC is.”
“I know what we’re worth in my head, and I have for some time. So no, this doesn’t change anything at all. And no; no more sales of stakes in the company. No, we will not do an IPO. We created a relationship with these guys [Flash Entertainment]. They’re as passionate as we are. And the sale made sense because of this relationship.”
— Abu Dhabi’s concensus on UFC 104 main event: Shogun won that fight!
Below, Ariel Helwani talks to Marc Ratner about all the behind-the-scenes and regulatory work that is going into UFC 112.