Rundown of news and notes from Dana White’s chat with the press at yesterday’s UFC 144 pre-fight conference. Also, be sure to check out Ariel Helwani’s video interview with Dana above.
— There was a lot of concern over how the UFC would do at the gate this weekend when UFC 144 was first announced. They certainly had a lot going against them coming into what has been perceived as enemy territory for nearly the last decade. The early morning Japan start time was concerning as well. Well, it seems all that worrying was all for naught because according to Dana White, the event is practically a sell-out.
“This is the first show back in 12 years. You heard ‘Rampage’ and [a reporter] saying the UFC isn’t as big as PRIDE was here, and for us to come in and do an event and sell out the way we have, we’re very happy with the results. I know what we’re going to do on Sunday and what kind of show we’re going to put on for the Japanese fans. I think they’re going to be very excited and this is going to help spread the word in Japan.”
As for hard numbers, Dana White says their somewhere in the 20,000 tickets sold range. It’s a strong enough of a start that UFC Asia’s Mark Fischer is cautiously optimistic that they’ll do well enough to at least come back annually.
“I think it’s a little bit wait-and-see but certainly we do feel based on the strength of what we’ve seen so far leading into the event – the buzz, the ticket sales so far – that I think it’s a market we’d love to come back to with a big event at least annually,” Fischer said. “Whether or not we complement that with maybe one or two smaller events – perhaps ‘Fight Nights’ – and we think there’s quite good potential for an ‘Ultimate Fighter,’ maybe in a slightly different format here.
“That’s a little bit wait-and-see, but I do think that in some shape or form, we will be coming back on probably a semi-annual basis – a big event and, ideally, a second event, whether that be a ‘Fight Night’ event or ‘Ultimate Fighter’ format.”
It’s far too early to say it now, but it would be something if the UFC managed to revive the Japanese MMA scene considering everything that’s happened there in the past 10 years.
— The inevitable PRIDE questions came up at the press conference yesterday. Dana immediately addressed the perception in Japan that Zuffa killed PRIDE.
“Oh, you’re saying I’m not very popular over here,” White responded, a smile on his face. “I don’t know. Listen, I can take some boos. We didn’t kill PRIDE. I’ve said this many times. PRIDE is the only other organization that I’ve ever respected. PRIDE was an organization here in Japan that did huge sellout shows. They had tons of fans in the U.S., and a lot of the big stars not just in Japan but worldwide came form Japan. It’s the only other organization I’ve given respect or credit to. If I get some boos, I can handle it. I’m pretty thick-skinned.”
Just because Zuffa owns the PRIDE brand and they’re finding in success in Japan though doesn’t mean they’re thinking about running another PRIDE show. PRIDE is dead and that’s probably for the best.
— Dana opened up a little bit about the Nate Marquardt-Strikeforce signing. He certainly hasn’t forgotten what went down last year, but he’s at least now willing to give Marquardt a chance to “get his sh*t together.”
“Right when he was first exiled, or kicked out of the UFC, whatever you want to call it, cut from the UFC, MC Hammer is in his team. He called me up and asked me if we could meet in [Los Angeles], so I met him there, we had dinner. He was lobbying to get Marquardt back in and I said, ‘Ya know, I love you man, but he’s gotta get out there and fight in other shows.’ He opted to not fight in any other shows. He wanted to sit out and he wanted to be back in the UFC. So we talked, we’re putting him back in Strikeforce and we’ll see what happens. I like Nate Marquardt, he’s a really good guy. But professionally, he needs to get his shit together. He needs to come into Strikeforce and he needs to make weight, he needs to pass all the tests and do all the other shit, so we’ll see how it goes.”
A shot in Strikeforce is better than nothing. If things go smoothly and Nate wins, perhaps will see him back in the UFC before too long.
— Below Dana White talks to reporters about international versions of TUF following TUF Brazil, plus his comments from the press conference. Videos via MMA Weekly.