We've talked about the UFC's foreign adventures this week, discussing mostly Lorenzo Fertitta's plan to bring the UFC to Asia and into mainland Europe. It's an exciting time to be a fan of MMA-this decade we could be looking at hundreds of fight shows taking place every year all over the world. But before getting worked up, it's important to remember the lessons learned from Pride, the UFC's first major Asian entanglement.
Last weekend, in case anyone had any wild pipe dreams, Fertitta killed the Japanese promotion. The UFC's owner put a stake in the heart of any potential Pride comeback:
Originally, when we bought Pride, we were going to keep it running. In fact there was an event scheduled and we were going to try to pull it together. The deal got hung up and we had to cancel that event. One thing led to another and it didn't make sense to keep going...you never say never, but right now we don't have any plans to bring back Pride. It's a cool brand and we are selling a lot of the merchandise. But one of the things we've found is that it's hard to rebuild that momentum.
Josh Barnett blamed the UFC's failure in Japan on a cultural divide. MMA fans in Japan already had a product they were comfortable with. They wanted Pride, not a UFC event with merely cosmetic changes and a different logo:
"The Japanese had no interest in it after Dana White said they were going to make changes to the regulations to make it like the UFC," Barnett explained. "Basically, everyone told me, `That's it, we don't want this. We won't support this. Pride Worldwide is basically just UFC in Japan, so we don't want anything to do with it.'"
This is what concerns me about the UFC's efforts in China and Germany. The UFC can promote successfully in a variety of locales, but they will have to make concessions to local style and custom. A cookie cutter approach won't work. The lessons of Pride loom over all future expansion efforts. Has Zuffa learned them?