(Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
The UFC has been to Europe 14 times beginning with UFC 38 in the UK and continuing with UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden on April 14th. 11 of those events were held in Britain with two in Germany and one in Ireland. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta spoke to MMA Fighting about the organization's plans to continue their continental expansion.
"I think Italy will be next," Fertitta said. "Me and Lawrence [Epstein, the UFC's general counsel] went out to Italy and met with the owners. There's really only one venue in Italy that makes sense for us. There's an arena right outside of Milan, it's owned by a family, and once again, they had these misconceptions about what this was. 'Oh my gosh, you're going to have these guys get in there and fight in a cage,' and all this other stuff. But we went out there, sat down with them, explained who we were, what our background was, safety, regulation, all those things. [We] invited them to the fight in Birmingham [for UFC 138], and they were blown away. They said, 'You guys are welcome any time you want.'
He's also got his sights set on Spain and France.
"We just launched in Spain on a major market where we launched The Ultimate Fighter, and I just got an e-mail this morning, ratings continue to go up. I think we're doing well over 250,000 viewers, which is a big number for that market given the population. So that's another market that we'll be looking to go to pretty soon.
"France is a massive opportunity," he said. "[The] Sports Ministry is definitely positive on the issues. The issue is a little bit different because here in the United States, the government actually regulates the sport and they have an entity that regulates it. In a lot of these other countries, it's different. They are more in tune with the Olympic style of regulating things where you have a federation. So they're fine with it, as long as there is a federation put in place to oversee the rules and regulations.
"So a federation has been established, so it's just a matter of getting it recognized by the Sports Ministry, which we actually have met with, and they have been very positive. David Douillet [France's Sports Minister] is an ex-Olympic Gold Medalist in judo, so he understands the sport. We're very enoucraged that you'll be eating croissants watching the UFC pretty soon."
UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Mark Ratner talked about the need for an 'international federation' to regulate MMA world-wide after the jump.
Ratner spoke to MMA Junkie:
UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Mark Ratner would like to see a single agency take the lead in regulating international events, overseeing officials, conducting drug tests and enforcing the unified rules of MMA. He said the promotion is pushing for an "international federation" to do the job.
"We'd like to get it over to France, and someday to Brazil and to Italy, so we have one set of rules, one set of medical standards," Ratner told MMAjunkie.com Radio. "That's our long-term goal. We do need a worldwide federation."