For the last 5 years, Marshall Zelaznik has been working in the UFC London office as Zuffa's key delegate outside of the USA. Before Tom Wright became the head of UFC Canada, and before Mark Fischer became the head of UFC Asia, Zelaznik was in charge for much of UFC's international operations.
UFC going into Germany and Sweden? That was Marshall. UFC breaking into Australia? Marshall. UFC putting on a show for their new investors in Abu Dhabi? Marshall was on the front lines helping get it done.
Zelaznik's title with the UFC had changed somewhat in the last 5 years, starting off as a Vice President for UFC UK, and later becoming Managing Director of International Development as his role grew to cope with the increasing ambition of his Las Vegas based bosses.
Zelaznik was also responsible for the television deal agreements in the UK, helping secure the original ESPN deal when the UFC was left in limbo after the collapse of Setanta Sports a few years ago. Zelaznik would also be the man to agree to a one year extension with ESPN; when Dana White was asked a few months ago about the extension, White basically said it wasn't him that made the decision.
Zelaznik, who originally comes from a Pay Per View business background in America and having worked with UFC before being officially a part of the company, is moving back to the USA; his role with Zuffa unknown at this stage.
Taking his place in the London office is British born Garry Cook, whom Dana White introduced at yesterday's UFC on Fuel 5's post-fight press conference.
"I'm sure you guys saw yesterday with the press release, and I retweeted on twitter, Garry Cook is now coming aboard here in the UK. He's going to join the London office as executive Vice President and Managing Director of Europe, Middle East and Africa. Many of you know him, he has a very strong, outstanding track record of business. He worked for Nike from '96 to 2005, from President to General Manager of the international brand for Jordan, then in 2008 he became the chief executive of Manchester City Football, and completely restructured and rebuilt that club.
The guy's a stud when it comes to running business and building brands, and taking brands global … he's our new man that's gonna get the ball rolling and get things going over here in Europe for us."
Cook is not without controversy though, as Dave Meltzer highlighted in his story over at MMA Fighting the other day.
Cook was both successful and controversial during his tenure with Manchester City, which lasted from 2008 to 2011. He was in charge while the team won both the FA Cup and Barclays Premier League championship, and also was in charge of global media and market development strategy.
However, he resigned from his post one year ago amidst controversy. The resignation came after an internal investigation regarding claims he mistakenly sent an offensive e-mail to Dr. Anthonia Onuoha, the mother and agent of Nedum Onuoha, who was battling cancer. It was one of a series of public relations gaffes during his tenure, which he later apologized for publicly, including praising Thaksin Shinawatra, the unpopular former owner of the team who had been found guilty of corruption, as a "nice guy."
While Cook might be prone to Joe Biden-esque PR slips, he does have much longer experience in the UK and European market than Zelaznik could ever clock, understanding the consumer and demographic demands of televised and live sport instead of attempting to learn on the job about it, and not having to experience the culture shock between the United States' and the United Kingdom's way of operating and looking at things.
Taking Man City to the top of British Football (soccer) is no small feat, and his long experience with Nike and the Jordan brand puts him in a good place to sell the UFC as a recognisable symbol in sport and even merchandising. At the post-fight press conference, Cook made all the right noises when it came to his new role.
"Marshall Zelaznik is returning to the United States, and I just wanted to personally and behalf of everybody in the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East and Africa, thank him for his 5 years of dedicated, passionate and hard work. So I wish him well, he's gone back as an Arsenal fan, so he's taken a little bit of the UK with him.
And the next piece is just to say how delighted I am to be part of a very passionate organisation, and a very determined organisation, to continue and grow and lead this business forward. This is now a huge global brand, and whenever we operate in Europe, Middle East or Africa – and particularly here in the UK, which makes me very proud – there's only one thing that really counts, and that is to have a great event, and show the world that we are a great business, a great brand, with great fighters. And I think tonight that you all know that tonight was a great card, and it was a great event."
UK and Europe fans, and the emerging fans in Africa and the Middle East will watch with anticipation to see how well Cook does over the coming years.