UFC’s Zelaznik on International Business

July 20, 2010

Ben Fowlkes of MMA Fighting has posted an interesting interview with the UFC’s Managing Director in the U.K., Marshall Zelaznik, that broaches a variety of subjects including the UFC’s latest absence from the U.K. market.

The U.K. market seemed like a big deal to the UFC when it first began expanding internationally, but so far in 2010 you’ve been to places like Australia and Abu Dhabi, but no U.K. shows. Do you worry that the U.K. fans will feel like they’ve been ignored as the UFC focuses on the rest of the world?

I think that if anyone has that impression, when you look objectively at how we haven’t been here in over a year, you can understand how someone might feel that way. But no one is ignoring the U.K. It’s just an effect of trying to be everywhere at one time. And just the way schedules work out, we probably would have been back in the U.K. earlier, but the TV dates we commit to and how we start working out our calendars, with the lack of availability of venues in the U.K., it just worked out this way.

We would have liked to have been in the U.K. before the summer, but it just didn’t work out with the schedules and the availability. But the offices here in the U.K., there are ten of us who live and breathe the U.K. and we’re always focused on it, so if people hear that they should know that no one is thinking of them as second-class citizens.

Payout Perspective:

It remains to be seen exactly what UFC 120 is going to look like, but it appears as though the UFC will rely on a bevy of British fighters to anchor yet another UK card without a title fight. The UK has not hosted a title bout since January 2008 when BJ Penn defeated Joe Stevenson at UFC 80.

The UFC cannot afford to bring a title fight to the UK every time it visits, but it must be careful not to treat the market as an after-thought. The company has devoted a lot of time and money into developing the UK and it must continue to serve the fan base with appealing fights with beyond the likes of British fighters like Bisping and Hardy or UFC legends like Matt Hughes and Randy Couture.

I tend to sympathize with Zelaznik and the UFC in regards to scheduling and timing, because if a few fights go the other way, they’re probably bringing two title fights to the UK in 2010. Just think about what could have happened had Bisping won at UFC 100, Hardy won at UFC 111, or the UFC had not suffered a host of injuries near the end of 2009 that put pressure on the company to re-establish some momentum in North America in 2010.

Yet, I also tend to think this entire situation exemplifies why rapid expansion is so difficult: the UFC has a limited number of resources and can’t possibly give each market the attention it deserves. The fans in the UK want a title fight, but so do the fans in Canada, Germany, Australia, and every other place the UFC visits.

I understand the allure of big markets like China and India, but the UFC can only move so quickly. It would be foolhardy to expect otherwise.

3 Responses to “UFC’s Zelaznik on International Business”

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  2. Warren M. Jackson on July 20th, 2010 5:15 PM

    I agree with you Kelsey. It is not possible to be all things to all people, let alone try to hit every available MMA market across the globe. The UFC’s global expansion is a great move, but it too has to be a calculated move.

    I highly doubt that the UFC has turned their backs on the fan base of the U.K. No one suspects that. However, as mentioned, the availability of dates and venues is a hard hurdle to clear. I am sure once a location and date becomes available, the UFC will book that venue. In addition, let’s not forget that sometimes the most accommodating venues in terms of capacity and amenities have bookings two years in advance.

  3. Bill hardiek on July 20th, 2010 7:00 PM

    Call me an optimist, but I believe the UFC will be able to expand at a rapid pace throughout the world. Obviously, Zuffa need to be surrounded by people that they can trust, finding someone they can trust in China should be a tall task. This is where the Flash merger pays off. If the boys at Flash are as connected as they say they were, this should allow Dana to focus on North America, Lorenzo and Flash to focus on the Middle East and Asia. Marshall Z Europe and Tom Wright Canada. I havent heard, or read any news of Flash ever since the buy in. It would be interesting to see if this is working for both parties.

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