The UFC travels to the United Kingdom tomorrow for the first and only time this year, offering UFC 138: Leben vs. Muñoz to their fight-starved English fans. Some fans have complained that the card is low quality, but it looked for a time like 2011 would pass by without seeing MMA’s biggest show back on British soil at all.
Ahead of this weekend’s fight, the UFC’s UK vice president, Marshall Zelaznik, touched on some of the issues that have made it difficult for the UFC to maintain as active a presence in the UK as they’d like to, but re-established the promotion’s commitment to the market and the UK fans.
“I think that in a perfect world we would be here more times a year, but as you know – you’ve heard our mantra: we’re trying to get everywhere. There’s a lot of pressure to bring the event everywhere around the world. It was a struggle just getting this event into the calendar. You may remember back in the day, there was a lot of discussion about whether we were coming back at all. We were able to, through the hard work of the office here and with the arena here, make this event happen. There’s actually an event in the arena the night before that we’re actually setting up, so it’s not ideal for us but we were committed to coming back to the market.”
Zelaznik went on to reveal the UFC’s plans to return to England at least once next year, as well as to put on a fight in Scotland at an under-construction arena.
“Next year – I already know that there’s an event planned for next year, there might even be two,” he said. “Scotland is on our target list, we’re waiting for a new venue to be built in Glasgow. I think it’ll be ready in the middle of next year.”
Along with working around the UFC’s increasingly busy international schedule, the promotion’s UK office has struggled to maintain a consistent TV deal as a result of broadcasting network turmoil. Despite the few speed bumps, the UFC has set up stakes in the United Kingdom and has no other intention but to see things through.
“It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a work that we’re prepared to do, committed to do,” explained Zelaznik. “We’re committed to this market. We love coming here. The fans have been very supportive. We’re not giving up on this market, you can expect to see us next year and I hope more times in the years to come.”
UFC 138 goes down tomorrow from the LG Arena in Birmingham, England; FightLine will be back with our live, ongoing coverage of the event beginning at 12:30pm ET.