Dana White projected 2014 to be the year that the UFC hit every corner of the globe. And he isn’t far off. In three short years, the promotion has gone from holding six international events to an envisioned 19 before year’s end. That doesn’t include extensions of the popular The Ultimate Fighter series in China and Brazil and the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter Nations taking place in Canada.
On Thursday, their global expansion efforts reached unprecedented levels as four events were announced, including the UFC’s first ever trip to Turkey.
In an interview with Fighters Only, Gerry Cook, UFC Managing Director of Europe, Middle East, and Africa, confirmed that the biggest MMA promotion in the world will makes stops in Turkey, Ireland, Germany, and Sweden.
“It’s exciting times ahead,” Cook said. “We’ve got a busy year planned and we are so excited about every event, starting this weekend. And what a way to finish the year: Istanbul will be terrific.” Cook is referring to this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 37 in London.
Istanbul, which periodically holds GLORY kickboxing tournaments, doesn’t have a solidified MMA presence but that may change as Nov. 22 gets closer. Alptekin Ozkilic is the only UFC fighter of Turkish descent and he expects to compete at UFC Fight Night 39 next month. Given the time gap, it will be interesting to see if ‘The Turkish Delight’ decides to play home town hero.
Stockholm, Sweden is scheduled for a “Fight Night” show on Oct. 4, the city’s third UFC event in as many years. Gegard Mousasi and Ilir Latifi headlined last year’s UFC on Fuel TV spectacle while Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva headed the card a year prior.
The latter sold out in less than three hours; a UFC record for European trips. With Gustafsson fighting tomorrow night and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending his title in April, the fall event would seem fitting for their highly-anticipated rematch.
While the UFC visited Germany in Nov. 2010, their post-Memorial Day weekend show will be the first in the country’s capital of Berlin. “We are delighted to be returning to Germany in May and visiting Berlin for the first time,” Cook said via a UFC.com post. “Germany is one of the leading world superpowers in sport and to be able to host a UFC FIGHT NIGHT to our passionate German fans will be an honour.”
Ironically, this coincides with Brazil’s UFC Fight Night: Sonnen vs. Silva also set for May 31. Having two events on the same day won’t affect viewership as the time zone differential doesn’t allow for overlapping cards.
On July 19, Dublin, Ireland will host its second-ever UFC event and their first since 2009. UFC 93, also at the O2 Arena, was headlined by a light heavyweight bout between Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson. Conor McGregor, one of two Irish fighter on the promotion’s roster, is rehabilitating from a torn ACL but may be ready in time to make the card.
Tune in to Scifighting.com as matchups and viewing platforms are announced.