The UFC has exploded into the sports world over the last decade earning millions of new fans every year. It has truly become a global phenomenon with fans watching from all continents. To cater to these fans, the UFC has been increasing its international presence with fight cards around the world. 2016 has already seen fights in seven different countries, including first-timers Croatia and the Netherlands. In total, the UFC has been in 20 countries on five continents. But they are nowhere close to being done expanding.
While they cannot feasibly hold an international fight every week, the UFC has pushed to have around one fight each month in a different country. That is a lot of chances for the UFC to go to a country it has never been. But where to start? Here are the top five countries that the UFC should go.
The UFC has been to all corners of the world — except Africa and Antartica. And because the frozen tundra may not work out, the UFC should work on crossing Africa off the list. South Africa is the best country to fill that role. It is one of the few countries on the continent that has a fighter on the UFC roster, middleweight Garreth McLellan. It also is one of the most accessible countries for UFC fans to travel to. Much of North and Central Africa are in tumultuous times, so other probable locations like Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt would not work out the best. A fight card in South Africa would help introduce the continent to MMA and would further push the notion that it is a global sport.
When you think of the tradition of sports, Greece and the Olympics often come to mind. Not only would a card in Greece coincide with the historic tradition of sports in the country, it would also specifically relate to the country's history with combat sports. Wrestling was among the original sports in the ancient Olympic games, and has become a necessary staple in any serious MMA fighter. Showing the connection between the two to the Greek people would be an excellent move for the UFC as they would further legitimize the sport while simultaneously building their fan base.
For most of the existence of the UFC, this idea would have been crazy. An embargo on Cuba would have made it impossible for the UFC to stage an event on the island. However, now that travel between the United States and Cuba has opened, the UFC better hop on the opportunity while they can. With 2016 being an election year, there is no telling of when the borders will be closed between these two countries. The window to host an event in Cuba could be small, so this should be the first new country that the UFC targets.
There are plenty of major countries in Europe that the UFC has never been to, such as Portugal, Spain and Italy. However, between those three countries they have a combined one fighter on the UFC roster. That is why France would make an excellent choice for a UFC event. There are five fighters currently on the UFC roster that hail from France and they would be more than happy to have a homecoming in the Octagon. Many countries that the UFC has never been to do not have that many fighters in the sport, so France would give the most chances to have fighters compete in front of their countrymen and women.
One of the major disciplines in MMA is Muay Thai, the combat sport of Thailand. There are several major MMA gyms, such as AKA Thailand and Phuket Top Team, that are based in Thailand. Some of the greatest UFC champions have been Muay Thai practitioners. So why hasn't the UFC gone to Thailand?
The fight card in Bangkok or Phuket would open yet another Asian market for the promotion. It also would create a similar relationship between the birthplace of an MMA discipline and the UFC as Brazil and Brazilian jiu-jitsu have with the sport.
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