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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
Tonight will see the UFC return to England for the first time since Chris Leben and Mark Munoz headed up the fight card for UFC 138. While the UFC has struggled in recent years in finding a healthy balance for the UK market; tonight could be a sign of things to come.
While British fans still refer back to the days of Rampage Jackson, Dan Henderson and B.J. Penn competing for UFC gold on these shores; it is clear those days are a thing of the past.
British fans need to take a couple of things on board here. Firstly the UFC absolutely spoiled them initially by flooding the UK market to create a real stir. This worked. The organisation exploded here. However, it is not reasonable to think that the UFC would be able to provide three or four numbered events, of the highest name value, year after year.
Where the UFC went slightly wrong was replacing their biggest names with - and relying too heavily on - the likes of Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy and John Hathaway, to carry cards such as UFC 95 in Manchester and 120 in London. There was an outcry when Bisping vs. Akiyama was announced as the main event for 120 but in hindsight the fight, and the card itself, was better value for money than the high profile Pay-Per-Views around it.
UFC 138 was stacked from top to bottom with real fight-fans-fights. Almost every fight went to a finish and was extremely entertaining to watch but yet the criticism continued, even after the event, claiming the card was too weak for PPV.
This brings us to tonight’s UFC on Fuel event which is a card stacked with a bit of everything that British fight fans love. There is the headline battle between two up and coming heavyweights in Struve vs. Miocic. While this is not going to determine the next man to face Junior Dos Santos, it is a well matched fight for two men battling to establish themselves within the division’s top five- and is the perfect main event for this type of card. Throw in the homecoming of local boy Dan Hardy, the return of Brad Pickett, along with the battle of Britain between John Hathaway and John Maguire, and you have a packed fight card that will recreate the type of atmosphere from events such as UFC 95.
The setting for this event will be the far more intimate, but equally passionate, Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. With around 10,000 fans in the Arena it will be a noticeably smaller crowd than arenas such as the London O2 and the M.E.N. However the balance of the card is perfect for such a venue and should this event go as expected there is no reason why the UFC cannot deliver three to four Fuel TV events of this quality a year to smaller Arenas all over the United Kingdom.
Chris Park is the MMATorch UK Specialist and panellist on The ESPN UFC Podcast. Please send any comments or questions to Chris via Twitter @MMATorchUK
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