Dana White wants to bring the UFC to Africa in 2022
CAPE TOWN - UFC President Dana White gave African fans, fighters and media a splash of joy early on Sunday morning.
Following the successful UFC261 event in Jacksonville, Florida, which saw Nigerian-born Kamaru Usman defend his Welterweight title in fine style after knocking out Jorge Masvidal in the second round of their main event, the Ultimate Fighting Championship boss confirmed that the billion-dollar mixed martial arts machine plans on making its way to Africa next year.
When asked if UFC Africa is a strong possibility now, the UFC President responded: “22 (2022), yeah,” during the UFC261 post-fight press conference.
The calls for the first #UFCAfrica event have increased over time and fighters from different countries have shown their support.
With the UFC having three African champions - Nigeria-born Israel Adesanya (Middleweight), Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou (Heavyweight) and Usman, it was only a matter of time before #UFCAfrica took place.
Asked later if he will have all the African champions on the first #UFCAfrica card, Dana replied: “We will see, you know how quick this landscape changes in a year, we will see where we are in 2022 - when we plan on going there - and who’s wearing (the belts) and what’s going on."
Before his fight against Gilbert Burns, Kamaru was very supportive of the idea during a virtual media press conference.
“Hey, we are going to have to make this happen. We are about to have three African-born champions,” said Kamaru before Francis was crowned the new heavyweight champion after beating Stipe Miocic at UFC260.
“I envision it as being one of the most memorable and massive events this company (the UFC) has ever seen.
“I don’t think we are far from that first African event at all. The tough thing is, the higher-ups and executives will have to say ‘okay, we are going to do whatever it takes to make this happen.
There are lots of intricate details that a lot of people don’t understand that go into bringing events to certain places. Finance-wise, transportation, logistics and making sure everything works out.
“There definitely are a couple of countries down on the continent that are definitely capable of hosting and making this thing come to fruition, and it’s up to the company to decide, sooner or later,” added Kamaru.
The continent is home to some of the finest promotions - and the Extreme Fighting Championship - based in South Africa - as well as Ares Fighting Championship have proved that Africa is capable of playing host to professional mixed martial art circuits.
The EFC has been around for more than a decade putting on high-quality productions and has constantly produced some of the world’s biggest MMA athletes including current UFC stars Dricus Du Plessis (South Africa), JP Buys (South Africa), Don Madge (South Africa) and Dalcha Lungiambula (Democratic Republic of Congo).
In terms of infrastructure, even just from a South African point-of-view, there should not be any issues looking back at the country’s track record, hosting the 2010 Fifa World cup, the 2003 Cricket World Cup, as well as the 1995 Rugby World Cup, to name only a few.
Since Dana White stated the 2022 plans, fans have all been very keen on the cosmopolitan Cape Town playing host to the UFC with strong support being given to Cape Town Stadium.
Aside from those large World Cup jamborees, South Africa regularly plays host to other major sporting events on weekends and interest will not be an issue here considering - as per data analyst company, Nielsen Sport - the big increase in the local (and african) mixed martial arts television audience.
But countries up north too are very capable of hosting the first event and could have first dibs on UFCAfrica 1, especially considering that two of the champions are Nigerian-born.
Dana White has flirted with the idea of building UFC Performance Institutes/training centres on the African continent on numerous occasions, and just last year posted a video - with the hashtag #Africa - of a child impressively hitting boxing pads, showcasing his skill and technique in Lagos, Nigeria.
“The amount of raw talent that is possibly over there (Africa) ..., and if you look at what we did all over the world, in places that we’ve gone, whether it’s Europe or Australia, Canada … when we put on live events in these places, it ignites ...
"Training facilities start opening up, people start training, and I think you are going to see some bad dudes coming out of Africa in the next five to ten years,” added Dana.
There are many other top African athletes repping in the UFC, including Ghana’s Abdul Razak Alhassan, and Morocco’s Abu Azaitar.
Athletes who could soon make their walk to the Octagon too are Zimbabwe’s Themba Gorimbo (EFC Welterweight Champion) and South Africa-rooted Phumi Nkuta who recently won the Cage Fury Fighting Championship Flyweight title.