The UFC’s new Apex facility could be a big part of future International Fight Weeks.
International Fight Week would not be complete without a proper dose of fan-friendly, interactive events like fighter meet and greets, ceremonial weigh-ins and the annual Summer Press Conference. Friday, July 5th, the UFC held the latter at the T-Mobile Arena, prior to the UFC 239 Weigh-Ins. Cageside Press was front and center for the festivities and even spoke with the UFC President about the state of International Fight Week 2019.
Just five or six years ago fight week functions were all held under one roof, at the apparently extinct UFC Fan Expo. For example, in 2013, just before Chris Weidman upset Anderson Silva at UFC 162, Mandalay Bay hosted all of the above activities and then some, including a wrestling tournament, a jiu jitsu tournament and the unveiling of the first EA Sports UFC game.
Elsewhere in the same venue Dana White and Joe Rogan held individual Q+A sessions while Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell did another one in tandem. Mike Dolce did a seminar on health and fitness, while the Gracies did another one on – Brazilian jiu jitsu, imagine that! Whatever happened to THOSE fan expos? Will UFC ever return to the beloved format which created the ultimate fan experience? Dana White says yes, it could happen.
“International Fight Week’s always fun. There’s so many fighters in town, that aren’t fighting, just hanging out – signing autographs or at the different functions that we have going on,” White said. “I think for the fans that come in, it’s fun. I think it’s a good time, to get to interact with all the stars.”
Unfortunately, many of those events run concurrently, and are inconveniently located if one expects to get the full experience. In fact, while the press conference was happening, there were indeed out of town UFC fighters signing autographs for fans at one particular function – in the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, near Fremont street but not so close to T-Mobile Arena.
Cageside Press was on the beat for International Fight Week. When we asked the UFC President if the UFC Apex could ever host fight week events, he was warm to the idea. “Yeah, hey that’s a good idea,” said Dana White, when asked if the Fan Expo could ever return. “I like that idea.”
Since the Reebok deal, UFC made a deliberate and not-so-well-received change to the UFC Fan Expo format. It was rebranded the Ultimate Fan Experience, when in fact, it replaced the very event it claimed to be. For example, if a couple of fans who flew in from Milwaukee, were determined to take part in the fighter meet and greets, they had best prepare for a long day in the hot desert sun. And if they also plan to attend the press conference and weigh in later that afternoon, they should also brace for the impact of a $30 rideshare taxi to bring them several miles away to T-Mobile Arena.
Not only does the geographic location create problems but many of the events mentioned before like the Joe Rogan and Dana White sessions, the grappling tournaments and seminars have all but gone away. Many have opined that cost may have been the biggest factor, but if we can give one more suggestion to Mr. White: sell beer at all the events and UFC will surely recover their expenses and then some.