Twenty-nine years on from the founding of the UFC, and over 20 years since Dana White took over the reigns, the UFC continues to work on pushing international expansion.
Following UFC 281 in New York City on Saturday, UFC President White was asked about perhaps hitting all 50 states in the new year. Thus far, the promotion has touched down in 47, by one count. But it’s international expansion on White’s mind it seems.
“I never thought of that, but I’m so focused on Africa right now. I want to do Africa so bad. That’s sort of my focus,” White stated. “Plus, it’s been so long since we’ve been to some of these other [places], like Canada. Get back to Australia, and some of these other countries. We’re going to South Korea this year, we’re going back to Brazil. So we gotta knock a bunch of those out first, the places we’ haven’t been in a minute.”
“And like you said, all the time we were kept out of New York, and now we’re number one and number two all time at Madison Square Garden. Think of the events that have been held here, and we’re one and two. It’s pretty badass.”
When it comes to Africa, White expanded a little more on the subject than he has in the past. Asked about where in Africa the promotion was targeting, “Nigeria,” White revealed. “Nigeria is what we’re thinking.”
Asked if that meant hitting up a soccer stadium, or potentially constructing a new venue, the UFC President said both were on the table. “Both. Both. I don’t know which one yet.”
“At the end of the day, we’re pretty crafty. We’ll figure it out.”
White was later told by a reporter local to Nigeria that while the nation doesn’t have a suitable facility to host the UFC, Rawanda does. “Thank you,” White replied, later admitting that he wasn’t even sure how big UFC Africa could be — he just wants to do it for personal reasons.
“It’s not even about how big I think it will be. I don’t know. I don’t know what it will be like when we go over. I just want to do it,” White stated, admitting that watching historic fights in Africa like the famous Rumble in the Jungle were behind his desire to hit up the continent.
“100%. And we have African champions, and I’m going to build a PI [Performance Institute] over there,” White stated. “It’s just something I personally want to do.”
As for a timeframe, that’s up in the air for now. “I don’t know. It’s like, this gentleman over here just educated me on it. I don’t know enough yet. What we’ll do is send a team over there, they’ll kick around the country a little bit and see what we can do.”
One thing not to bank on is a rematch between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira to take place as part of the UFC’s African debut. “I don’t see us going there fast enough to do this rematch,” said White on that front.