UFC: Is There a Shift in Strategy?
By James Lee
The next week in the UFC’s schedule will see the company venture into two relatively unsustained markets for the company with them in fact bowing down to the area’s demands in a rare circumstance.
The UFC is primarily a North-American market with twenty-six events set to take place in North America this year alone. Historically, they hold multiple events in Brazil and Europe each year but seemingly times are changing, especially in terms of title fights being put in different countries.
The first installment of the week period will see the UFC host their now yearly event in mainland China but this time they look to have bowed down to demands to have a Chinese fighter fight for the title when Weili Zhang takes on Jessica Andrade for the strawweight belt.
Although Weili Zhang is a rising star, she hasn’t done enough yet to deserve a title shot next considering the other ranked females in the division.
A rematch with Rose Namajunas and fights with Tatiana Suarez and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk were the more suitable fights but Zhang was given the nod despite only beating one ranked opponent in Tecia Torres.
The Chinese fighter has won nineteen fights in a row which is significant, but again, it is rare that the UFC take into consideration fights outside the organisation in counting towards a title shot.
Before the fight announcement was made between Andrade and Zhang, Dana White said Michelle Waterson wasn’t ranked highly enough to fight for the title, despite being only one spot below Zhang with the more impressive victories in the UFC.
Regardless, it is clear the UFC are giving her a title shot completely in order to boost the growing Chinese market further. Zhang isn’t a big star in China yet but there is no question a win for Zhang could do great things for the sport in the country and could propel the UFC to mainstream in the Middle Kingdom.
A week later the UFC are venturing into Abu Dhabi for the first time since 2014 specifically to adhere to the strong support for Khabib Nurmagomedov in the area. Most noticeably, the UFC are changing their traditional pay-per-view timing to suit that of the local time which is extremely rare in pay-per-view circumstances.
A pay-per-view anywhere in the world typically follows the pacific time zone, with UFC 204 in England even taking place at 3am local time.
Aside from the UFC agreeing to the change of timing to the fight card, they are going to be a part of an Abu Dhabi showdown week that features live music acts and other activities, that culminates with the fighting.
Buying tickets for the event is different to usual as well as they must be bought through a package that includes hotel accommodation as well as entrance to the live music that is all centered around the celebration week.
Usually the UFC just sell tickets and don’t engage in combined packages but UFC 242 is different and yet another example of the UFC being willing to change their ways of order to gradually boost a market.
Both events could be perceived as making little sense but in turn, they are long-sighted. If everything goes to plan with Zhang and Nurmagoemdov picking up victories, the sport will significantly be bigger in China and Abu Dhabi, meaning more significant events in the future and more money for the UFC.