INDIANAPOLIS – It helps to have a local star when the UFC enters a new market, but it’s not necessity, according to UFC President Dana White.
That’s good news for UFC fans in Mexico, who are still expected to get their first event in mid-2014 despite top bantamweight prospect Erik Perez‘s loss at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 27 event.
Perez (13-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC), the UFC’s first Mexican-born fighter, got a featured FOX Sports 1 main-card bout at the event, which took place at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse. However, the 23-year-old’s eight-bout winning streak came to an end following a split-decision defeat to Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).
While Perez certainly has received some of the UFC’s promotional muscle since his 2012 debut in the organization, and though he’s likely to play a significant role in the UFC’s Mexico debut, White said it’s not imperative that such fighters have spotless records. The organization will keep promoting them anyway, as it’s done with Perez and others like Irish featherweight Conor McGregor and Swedish light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson.
“Everybody was talking in Boston when we were doing all the stuff around Conor McGregor,” White said. “It’s what we do – we promote guys. He’s from Ireland, he’s from Mexico, he’s from here, and he’s from there. We promote them. It’s up to them to keep winning. I don’t look at it as, ‘Aww, the whole Erik Perez thing is gone.’ It just is what it is. Erik Perez will fight again.”
Besides, he said, their fighting spirit is more important than a lengthy winning streak.
“Conor’s a character, but first and foremost, the dude’s a fighter,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “All he wants to do is fight. He wants to fight everybody. It’s real easy to promote guys who want to fight and kick ass.”
However, according to White, with three straight UFC wins and a steady rise in the UFC’s bantamweight ranks, Perez likely was dealing with various factors, including an eight-month injury layoff, increased media attention and tougher competition heading into UFC Fight Night 27.
“Once a guy starts to get the kind hype he was getting, a lot of things affect him,” White said. “So I’m sure it was a lot of things. I was hearing rumblings that he didn’t want to do any media and he was this and that and all this other stuff. All that bulls–t plays a factor in what happens.”
Besides, White said, the UFC isn’t limited to just Perez when it heads to Mexico. As he pointed, UFC Fight Night 27 winner and “The Ultimate Fighter 17? champion Kelvin Gastelum (7-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who made quick work of Brian Melancon (7-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC), has Mexican roots. So, too, does UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
Win or lose, local or not, some fighters have the X-factor White loves. It’s led fighters such as UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey to megastar status. It’s too soon to know if Perez will ever reach that type of notoriety, but White said he is willing to wait to find out.
“I mean, look at Ronda Rousey,” he said. “She’s arguably one of the top three biggest stars in the UFC. It’s not about anything she does differently. She has that thing. Some people have it, and some people don’t. Even a guy like Anderson Silva took some time. Anderson Silva’s been winning fights since 2006 or whatever here, and it took a while for people to get into Anderson, too.”
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 27, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.