Norman Parke wants Diego Sanchez – and a UFC return to Belfast


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UFC lightweight Norman Parke lives just about an hour’s drive from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the UFC held a single event seven years ago. Now that the promotion has returned to Dublin, he’d like the promotion to come back to his neck of the woods.

“We just asked (UFC President) Dana (White that at the end of the bout,” said Parke (20-2-1 MMA, 4-0-1 UFC), who hails from Bushmills, Northern Ireland, after his impressive second-round TKO of Naoyuki Kotani (33-11-7 MMA, 0-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 46.

“He said, ‘Yeah, there’s a possibility.’ He said they’re looking at their options. That would be a great opportunity for me to headline or co-main event. The last time they were there was 2007, so that’s a long time ago. That would be great if they could have an event there. That would be absolutely unbelievable.”

As he made clear after his win, which put him back on the right track after a previous draw scratched a three-fight streak, Parke has an opponent in mind for his next outing. The “TUF: Smashes” winner called out original “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Diego Sanchez, who this past month won a dubious decision over Ross Pearson.

While it’s unclear whether the UFC is keen on such a fight, it’s hard to imagine the promotion won’t reinvest in Ireland after UFC Fight Night 36, which sold out in 25 minutes and drew one of the most raucous crowds ever seen around the octagon.

The promotion’s previous trip to Belfast, UFC 72, which featured a middleweight headliner between Rich Franklin and Yushin Okami, did fairly well from a business standpoint, attracting a reported 8,000 for a $1.2 million gate.

But like Dublin, the city suffered a long drought in exposure, which allowed other promotions such as Cage Warriors to establish a foothold and promote stars such as Conor McGregor, who this past year signed with the UFC and headlined Saturday’s event to a crazy reception. Prior to UFC Fight Night 46, the industry-leader hadn’t promoted a show in the city since UFC 93 in 2009.

The drought might be ending, though, and that’s good news for Parke, who has yet to fight ranked competition.

And if they need more local flavor, there’s always a chance he could square off with “Notorious.”

The pair were once scheduled to fight, according to Parke, but McGregor’s career took him elsewhere. Now a featherweight, the headliner is gunning hard for a title shot at 145 pounds.

But that doesn’t rule out a future fight. McGregor said he would return to his former weight class to make it happen. And he’d do it in the 80,000-seat Croke Park in his native Dublin.

“Make no mistake, it’s me that sells out Croke Park, no offense to Norman,” said the confident fighter.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 46, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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