UFC 99 Storms Germany


Good things come to those who wait, and German mixed martial arts fans have had to wait for quite a while for the sport’s world leader, the UFC, to make its first inroads into the country.

The wait is over though.

The UFC will hold its first event in Germany on June 13 at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, the biggest indoor venue in the country with a maximum capacity of 20,000 seats. A contract between Zuffa and Marek Lieberberg, Europe’s leading concert promoter, was signed during the passing of UFC 91 in Las Vegas over a week ago.

BloodyElbow.com was the first to break the news on Saturday, with a proposed heavyweight matchup between UFC icons Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell the lead candidate for main event honors.

Zuffa LLC, parent company to the UFC, is pushing for the fourth meeting between the promotion’s two most recognizable stars because of Couture’s unparalleled life story and, above all, for his ability to convey it in the German language.

Starting at age 19, Couture spent over four of his six years of U.S. Army service stationed at the famed World War II "Fliegerhorst" base of Langendiebach in Erlensee, Germany.

Couture holds a single victory over the noted striker via a third-round TKO at UFC 43 in June 2003. Liddell knocked out Couture at UFC 52 and UFC 57 two years later.

Whether or not that bout materializes depends on how soon the four-time Olympic wrestling alternate wants to continue his fantastic 12-year career following the heartbreaking second-round loss he suffered at the hands of Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com


Couture's ability to speak
German makes him an obvious
choice to headline an event
in Deutschland.

Couture told Sherdog.com that he has not been approached with the Liddell fight as of Monday, and is not adverse to a drop back down to light heavyweight division for the second time in his career if “an interesting fight presents itself.” However, Couture expressed his reservations in meeting student and UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. Couture did not rule out a continued run in the heavyweight division either.

Potential co-headliners for June 13 include the likes of Thiago Alves, Rich Franklin, Matt Hughes, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Wanderlei Silva, depending on how their pending bouts play out in the next few months.

Considering the high percentage of Italian and Polish citizens living in the Rhine area and its geographical proximity to the Netherlands and France, UFC-contracted fighters like Tomasz Drwal, Antoni Hardonk, Cheick Kongo, Jess Liaudin, Alessio Sakara and Samy Schiavo also seem likely.

As far as a local draw is concerned, matchmaker Joe Silva has brought kickboxer Dennis Siver back into the fold after initially axing him from the promotion this summer. Siver will get a much-needed tune-up fight at UFC 93 against Nate Mohr.

Judging by the approach the UFC used for their second event in the United Kingdom in April 2007, at least three more German fighters could be signed to battle on the undercard. Welterweight Daniel Weichel, middleweight Steve Mensing, light heavyweight Martin Zawada and heavyweight Marko Zschörner appear to be the most likely choices at this time.

This will probably leave kickboxers Stefan Leko and Chalid Arrab, arguably the two most experienced and skilled fighters to come out of Germany, on the outside looking in. Even though both are clear-cut standup fighters and possess the skills to make an instant impact when matched up against fellow strikers, the UFC has not had a working relationship with the Golden Glory management team since Semmy Schilt’s brief stint with the promotion in 2001. In addition, both fighters are still being under contract with K-1 parent company, Fighting and Entertainment Group.

Behind the scenes, co-host Lieberberg is not just your ordinary concert promoter. Besides organizing tours for some of the biggest bands and artists in the world like Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, The Police and U2, the Frankfurt-based music magnate has also been instrumental in bringing pro wrestling juggernaut WWE (formerly WWF) to Germany in 1992 before monstrous crowds. More than 41,000 WWE fans flocked to the four shows that were held at the Lanxess Arena between 2002 and 2007.

Rhine metropolis Cologne is not only the fourth-largest city in Germany, it is also very well connected to the rest of Europe through Cologne Bonn Airport and is famous for its residents, who are literally mad on sports. Fans tirelessly convene to the Lanxess Arena and the Rhine Energy Stadium to cheer for the 1. FC Köln, the Cologne Sharks and the Cologne 99ers -- the city’s first-division football, ice hockey and basketball teams.

In preparation of the event, the UFC is hard at work trying to secure a television deal in Germany. The promotion did have a deal with German pay-per-view provider Premiere between 2004 and 2006, but abysmal buy rates and the country’s generally problematic PPV market brought the arrangement to a halt.

As a result, Zuffa is currently negotiating to land a spot on network television, which will be a difficult task as powerful boxing lobbyists control most of the major channels. It’s likely the UFC will have to host its first event in Deutschland without any live coverage from a German TV channel.

In the end, this won’t be the deciding factor for the success of the show. The small but vocal hardcore fan base in Germany has been itching for the UFC to come to central Europe for years and are certain to pack into the Lanxess Arena in great numbers. With the UFC video game coming out next spring and an experienced professional like Lieberberg at the helm, things are looking promising and the next seven months leading up to UFC 99 will be the most important and exciting time in the history of German MMA.

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