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.
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.
Couture's ability to speak
German makes him an obvious
choice to headline an event
Potential co-headliners for June 13 include the likes of Thiago
Franklin, Matt Hughes,
“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
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 ZschÃ¶rner appear to be the most
likely choices at this time.
This will probably leave kickboxers Stefan Leko
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 KÃ¶ln,
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.