(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)
LAS VEGAS – The UFC’s Fourth of July plans include a week-long slate of fan-driven activities that is expected to generate more than $150 million for the city of Las Vegas.
Next week’s schedule, which includes a pool party with UFC octagon girls at luxury hotel Aria, a free concert at downtown’s Fremont Street Experience, meet-and-greet opportunities throughout the city and a two-day UFC Fan Expo, is centered around one of the promotion’s biggest events of the year, “UFC 162: Silva vs. Weidman,” on July 6 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Nevada-based analytics firm Applied Analysis estimates past UFC Fight Week events have generated more than $140 million each in economic impact for Las Vegas, and UFC officials promise an even bigger extravaganza this time.
“We’re sending in twice as many fighters as we’ve ever had for an event,” UFC President Dana White told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “Anybody who’s been before knows you go in and there’s all kinds of different distributors of MMA products and everything MMA, plus you have so many different fighters there. You get autographs. You get to hang out and meet the fighters. There’s training sessions with guys like B.J. Penn, Chuck Liddell and the Gracie family.
“And what we’ve started to do is bring in other martial arts events, too. There’s a wrestling tournament. There’s a jiu-jitsu tournament. We want to do judo, taekwondo, things like that. Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar are being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. If you’re an MMA fan, the entire week is the greatest thing you could ever experience.”
The UFC held its first fan expo in Las Vegas in 2009. It has since brought the concept to Boston, Toronto and London, but summer in Vegas has become an annual tradition. A UFC official said fans from all over the world, including strong showings from Australia, Brazil, Canada and England, have bought tickets to the expo and UFC 162. Past expos have seen nearly 30 percent of tickets bought by fans outside the U.S.
White says the concept always has been about getting fans as close to fighters as possible.
“When I lived in Boston, I used to go to this thing at Foxwoods where they would bring in all the old fighters,” White said. “I met Jake LaMotta, Leon Spinks. I met Carmen Basilio before he passed away, and he signed a 1957 ‘Sports Illustrated’ for me that he was on the cover. I still have it to this day. At the end of the day, that’s who I am, and that’s who (UFC CEO) Lorenzo Fertitta is. To the core, we are fight fans. We remember what it’s like to be a fan and how fun this stuff is to go to.”
A full UFC Fight Week schedule is available at the UFC’s official website. White promises a memorable affair.
“This thing keeps evolving every year,” he said. “It’s going to get bigger and bigger. It’s already the biggest, baddest fight expo on the planet, but we’re going to make it unbelievable.”
For more on UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.