The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has overlooked Nigeria as the possible first African country to host a fight event over lack of infrastructure with Senegal emerging as the frontrunner to stage what would be a historical event.
Despite being Africa’s most populous country and the best ideal market for such a landmark event, Nigeria lacks a standard venue to host a UFC fight event which is arguably the biggest MMA show in the world as the company is working towards hosting an event on the continent soon.
Aside from that, big-name fighters in the promotion including two-time and current UFC Middleweight champions and former Welterweight champion Karamu Usman are Nigerians which ultimately made Nigeria a perfect destination for such an event.
But unavailability of necessary infrastructure needed to successfully host a UFC event, especially relatively sized arenas, seems to have thrown Nigeria off the pole position to host the promotion’s first fight in Africa.
Africa is the only continent yet to host a UFC fight event. But UFC’s chief operating officer, Lawrence Epstein is saying a UFC event in Africa “has been on other radar” with Dakar Arena in Senegal being tipped as the most likely venue to host the continent’s first UFC fight.
“A UFC event in Africa has been on our radar for many years – The first thing we look for is an arena that suits our size requirements. We like those arenas that are within the 12,000 to 20,000 range (of seats),” Lawrence Epstein told BBC Sport Africa.
He continued: “Africa certainly has some smaller arenas – there is nothing wrong with that but we like to pack arenas, to create a tremendous amount of energy and, of course, the more tickets you have to sell the better.”
“That’s why Dakar is leading because they have one of the larger arenas in sub-Saharan Africa and a lot of events have already gone there with success. Senegal is top of the list based upon the information that our team has put together.”
The Arena was opened in August 2018 at the country’s capital city of Dakar and boasts a capacity of 15,000 – it’s home to the Senegal Basketball team. It also has famously hosted the 2019 Women’s Afrobasket and regular season conferences in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 2022 and 2023.
“The next step is to get our entire operation team down to do a site survey, evaluate the arena and all the infrastructure we need to put on an event,” said Mr Epstein.
Messrs Karamu and Adesanya alongside Francis Ngannou who was the UFC heavyweight champion before he mutually parted ways with the promotion, had for some time now, been urging the company to stage an event in Africa.
They have also started making plans on infrastructure and necessary logistics needed to successfully stage a fight event in Africa.
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