UFC Has Successful Foray Into Russia, Hopes To Host More Fights
UFC Fight Night 136 in Moscow "drew an announced attendance of 22,603 fans" for a live gate of $1.84M, the "fifth-largest crowd in the promotion's history and the largest MMA event ever in Russia," according to Matt Erickson of MMA JUNKIE. Saturday's card marked UFC's "debut in Russia" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 9/15). UFC Senior Exec VP & COO Lawrence Epstein said that the promotion anticipated the Alexei Oleinik-Mark Hunt headliner would "help Russia leapfrog into its top 10 countries by revenue in a 'short period of time.'" He added that Russia is "currently in the top 20." Epstein: "Russia has all the characteristics of a major market for the UFC. We have a lot of athletes that come from the market. There is a cultural affinity for the product as people in Russia enjoy combat sports. And you have a large economy." Epstein said that about 17 million people in Russia "identify themselves as UFC fans." That would "equate to nearly" 12% of the population. Epstein said that there are currently 27 fighters from "former Soviet states" on the UFC roster. They account for about 5% of UFC athletes. Epstein said that entry into Russia "became possible" after WME purchased UFC in '16. He said that the new owner has "more financial and human resources to expand the sport." UFC "hopes to initially host about two fights a year in Russia and the former Soviet states" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 9/15).