Mixed martial arts: Utah on UFC's radar

State could get event » Interest is there, though timetable isn't.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rumblings that the most successful mixed martial arts organization in the world is interested in coming to Utah are true.

Zuffa Inc., which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting organizations, has been in early contact with the Utah athletic commission.

"We have a big fandom in Utah and I'd like to do some kind of show there," said Marc Ratner, UFC vice president of regulatory affairs. "I can tell from the television ratings that there's a lot of interest. They watch our Spike [cable TV network] shows. Pay-per-view numbers, percentage wise, are very good there. And Salt Lake's a great sports town."

Bill Colbert, secretary for the Pete Suazo Utah Athletic Commission, said the UFC has discussed a Utah event with the commission but has not filed for a promoter's license in the state.

Ratner didn't rule out a Utah-based pay-per-view event, though he said the limited number of such events makes it less likely Utah would host one in the near future. More likely options include a UFC Fight Night or a WEC event. Both events air free on basic cable networks Spike TV and Versus and draw millions of viewers.

The UFC has in the past tried to feature local fighters when it comes to a new city, and possible names to populate a Utah card include Jeremy Horn, Josh Burkman, Mike Whitehead and Sean O'Connell.

A major MMA event could generate a significant amount of money for the local economy.

"When we bring a show, whether it's a Fight Night or a big pay-per-view, between the fighters and their camps, the staff and the production there's between 175 and 200 people that come to the fights," Ratner said. "You multiply that by at least three room nights, so you have close to 600 room nights before you even sell a ticket."

Depending on the size of the event, Ratner said the economic impact could easily reach into the millions. Now it's just a matter of finding the right event to bring to the state.

"Salt Lake is on the radar," Ratner said, "and I'm very happy the commission is so proactive."