UFC likely to be in New Zealand in 2015

By Daniel Richardson in Brisbane

Antonio 'Big Foot' Silva of Brazil and Mark Hunt in action during their UFC encounter on Saturday. Photo /Getty Images
Antonio 'Big Foot' Silva of Brazil and Mark Hunt in action during their UFC encounter on Saturday. Photo /Getty Images

New Zealand could finally host its first UFC event in 2015.

As the global appeal of mixed martial arts continues to grow, the calendar is becoming more congested and the promotion must find a way to keep all of their potential host cities and countries happy.

Brisbane hosted an event for the first time on Saturday, with UFC Fight Night 33 drawing 11,393 people through the turnstiles at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Australia has now hosted a collection of UFC events during the past few years and the company wants to regularly have three to four fight nights there each year.

It seems only a matter of time before the MMA promotion comes to New Zealand, and Auckland's Vector Arena will play host.

Three Kiwis were on the UFC Fight Night 33 card in Brisbane on Saturday, with veteran Mark Hunt engaging in one of the most brutal heavyweight bouts seen in the organisation's history during his majority draw with Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva.

The two sluggers fought through an incredible five rounds with Hunt garnering huge crowd support in the country he has lived in for more than 20 years.

Tom Wright, director of operations for the UFC in Canada, Australia and New Zealand confirmed after the fight night in Brisbane that Kiwi fans would have something to look forward to in 2015.

"One of the things we have to get over the line is that there are literally hundreds of cities and tens of countries around the world that want to host UFC events. We've got to make sure that we take care of as many as possible,'' Wright said.

"New Zealand's always been on our radar. It takes time to make sure that we've got all the business relationships in place, that you find the right venue and that it fits in with our entire schedule and when you're trying to pull together 40 or 50 events around the world, it's not the easiest job. But absolutely, is it on our radar? Completely and I think in 2015 it'll happen.''

Hunt's bout with Silva earned `Fight of the Night' honours in Brisbane, which marked the second-consecutive time the 39-year-old has earned such an award following his knockout loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 in May.

Saturday also marked the first time Hunt had headlined a card and there's no denying he has the box office power to be a main event billing, particularly in Australia, Japan and New Zealand where he is held in such high regard.

Hunt's fellow Kiwis, Dylan Andrews and James Te Huna, both suffered losses in Brisbane.

Light heavyweight Te Huna was knocked out in the first round of the co-main event by Mauricio `Shogun' Rua, while Andrews couldn't come out for the third round of his bout due to a nasty shoulder dislocation, which gave American Clint Hester a TKO win.

All three New Zealanders were part of a crew of eight fighters who were sent to hospital after the event for further inspection with concerns around the injuries suffered by Hunt and Andrews.

Hunt posted a video to Twitter shortly after his fight, which suggested he sustained a "cracked face, broken hands'', while a collection of photos on his Facebook page yesterday showed severe damage to his left hand.

Middleweight Andrews could be in for surgery on his right shoulder, which he popped out when he tried to throw a massive overhand punch in the second round.

All three Kiwi fighters could potentially help shape a UFC card in Auckland in the future but Wright also said there would be an opportunity to showcase other New Zealanders.

"We'd like nothing better than to have a chance for a bunch of Kiwi fighters to fight on their homeland.''

Having a couple more locals on the card would help drive the gate for the UFC and the New Zealand MMA community will be pleased to see there is a chance to fight on the sport's biggest stage in the future.

Daniel Richardson was a guest of Brisbane Marketing and Tourism Events Queensland

- APNZ

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