Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White is not coy in admitting he has not heard of Sachin Tendulkar. “I’m sure you would not know Larry Fitzgerald. He’s one of the best American footballers around. So, why should anyone be surprised if I don’t know a famous cricketer,” White told SUNDAY MiD DAY on the sidelines of the pre-event weigh-ins ahead of Saturday night’s UFC show at the Ericsson Globe here.
White continued: “Ok, so you don’t know Larry… but do you know Mike Tyson, Bruce Lee and off late, Philippines champ Manny Pacquiao?” On my affirmative reply, Dana went on: “That’s because they are all fighters and the world loves fighters. That’s the idea with which the UFC is planning to enter the Indian market. It doesn’t matter if India does not have a mixed martial arts (MMA) culture. Indians are great at wrestling and boxing and that’s the stepping stone into MMA. Besides, every human being is excited about fighting and I’m sure Indians are too.”
Another justification followed: “I understand that cricket is very big in India… but tell me, during a cricket match, if there is a fight between the players, what happens? Don’t spectators get excited? That’s because fighting is in every man’s DNA irrespective of his race, religion or colour.” UFC is planning to launch in India soon, but Dana was unsure of the exact timeframe. “All I can say at this moment is that our team of specialists are travelling across India and other parts of Asia and making our entry plans.
“In India, ideally we would first like to kick things off with a huge show by bringing down some of our best fighters to give the fans there a taste of top-level MMA action. I think currently there is the Super Fight League in India, but there are numerous small MMA events everywhere. The fighters first fight at these events and then finally graduate to UFC. We will also plan a reality show in India and do a talent search to pick fighters to join UFC.”
Not violent or cruel
Finally, White chose to try and clear one of the biggest misconceptions about MMA. “People and some social groups across the world feel that MMA is violent and cruel. However, from the time the UFC has been in existence — and November will complete 20 years for that — there has never been a single death or a serious injury to any of our fighters. “Now, compare that to deaths in boxing or better still cricket-related injuries and you’ll see that the UFC is one of the safest sports around,” explained White.