But the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event proved to be a perfect combination of sport and entertainment nevertheless.
The event at the Ericsson Globe Arena saw 13 bouts fought in front of a 14000-strong audience, with tickets ranging from approximately USD 100 to 300 and more for the better seats in the house, leading to gate collections crossing 2 million USD.
In Saturday’s feature fight, Iranian Gegard Mousasi lived up to his favourite’s tag and cruised to a unanimous 3-0 (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) win over Swede Ilir Latifi. The fight had a huge build-up despite Latifi being a last-minute choice after original pick Alexander Gustafsson was declared unfit to fight with a freak eye injury.
The fight though didn’t meet the expectations of a feature event. Mousasi played to his strengths and ensured he kept Latifi, who relies on his wrestling prowess, on his feet throughout. Mousasi kept landing his punches across Latifi’s face and soon it was cut open. By the third round, Latifi was bleeding to the extent that his blood-strewn face would have made it almost impossible for him to even see Mousasi clearly.
The five-hour UFC event also proved to be a dream debut for Irishman Conor McGreror, who until last week was getting a measly 188 euros per week as social welfare from the government back home in Dublin. On Saturday however, he knocked out Marcus Brimage in a featherweight bout and earned himself a USD 60,000 bonus for Knock-out of the Night, besides his show-up money.
According to UFC’s statistical findings, India has around 300 million males between the age group of 18-35 which is their target audience. And UFC managing director of international development Marshall Zelaznik is confident of putting up a similar show in the sub-continent soon.
“We have touched base with India’s top wrestlers like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt and though the UFC was relatively new to them, they have shown interest and also expressed admiration for the competitors who have skills in so many disciplines.
I am confident we will find a way to work with these two amazing athletes and that they will help us in finding more talent from India. Simply put, UFC is what EPL is to football or what F1 is to motorsport. We know that once the UFC has been experienced, fans will come,” he said.