SYDNEY, New South Wales, Australia —Sunday, February 21, 2010 was not a typical Sunday afternoon in Sydney, Australia. It marked the UFC's first foray into "The Land Down Under" with UFC 110 - Nogueira vs. Velasquez. The nine-bout fight card, which featured some of the biggest names in the sport was a resounding success in what would be the UFC's first show in the country and continent.
17,431 screaming Australian MMA fans packed the Acer Arena in Sydney with another 400 attending the official viewing party located on the premises, making it one of the largest turn-outs in UFC history. The $2.5 million dollar gate made it the highest grossing sporting event in the arena's 10-year history, which was opened in late 1999 as part of the facilities for the 2000 Olympic Summer Games. The show also sold out in one hour, making it the second fastest sell-out in UFC history. To top things off, UFC 110 also beat out Iron Maiden for the all-time merchandising record for an event at the Acer Arena. These numbers are impossible to ignore, which is why UFC president Dana White said shortly after disclosing these numbers in the UFC 110 post-fight press conference, that he plans on making Australia an annual stop, just as they have done in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The UFC's worldwide aspirations started picking up steam in 2007, shortly after Zuffa purchased PRIDE FC and merged its star fighters with the current UFC roster. Afterwards, the promotion's focus quickly focused on international expansion, which began with a return to the United Kingdom at UFC 70 the following month. That was just the second show the UFC had in the United Kingdom with the first happening nearly 5 years earlier. They followed up that British show with three more in the next 12 months (UFC 72, UFC 75, and UFC 80). At UFC 83 in April 2008, the UFC then expanded into Canada for the first time. The 21,390 people that packed the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for that show, currently stands as the largest attendance in UFC history.
The UFC would then hold two more shows in the United Kingdom at UFC 85 and UFC 89 to close out the 2008 calendar year. In 2009, they would start off with UFC 93, which would take place in Dublin, Ireland in January 2009. This would be their first show on the Emerald Isle. The following month, the UFC would go back to to the United Kingdom with UFC 95. Two months later, they would return to Canada with UFC 97 in April 2009. Shortly after, the UFC would host its first event in Germany with UFC 99 in June 2009. The promotion's last international locale in 2009, saw the UFC make another stop in the United Kingdom with UFC 105 in November 2009, which marked the ninth show it hosted in the country.
Now after this weekend's success in Australia, the UFC will look to carry that momentum with them, as they get ready to set up shop in their next international destination at UFC 112 in April of this year. That show, headlined by two title figts, will take place at Concert Arena, which is part of the Ferrari World theme park on Yas Island, located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This is one of the world's leading cities of commerce and the home of Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is the son of the former president of the country, the UFC's newest stakeholder, and the founder of the biennial ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, which is the most presitigious submission grappling event in the world.
The UFC's global aspirations won't stop there, however, as it already has two more shows scheduled for Canada before the midway point of 2010 is over. UFC 113 In May will return to Montreal for its third show in the city in as many years, while UFC 115 in June will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, the same city where the 2010 Olympic Winter Games are currently taking place.