Following the successful title defense by the world’s welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on Sunday in Jacksonville, USA, there are growing calls for an inaugural UFC fight to be held on the African continent.
The calls come in a dint to honour African fighters, who hold prominence in the UFC.
Currently, there are three African world champions, including Francis Ngannou (a heavyweight) from Cameroon and Israel Adesanya (middleweight) from Nigeria. All three fighters have publicly called for an inaugural UFC fight to be held on the African continent.
In acknowledgement, Dana White, the CEO of UFC, recently confirmed in a podcast his desire to bring a UFC fight to Africa both in recognition of the current trio of African UFC champions, saying it fulfils his own long held personal ambition to emulate the Ali v Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ world boxing championship fight held in the DRC in 1974.
“One of the many monumental times in my career, but one of the things that I have always wanted to do is have a fight in Africa. The Ali-Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ is stuff I remember growing up. I have not had mine (opportunity) yet, but it’s coming. We are looking at coming to Africa in 2022, so I am really looking forward to that.”
Poised to drive a UFC on the African continent is Dr. Adrian Ogun, Chairman of Streamcent (a digital streaming company based in Nigeria and UK) and the last fight promoter to host a world heavyweight championship fight in Africa, in Johannesburg in 2001 between Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman.
Speaking on organising a cost-effective fight on the continent, Ogun alluded to the fact that 15,000 US fans attended the Veterans Arena in Jacksonville generating 3,200,000 dollars in ticket sales (according to the UFC) which implies an average ticket price of over 200 dollars per person or approximately 100,000 naira per ticket.
“At 100,000 naira per ticket, only the elite in Nigeria would be able to attend an African UFC fight based on the Western promotional model applied at Kamaru Usman’s last fight. High entry prices preclude the plethora of adoring African fans from watching their heroes. Furthermore, in Nigeria, currently fans have to subscribe to cable/satellite channels that only have two million patrons out of a population of two hundred million Nigerians – which means the ordinary fan, who cannot afford arena ticket prices, cannot even see their heroes fight on TV without paying a hefty monthly subscription fee to a terrestrial sports channel. Our solution at Streamcent is to stream fights via our app to fans on mobiles and other devices at a small fraction of the cost of a cable subscription, while lowering prices to ensure the full inclusion of working class fans (as well as the elite) at the fight venue.
“Our African pay per view model for a UFC fight on African soil means a huge number of Africa’s more than 250 million smartphone users can watch the fight and the extra revenue more than makes up for any shortfall in venue ticket sales. This is a ‘win – win’ situation for the UFC promotion, ordinary fight fans seeking affordable viewing prices and our African UFC champions wanting to showcase their talents to mass audiences of all classes in Africa.”
Two UFC fighters, Ottoman Atzeital and his brother Abu, have been campaigning ferociously for the inaugural fight to be held in Morocco. Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya have also been very vocal about Nigeria being the host nation for UFC. South Africa, with its well-developed infrastructure and pedigree of hosting the 2010 World Cup is also a strong candidate with UFC insiders.
Regarding a possible venue, Ogun says, “Regardless of where ever the inaugural UFC fight is held on the African continent, ticket prices and per view subscriptions should be set at a level that includes rather than excludes ordinary working class African fight fans. It is worth noting that the average ticket price for the 15,0000 crowd at Kamru Usman’s fight at the weekend in Jacksonville, is out of reach of the budget of ordinary Nigerians, Moroccans or black South Africans.”