Abu Dhabi: The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has big plans for the region according to UFC President Dana White.
"We are working on having a version of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show here in two or three months. We're going to get fighters from all over the Middle East not just Abu Dhabi and Dubai," White said at a roundtable discussion yesterday.
TUF is a reality show where two teams of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters are entered in a single elimination tournament for a chance at a six-figure UFC contract. And as with most reality shows, they must all live in the same house.
"This will be the first place that we do TUF outside the United States. The best way to describe it would be that [the Middle East] has a 1000 year history of… I guess we'll call it bad blood," White added.
TUF just started its eleventh season on Spike TV in the US and airs one day later on Showsports 4 in the Middle East.
White said that the Abu Dhabi TUF would be just like the TUF shows done in the US, except that it won't be shown on television but will be put on the web for download and so won't interfere with the TUF seasons. As it is in the US TUF, the winner will get a six figure UFC contract.
White is present on every episode of the US TUF and attends each fight.
"We're still discussing whether I can be on the show, if my schedule allows me to stay for the six week duration or not."
They are also still undecided on the weight class or which UFC superstars will coach the teams, although Renzo Gracie seems most likely as he has a 14 year history of coaching Ju-jitsu in Abu Dhabi.
He added that they want the show to go global and do each season in a different city around the world, "We haven't decided on a name for the show yet," says White.
"Ever since the boom of MMA a few years ago, you can find fighters from all over the world now, so that won't be a problem."
"For the last four years everyone and their mother has wanted to buy a piece of the UFC and we've turned them down," says White. "We became partners with [Flash] because they can add a lot to the UFC and help us grow much faster. Thanks to them we already have a show in the Middle East."
Flash, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, bought ten percent of Zuffa LLC, the parent entity of the UFC, four months ago.
"Flash is helping us get into China, South Korea and India among other places," says White.
"We've been planning to setup a fight in China and it looks like its going to happen sooner that I can imagine.
"Every time we go into a country we have a game plan, so we don't get murdered financially."
White also said that the UFC had shown interest in holding an event in the Philippines.
"We had planned to go there much sooner but then the [financial crisis] happened. We sent [former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion] Chuck Liddell there and he got mobbed with fans. Yes the Philippines is big for us," he added.
Organisers this week announced additional upper grandstand tickets have been made available for tomorrow's UFC 112.
Tickets can be bought at www.boxofficeme.com, selected Virgin Megastores across the UAE, and at the UFC stand in Marina Mall Abu Dhabi.
UFC has resigned Middleweight Champion Anderson ‘The Spider' Silva to an eight fight contract, White announced. He already has three fights left on his current contract.
"Anything can happen when it comes to Anderson Silva; he just told me he wants to fight GSP [UFC Welterweight Champion George St-Pierre] at 170lbs."
"I personally think that he can win a title at 170lbs, 205lbs and maybe Heavyweight too. It's very hard but if anyone can, Anderson Silva is the guy to do it," says White.
He added if Silva wins a title in another weight class he will have to vacate his Middleweight belt.