UFC Pledges to Move Away From Having Fights at the APEX

May 17, 2024
1 month

Do you like watching professional fights in an empty warehouse? That’s not a totally fair description of the UFC’s Apex facility in Nevada. However, it isn’t the same to watch the world’s premier MMA organization have its top fighters battle it out at the facility.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was in full flight, the UFC leaned on the event to keep sanctioned fights going when many sports were still sidelined. But even as COVID restrictions waned, the UFC had still held onto hosting the events at the facility.

The MMA latest updates show that UFC CEO Dana White is saying the organization would like to get back out and travel to cities. When the UFC hosts events at the Apex, they are limited to a crowd of up to 1,000 people. When the UFC travels to larger cities, they can increase the gates at their events significantly. 

Excitement in St. Louis Changes Things

For only the second time ever, the UFC went to St. Louis, Missouri earlier this month. Due to the long absence between trips to the city, fight fans came out in abundance. The city set a record for largest gate for a UFC Fight Night, coming in at over $2.47 million dollars.

White was quick to say the recent success of live shows is making him want to move away from the Apex. In the recent past, White had been hesitant to say on the record that the UFC planned to do more live shows. There are benefits to fighting at the Apex that help keep the costs low.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time,” White said. “We’ve got to get out of the Apex and start doing more events in all these cities.”

White was impressed with the response he received from the St. Louis crowd. He said that a few people reached out to him about hearing the volume during the broadcast. It brought him back to the early days of the UFC, where the promotion took fights to smaller markets.

“Even if you were watching on ESPN, I’m sure you guys were getting texts too, like, ‘Jesus Christ, it’s like a pay-per-view there right now,’” White told reporters at his post-fight news conference. “And when you think about how we built this business, it was taking it out of the big markets.”

“When we first got into the fight business, everybody just went to Vegas, Atlantic City, sometimes New York, sometimes L.A. Those were the only places that really had fights unless you had a local kid that would fight. We built this business to take this thing to every city all over the world. As we start to get our (expletive) together, I’ll call it, and start to move out and go out to these different cities like we used to, the whole sport just goes to another level.”

An Empty Threat and Updated Strategy

White was dead set on continuing to hold fights through the pandemic. The best MMA news sites show that the first UFC Apex event was originally slated for May 23rd, 2020. However, the event was pushed back to May 30th. 

White initially threatened to take the event to Arizona, where sporting events could be held with no fans. But White decided, without the blessing of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, to hold the event at the Apex. When the UFC went forward with the event, they were able to stage a 12-fight card.

Future welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns beat former championship Tyrone Woodley in the main event. The UFC didn’t have any problems with fighters missing due to COVID protocol. While this would become an issue down the line, it was sporadic.

UFC Chasing After Some Big Fish

There is no venue in the United States that seems to interest White like the Sphere in Las Vegas. The UFC is planning to hold an event at the UFC venue, which White promises is a one-time event. It will be the promotion’s second-ever Noche UFC event to honor Mexican Independence Day.

White claims that the event won’t be able to be held again because the only reason it is getting done is that he did it. The UFC has poured a lot of money and resources into making sure this fight gets done. White acknowledged the event has been a massive logistical nightmare for the promotion to pull off.

UFC 259 May Have Been Peak Event at Apex

While the card may not have been as exciting in practice as it was on paper, UFC 259 was one of the most stacked Apex cards in the event’s history. The headliner was a bout between Jan Błachowicz and Israel Adesanya for the light heavyweight championship.

Błachowicz won a narrow decision to deny Adesanya the opportunity to be a double champion. It was the third of three title fights on the night. The first championship fight ended in controversy.

MMA news sites show that Aljamain Sterling won the bantamweight championship when Peter Yan hit him with an illegal knee. Sterling was awarded the championship belt. This was also the last event that featured the UFC women’s featherweight title being defended in the octagon.

Amanda Nunes dominated Megan Anderson to win by a first-round submission. While there has been no formal notice that the 145-pound women’s division has been retired, the UFC didn’t continue to contest the belt. There seemed to be a shortage of qualified contenders to take on Nunes.

Only three women ever held the featherweight belt. Germaine de Randamie won the inaugural title. Then, MMA legend Cris Cyborg claimed the vacant belt. However, after Cyborg lost to Nunes, a falling out between Cyborg and the White made the belt being defended again unlikely.

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By Dean McHugh.

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