UFC’s grip spreading to Canada, Scotland, beyond

By John Silver

Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has long declared his intention of making mixed martial arts the biggest sport on the planet. For all his bombast and bluster, the UFC has taken several steps lately to increase its global footprint.

‘‘It doesn’t matter what color you are, what country you come from or what language you speak,’’ White said. ‘‘We’re all human beings, and fighting is in our DNA. We get it, and we like it.’’

After Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC 10 years ago, all but one UFC event had been held in the United States until 2007. Then the organization expanded with great success to Great Britain and now makes annual trips to the British Isles.

Last year marked a turning point for the UFC and a sign of future expansion plans. In addition to a London show, it brought the Octagon to Australia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

This year, the UFC plans to hold its first event in a stadium — Toronto’s Rogers Centre — in April. Canadian fight fans quickly snapped up 42,000 seats and then 17,000 more after the UFC increased capacity. This marks the UFC’s biggest, quickest sellout in North America and the largest gate — $11 million — for the UFC and the Rogers Centre. The demand went beyond White’s expectations.

‘‘When we put 42,000 on sale, I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about it and I didn’t know,’’ he said, ‘‘and, yeah, I’m absolutely blown away by the response.’’

Next Saturday, the UFC returns to Sydney, Australia, for UFC 127 after its sold-out event last February. It’s another sellout for a card headlined by BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch.

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