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After Holloway’s win on Saturday night, UFC President Dana White was asked if Hawaii is a location that they could visit in the future. The answer? Basically, no.
“If you think back to the days with me and the Fertitta brothers, we always wanted to do an event in Hawaii … Everybody wants to do the fight in Hawaii,” said White after the fights in Kansas City on Saturday. “We could just never get a deal done in Hawaii. I don’t see it happening. And you hear me, man. We’re going to Africa, we’re going to places people would never imagine. But we can’t get Hawaii done.”
MMA’s presence in Hawaii
Despite UFC’s absence from Hawaii, the eight islands certainly do host MMA events. Bellator has notably held a total of six events there since 2018. They are scheduled to present another doubleheader of shows next weekend from the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
Besides Bellator, Hawaii certainly has a past in MMA as well. All the way back in 1999, “The Warmaster” Josh Barnett prevailed in a one-night heavyweight Superbrawl tournament. He overcame Juha Tuhkasaari, John Marsh, and Bobby Hoffman on the same night to win the tournament. A few months later he returned to Honolulu to fight Dan Severn in a five-round main event at Superbrawl 16, which he won via fourth-round armbar. Barnett got the call from the UFC later that year.
Dana White’s remarks on Saturday are similar to what he has said for years. In 2019, he put pressure on the Hawaii Tourism Authority to help make the event happen: “I want it, does the tourism board want it?” he said at the time. “Do they or do they not? If they do, we’ll come.”
Hawaii looks to attract Dana White and the UFC
Earlier this year, lawmakers in Hawaii introduced Senate Bill 1027, which looks to create a new combat sports commission through the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). In an interview provided to the Honolulu Civil Beat, Senator Lorraine Inouye said the bill could help attract promotions like the UFC to Hawaii.
However, that move might not bring a UFC to the islands. Executive Officer of the DCCA’s current MMA program, James Skizewski, said that the potential venues for a show are what is instead stopping a UFC card from touching down.
The venue that Bellator runs when in Hawaii, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, has a capacity of just under 9,000. On the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus there is the Stan Sheriff Center, which holds around 10,000. Other venues in the area are significantly larger and are used for football or baseball.
Holloway: Hawaii’s top representative in the UFC
Holloway has called for a show in Hawaii for years. In 2019, Holloway published a lengthy Instagram post about how important he feels it would be to have an event there.
“I’ve said it a million times,” Holloway wrote about wanting UFC Hawaii. “But it’s never been about only me. I’ve just been the lucky one to have the mic.”
While Holloway has never experienced a UFC fight in his home, he has always tried to embrace other places that the promotion travels to. Holloway has previously joked that Las Vegas is the “ninth island,” and that Toronto, Canada is the 10th.
Holloway returned to the win column on Saturday, overcoming rising contender Arnold Allen in a main event decision. Holloway’s previous fight was a loss to current UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski.
The former champ started his career in Hawaii, picking up his first four professional MMA wins there. After just those few fights, Holloway was picked up by the UFC and made his debut in 2012 against Dustin Poirier.
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