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After Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen card, Dana White was asked by the MMA media if he planned to give Max Holloway a fight in the former featherweight champion’s home state of Hawaii before his eventual retirement.
Despite the fact that the UFC had never hosted an event in Hawaii, the UFC president did not appear optimistic that the event would come to fruition. What was even more surprising was that White’s answer, which shed light on the reason why the UFC hadn’t been to Hawaii and why it wasn’t likely to host an event in there anytime soon, received no further mention from the MMA media.
White on UFC Hawaii
“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. We could just never get a deal done in Hawaii,” White said during the press conference. “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.”
Even the two sites that covered White’s response, Bloody Elbow, and LowKick neglected to mention that reason that the UFC did not hold an event in Hawaii in 2018 was that the organization reportedly demanded a $6 million site fee.
“The $6 million price tag, we just couldn’t afford. I mean, that’s not the kind of money that we have,” said Leslie Dance, HTA vice-president of marketing and product development at the time. “Whether we’ve paid that for the Pro Bowl or not, that’s what they compared it to. I think that’s where they came up with that number. It’s not the type of money we have in our current budget to fund it, but we really did want to make it work.”
Hawaii’s Tourism Authority countered the $6 million UFC asking price with a proposal of $1 million. That $1 million offer, had the UFC accepted it, according to Dance, would have been “the largest fee paid by the HTA for any single sports event in 2018.”
By not mentioning the $6 million fee the UFC asked of HTA in 2018, the MMA media allowed White and the UFC to portray themselves as an aggrieved party. They are not. They never were.
As for the many MMA sites that didn’t pick up on White’s attempt to paint the UFC in a positive light in this matter, they not only fumbled the ball but let an untouched White run it back for a touchdown.
As for the argument that the UFC is not going to Hawaii because the state lacks an athletic commission, that debate can be put to rest by looking at all the locations the promotion has visited where it served as its own commission, including its repeated visits to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Another strawman invoked when discussing the promotion’s lack of presence in Hawaii is the lack of a suitable arena. According to its website, the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena, where Bellator will hold two cards this weekend, has a capacity of nearly 8,500 people when set up for a boxing event. In the pre-COVID days, the UFC regularly visited arenas that size or smaller. Further, the announced crowd of 10,787 that attended the more recent UFC 275 event in Singapore and the 10,171 at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi by no means dwarf the number of fans who would attend a UFC event at Blaisdell Arena.
MMA Media Can Do Better
White is not to blame for trying to make the UFC look good on this subject. That is his job. However, the MMA media needs to do better when it comes to holding the promotion accountable.
At least one member of the UFC access media who worked Saturday’s event in Kansas City should have known that the UFC wanted $6 million from Hawaii to hold an event there and should have asked White a follow-up question related to that fee. As for those who weren’t in attendance and didn’t hold White accountable for his omission in their post-fight coverage or didn’t write about White’s subterfuge at all, they are just as responsible for giving the UFC a pass.
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