Dana White admits he had to do some major-league lobbying within his organization to bring the world’s top mixed martial arts promotion to Bangor.
The Queen City will be one of the smallest markets ever to host one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s televised cards when UFC Fight Night 47 is held at the Cross Insurance Center on Aug. 16.
“Especially with the new arena being built and having a casino up there I’ve been dying to bring an event to Bangor and I finally got it done,” said White from UFC corporate headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC cards typically are held in Las Vegas or other major U.S. markets as well as internationally — most recently in Dublin, Ireland, where a mid-July show sold out in two minutes.
But for White, the UFC president, bringing his product to Bangor wasn’t a typical business decision, it was personal — the 1987 graduate of Hermon High School has relatives in the area, and owns a vacation home in Levant that he and his family visit several times a year.
That’s why the high-octane approach he takes while promoting UFC broadcasts throughout the year is in even higher gear now as White seeks to turn the personal capital he invested to bring some of MMA’s top fighters to his adopted home town into a successful venture for both the promotion and UFC fans throughout the region.
“Ticket sales are not what I expected but they’re decent,” said White during a recent PR blitz of the northeast United States and Atlantic Canada. “If we were anywhere else I’d be ecstatic, but we only have 6,500 seats and the thing isn’t sold out yet.
“This is probably the first and only time we’ll ever be in Bangor, Maine, so I was kind of expecting a quick sellout and it didn’t happen yet so it’s a little shocking to me.”
The nine-bout card is headlined by a five-round battle of ranked light heavyweight contenders Ryan “Darth” Bader (18-4) and Ovince Saint Preux (16-5) and a middleweight bout matching Lincolnville native Tim Boetsch (17-7) against Brad Tavares (12-3).
“Ovince Saint Preux is an unbelievable athlete who is just catching his stride in the UFC right now and this is a big fight, a huge fight for him taking on Ryan Bader,” said White. “This is a big fight for that weight division. Whoever wins this fight is going to move up in the rankings and the 205-pound division has always been the nastiest division there is. That’s why [champion] Jon Jones has been considered pound-for-pound the best in the world.”
Also newly scheduled is a lightweight clash between former world title challenger Gray Maynard and Ross Pearson.
The two former Ultimate Fighter stars originally were slated to fight different opponents on the Bangor card, but it was announced Monday that lightweight prospect Abel Trujillo was forced out of his scheduled bout against Pearson due to injury.
Maynard had been set to face Brazil’s Fabricio Camoes in Bangor, but Camoes will be rescheduled for another fight later this year, according to the UFC statement.
Preliminary bouts are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 2, followed by the main card at 10 p.m. that will be broadcast by Fox Sports 1.
Maine’s firsthand exposure to mixed martial arts since the sport was legalized in the state in 2009 has consisted primarily of homegrown events promoted by the Lewiston-based New England Fights MMA.
Those shows, which have drawn crowds of as many as 3,000 fans to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, are an important spawning ground for interest in the sport, said White, who hopes to add to MMA’s popularity in Maine with the UFC’s foray into Bangor.
“Those grass-roots shows are great because they start to cultivate local talent and people start to get into mixed martial arts and learn about it,” said White. “The difference in what you’re going to see when we roll into town on August 16 is something else. I’m telling you right now, I don’t care what sporting event you’ve ever been to, if not the most exciting, it will be one of the best sporting events you will ever see.
“And for these smaller shows that we’re talking about, us coming to Bangor will have a big impact on them, too.”
White anticipates UFC Fight Night 47 having an even more significant immediate impact on the Greater Bangor economy.
“A lot of people who already have bought tickets are coming from out of town,” he said. “You’re talking about people who are going to stay in the hotels, who are going to go out and eat in the restaurants, who are going to go shopping, they’re going to try out the nightlife, the clubs and the bars. It’s going to have a huge impact on the city of Bangor.
“Mark my words, and you’ll hear about it after we leave, the town will have felt that the UFC was there.”