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UFC is Coming to Fairfax
Organization's president sees D.C. area as fertile ground for larger martial arts events
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White confirmed Tuesday that he plans to make the Washington D.C. market a new destination for his growing martial arts business.
White said that lightweights Nate Diaz (11-4) and Gray Maynard (8-0) will square off Jan. 11 at Patriot Center in Fairfax in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 20, one in a series of cards that have been televised by Spike TV.
White said that he expects the show's attendance numbers to confirm his belief that the Washington area is a fertile place to bring bigger shows such as Saturday's UFC 104, a pay-per-view event that will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. UFC 104 features a main event between current light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
The Jan. 11 show is "not a market test," said White. "We don't test markets. We go in and we pretty much know what we're going to do when we go in. We believe that there's enough people that live there and will travel there that this thing will sell out quick."
Diaz and Maynard are two of the top fighters to emerge from the fifth season of Spike TV's reality series "The Ultimate Fighter." It will be a rematch of Diaz's victory over Maynard on that show.
Multiple online sources are reporting that the undercard could include Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce, Efrain Escudero vs. Nik Lentz, Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson, Rick Story vs. Jesse Lennox, Chris Leben vs. Jay Silva and Mike Guymon vs. Rory MacDonald.
White's interest in the Washington area follows the recent efforts of Ultimate Warrior Challenge, a business that Maryland native Marcello Foran grew into five local cards that drew an average of 5,000 fans to Patriot Center.
"There' a lot of grass-roots shows out there like that and obviously if they are drawing 5,000 people we know what we're going to do," said White, who expects to sell out the 10,000 seat facility.
Foran, however, said on Tuesday that he has doubts about his organization returning to Patriot Center, citing a lack of support from local martial arts schools, businesses and media as well as a controversial ending to Anacostia native Mike Easton's fight earlier this month against Chase Beebe. Easton was declared the winner in a split decision over Beebe during UWC7: Redemption on Oct. 3. Foran and many others dispute the decision and blame Virginia's athletic commission for a botched scorecard.
"Here I am and I'm talking to Dana White and [UFC Vice President] Joe Silva and saying here's a great market you need to go to," Foran said. "And now I feel like I get screwed on a call on a fight. We're not saying we wouldn't come back to D.C. but what option do we have? In D.C., I'm dragging people to the finish line and other places they are throwing venues and incentives at me."
Temple Hills-based trainer Lloyd Irvin, the area's premier talent-finder and fight groomer, said that he has been in contact with UFC about his fighters who have been successful in UWC events. Some of them could appear on the Jan. 11 card. Irvin would not name any of the fighters that UFC has spoken to him about, but Foran said that UWC standout Timothy Woods, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound Sterling resident, is in talks for a long-term contract with UWC and is being considered by UFC talent scouts. White said he was unaware of Woods, but that it was possible Woods was talking with UFC.
Irvin's most notable student is Brandon Vera, a Virginia native who will headline UFC 105 against Randy Couture on Nov. 14. "If there was ever going to be a big UFC show, it would make sense to have Brandon Vera because he's from this area."