According to UFC president Dana White, the world’s premiere mixed martial arts organization is soaring to new heights.
Despite concerns about the promotion’s future after a purchase by new owners in 2016, White says things are doing great one year later. He called 2017 the UFC’s best year in history by a long shot, citing big returns and ground-breaking moves never seen in the history of the promotion and the sport in general.
White made the announcement at the post-fight media conference following UFC 217. The show marked the UFC’s second time in New York, both of which saw cards hosted at the legendary Madison Square Garden arena.
The return of Georges St.-Pierre, one of the promotion’s most popular fighters and most dominant champions, undoubtedly helped make this year a big victory in terms of pay-per-view buys and fan interest.
White said: “I told some of you guys this yesterday, but (Floyd Mayweather and UFC champ Conor McGregor) had the record there in Canada. We were No. 2 and 3 or something like that. We’re pretty sure that this beat Mayweather and McGregor in Canada tonight.”
White mentioned that a return to Montreal for GSP’s fight would make sense. The promotion has held cards all over the world, with events in Brazil, Japan, England, and many other locations. A burst in star-power combined with the funds from new owners, Endeavor (formerly known as WME-IMG) undoubtedly helped the promotion maintain its popularity.
The UFC has come a long way, starting out as what some called a “freak show.” Despite its rough reputation during the 90s, the UFC came under new management when Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took control. Roughly a decade after being passed on by sponsors and networks due to the brutality of the sport, the UFC returned with new regulations and a mainstream TV deal on Spike.
The promotion now airs on Fox Sports, ESPN, and other top sports networks in the world. Though there were concerns that the new owners put the focus too much on promotion and dream fights rather than following the old formula of going by rankings to build cards, their success speaks for itself.
The company took several hard hits in recent years. With Ronda Rousey all but retired and Jon Jones facing another potential suspension, the promotion seemed to be losing stars. But with GSP’s return and big names like Conor McGregor still around, the UFC will press on with confidence as they approach 2018.
White had been fending off accusations of dwindling pay-per-view numbers and attendance figures. While some pay-per-views failed to reach the heights of those before them, this could also be due in part to the drop-in popularity for the viewing model as a whole.
White and the UFC reached a major milestone when a cross-promotional bout between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather occurred earlier this year. This may be only the beginning for the UFC in the world of boxing, as White has spoken about having future events of the same type under the company’s name.