Mixed martial arts has become incredibly popular in India, so much so that not only has the country become infatuated with America’s biggest MMA promotion, the UFC, but Indian promotions have also been setting up their own events.
With the way that the sport is picking up momentum in the nation of over 1.3 billion people, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Indian MMA fans are starting to have hope of a UFC Fight Night coming to the country.
The UFC has already staged an event in Auckland, Busan, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Singapore, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Vancouver, and Abu Dhabi since September last year. So, is India a viable destination for the UFC yet?
UFC already has an Indian fan base
Along with a love of the sport, India has already proven itself as a big fan of the UFC. Introduced through Sony Picture India, the Indian subcontinent has been able to enjoy the biggest events that the UFC has to offer. In the middle of last year, SPN found the investment in UFC TV rights to be worthwhile, retaining their exclusive media rights deal to keep the UFC until 2023.
Expanding the deal to feature live broadcasts of both pay-per-view and UFC Fight Nights on Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 2 HD, and other UFC content on SonyLiv and the OTT streaming service is evidence, says Sports Pro, of the growing appetite for UFC in India. The broadcaster stated that in 2018, around 100 million people tuned in to watch the UFC on Indian television.
Interest has continued to grow in the promotion since it was announced that the UFC would see its first Indian fighter, Bharat Khandare, enter the octagon. While Khandare lost his first and only UFC bout, with his follow up at UFC 227 canceled due to injury, just seeing an Indian mixed martial artist make it to the UFC was plenty to ignite India’s MMA scene further.
Does India have a venue fit for the UFC?
Las Vegas is famously the home of the UFC, with the promotion staging 124 of its 343 events – at the time of writing – in Nevada’s Sin City. The most popular venues in Las Vegas have proven to be hotel and casino resorts, with the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena seeing 42 events, 19 taking place at Palms Casino Resort, and eight more featuring at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Casinos help to add the shimmer and glamour that the oft-brutal sport wants to promote around its events as it brings in celebrities and other big-name athletes to the proceedings.
In India, only Goa, Daman, and Sikkim allow land-based casinos, none of which boast particularly high populations in any settlements.
The largest cities in India, the likes of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Kolkata, don’t feature glitzy land-based casinos. Instead, their residents utilize the quality casino reviews of the most trusted online platforms at Casino Wings to find websites for playing games like roulette, baccarat, and slots. As such, the type of popular UFC venue looks to be off the cards if the promotion comes to India.
As listed above, the UFC’s outings to nations that don’t sing the Star-Spangled Banner often see them going to the biggest cities of the host nation. As such, New Delhi looks to be a prime location for a UFC event. Renovated in 2010, the Indira Gandhi Arena is not only the largest indoor sports arena in India, but it’s also the third-largest in all of Asia. It boasts a capacity of over 14,000, which would very quickly sell out should the UFC come to town.
The UFC has a huge fan base in India, with the subcontinent looking like the prime destination for a future UFC Fight Night.