As if UFC 275 wasn’t already stacked enough with Glover Teixeira defending his 205lb Title against Czecb Phenom Jiří Procházka and the #1P4P Women’s Fighter in the world Valentina Shevchenko facing undefeated TUF Season 23 veteran Tatiana Suarez, there’s much more news. Former UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker takes on the Italian Dream, Marvin Vettori in a title-eliminator bout, and that’s the least of it.
We are hearing rumors from very reliable sources that the UFC plans to launch a new Tournament Bout Series called “Road to the UFC” live at UFC 275. This would be the first of its kind for the UFC since the Pride tournaments, and it could signal a shift in the promotion’s target regions.
What is the “Road to the UFC”?
While details remain very thin, we understand that these tournaments will result in a UFC Contract for the winners, and will be held across four weight divisions of 125, 135, 145, and 155 pounds. While The Ultimate Fighter retains the elimination tournament style used prior to UFC 12, the details coming out seem to suggest that the initial bouts may serve as the undercard for UFC 275. However, we are unsure when the remaining fights will take place.
As reported by John Hyon Ko, it appears that most of the contracts have gone out to Asian fighters, which suggests that this may be part of the UFC’s plans to expand into the Chinese market. This began with the construction of a Performance Institute in China back in 2018 that opened in 2019, and was crowned by Zhang Weili claiming the title from Jessica Andrade in China that year.
The existence of a working title does seem to imply that this may be a standalone series, and will likely be broadcast live in China for the remainder of the series. It is also very likely that the series will include fighters local to Asian gyms such as City Kickboxing, Freestyle Fighting, and Tiger Muay Thai who struggle to travel to the US to compete. They often try to get onto the same card as their higher-ranked training partners to cut down on travel costs and gain exposure.
This would enable the UFC to expand in an Asian market largely dominated by ONE Championship, where over a billion people watch the promotion’s events. Bellator and PFL have tournament-style events, but the inclusion of an underutilized market could be huge for the leader in MMA. Could this prove to be a smart move by Dana White and company? Only time will tell if the expansion pays off.
Make sure to stay tuned for any updates on The Road to the UFC!
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