By Josh Stein on May 20, 2009
With UFC 99 set to go down in Germany, with or without the nation’s youth in attendance, I’ll say that I think that Dana White’s apparent decision to set his sights on France is a good one.
Expanding the fanbase of the UFC in mainland Europe is a huge step in the right direction. I’m not convinced that it will tap a financial market like the one that Dana has put together in the U.S., but it’s certainly possible, especially if he can, yet again, access an 18-35 male demo that wants more contact and can appreciate the sport.
With the emergence of prominent French fighters like Cheick Kongo and up-and-coming Xavier Foupa-Pokam (set to fight at UFC 98), the country certainly presents a good opportunity for the UFC to showcase its foreign talent.
However, the more I talk with people (especially casual fans) about the expansion to Europe, the more I’m faced with a question: What’s the most important country for the UFC to get a foothold in?
It’s one of the few questions I feel I can answer without hesitation: The Netherlands.
The Dutch are warriors, but what makes them so necessary for the UFC’s business has a great deal to do with the potential of the athletes that the nation can provide.
Bringing the sport to prominence in a country will dramatically increase the number of talent coming out of that country, so bringing up strong, athletic European fighters can be great for the sport, but the Dutch in particular are suited for MMA. If Ernesto Hoost had a brownbelt or blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, if Peter Aerts had solid wrestling skills, the sport of MMA would have had a major talent, but instead those two dangerous heavyweights stuck to K-1.
The kickboxing lineage in Holland is worth mentioning because it shows that the nation is open to combat sports (though it does not indicate how they will react to the cage or to ground fighting, but they’re used to seeing guys get kicked in the face). Mostly, it’s a demonstration that the culture already has an awareness of what it takes to produce the top full-contact athletes in the world.
I don’t expect the UFC to have the issues with sanctioning that they had in Germany. Generally speaking, the Dutch are more permitting and more tolerant than many European nations (and not just with respect to what you’re allowed to inhale).
The ease with which I think legalization and acceptance aside, it’s more important to acknowledge the talent pool that exists in Holland.
It’s one thing to say that I think MMA can pull from the youth of the American population. It’s one thing to say that I think a generation of kids who grow up watching the sport can offer us a lot. It’s different when that future generation comes out of a warrior culture. We’ve seen this with the American wrestling subculture, the Brazilian Vale Tudo, Lute Libre and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools, and we’ve seen this with the Japanese shootfighting and professional academies that have provided a good portion of the top talent over the last fifteen years.
I have little doubt that there is a similar talent pool that can been cultivated in the Dutch kickboxing community. Ramon Dekker only had one MMA fight, and lost to Genki Sudo, but if he had pursued judo alongside his kickboxing instead of giving it up for striking, he could have been a serious challenger in MMA, and I think there are plenty of similarly talented young individuals that may catch the sport in the corner of their eye and start working towards it with the UFC in mind now, and that’s good for us, as fans.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.