MMA: UFC returns to London, but with a few changes from last time

O2 arena hosts event for increasingly popular sport

They’ve been here before, but they never stayed long. Whilst UFC has had a London office for some years now, UK fans were always left with a feeling that they came here once a year to provide a second rate Fight Night card, almost because they felt like they had to. UFC president, Dana White, would not be a guaranteed presence at the event, and even if he was, he would be on the first flight out, sometimes not making the entirety of the press conference. Saturday was different.

The first difference was the quality and depth of the card. Sure, it wasn’t pay-per-view quality, but the main card was easily UFC on FOX calibre. The main event featured Alexander Gustafsson who is not only a global fan favourite (as proved by his winning the fan vote to be on EA Sports’ new UFC game cover), but also the number one contender for Jon Jones’ light-heavyweight crown. Indeed, the last time UFC fans saw Gustafsson fight, it was in the best fight of 2013; a vicious war with Jon Jones. 

The second, very noticeable difference was the presentation. No Bruce Buffer doing ring announcing, replaced by Englishman Andy Friedlander. The ring side commentary team were similarly swapped out for the English duo of Dan Hardy (ex-UFC fighter) and John Gooden. The main absence of the night was that of Bruce Buffer. Buffer, brother of infamous boxing ring announcer Michael, is so experienced and manages to generate an enormous amount of energy before fights. Friedlander did his best to follow in impossibly large footsteps. 

The third difference was a big one. For the first time, a UFC event was provided to the British public on free to air TV by way of Channel 5 (C5). BT Sport are the UK’s official broadcaster for all UFC content, however C5 signed a one fight deal providing a platform to bring the sport of MMA at its most elite to the masses. C5’s coverage left a lot to be desired, but in UFC, the fights sell themselves and boy did the main event deliver!

The final difference was the feeling we, as fans, were left with after all was said and done. The feeling that we mattered. The feeling that after so many years of waking up in the early hours to watch this unbelievable sport, it was now coming to us! Dana White lead the press conference afterwards and a media scrum, the fights were sensational on the whole, and in an arena to match. The message from UFC EMEA CEO Garry Cook was, on to Abu Dhabi. There are fights scheduled across Europe this year and already another London fight in the books for February 2015. No longer will the UFC pack up and leave. They are here to stay. 

In the main event Gustafsson knocked out previously undefeated Brit, Jimi Manuwa in the second round. Over two-and-half thousand Swedes had made the trip and the atmosphere was electric. The fight was back and forth until the fatal blows eventually came. 

Europeans can rest assured, the future is bright. Notable performances came from Englishman Luke Barnatt and Icelandic Gunnar Nelson, who was returning from injury after over a year. 

Celebrities such as Guy Richie, Niall Horan, David Haye and MC Hammer were all in attendance. To any fans who are yet to witness a UFC event live, I can’t recommend it high enough. The production is second to none and before the main card begins, A montage of UFC moments set to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” echoes throughout the venue. It’s spine tingling. 

I wish that Bruce Buffer had been there, but all in all the UFC finally made its mark. As stated by Dana White so many times, “Fighting is in our blood. We know it and we like it”. As proven by the O2 arena selling out in four hours with not a penny spent on above board advertising, we don’t like it….  We love it. 

FOLLOW ASHER SIMONS ON TWITTER, SPORTS AND MMA COLUMNIST FOR THE INDEPENDENT @ASHERSIMONS

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley at the premiere of Laggie at Toronto Film Festival 2014
theatreActress 'to make Broadway debut'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Note Taker - Scribe

£10 per hour: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienced note taker...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker