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

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor