UFC Hawaii: Why MMA's leading promotion refuses to go

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Why the UFC has time and time again refused the opportunity of a Hawaii card.

This year alone the UFC has already been to Rio de Janeiro, Perth, and London. They always host one pay-per-view event a year in Abu Dhabi but that's not even close to their full global reach. The likes of Argentina, Sweden, and Croatia have had the privilege of the UFC coming over for a show and lets not even begin to discuss all the states they visit in their home country of the USA.

Despite the UFC's worldwide reach, one place they have failed to ever go to is the state of Hawaii. There are a number of reasons why this doesn't make any sense at all.

First, the UFC has long had a history of successful Hawaiian fighters. The two that immediately come to mind are former champions B.J Penn and Max Holloway, who you could argue were the biggest stars of the sport during their respective reigns. In fact, Holloway still remains a ridiculously popular fighter in the UFC, and an event in Hawaii with him headlining would make a lot of sense while he's still at the top of his game.

Secondly, Bellator MMA has long hosted big events in the 'Aloha State', including a doubleheader on Friday and Saturday this weekend. If they can do it and achieve huge success, there's no reason to believe the UFC can't do it either.

Thirdly, can you imagine how awesome it would be if the UFC hosted a card in Hawaii? We'd expect at least half of the celebrities that frequent UFC events to be present and it would check off one of the last few US states that they are yet to visit. So why not go to Hawaii? The answer is quite simple really.

Why the UFC will never go to Hawaii. Not now. Not ever.


That's really the best the only reason. In 2018, the possibility of a Hawaii event was closer than ever yet the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) was not willing to shell out the 6 million dollars the UFC asked for in subsidies, opting for an offer of a million.

The disparity between the two sides was too large to reach a compromise and the dream of a Hawaii card was slashed as quickly as it originated. However, while money is clearly the biggest hurdle, you cannot really blame either side for their negotiation tactics.

The UFC would require to move a large amount of equipment into the state for a single event. Hawaii isn't like Abu Dhabi, they realistically only want a Max Holloway headlined card and that's it, requiring a grand scale operation to set up an event in the state and perhaps never returning again.

In order for the UFC to see the logic behind spending this money, they would likely need to book out the Aloha Stadium, a 50 thousand capacity stadium, as opposed to the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena that Bellator uses, which can only fit nine thousand spectators. The event would have to be a HUGE commercial success.

You also cannot blame the HTA for not willing to put up that kind of money. The annual NFL Pro Bowl, which was hosted in Hawaii from 1980 to 2009 and a few times sparingly in the 2010s, cost them $4.2 million for a whole weekend of events where the NFL's biggest stars take part in a casual game of football. In short, the HTA has never put up the kind of money the UFC was asking for back in 2018, and one can only imagine the price certainly went up.

While the possibility of a UFC Hawaii card looks bleak, there may be just some hope we will get one eventually. Although UFC president Dana White doesn't see it happening, Hawaii introduced Senate Bill 1027, which seeks to create the state's new combat sports commission. While that is far from a guarantee, at least there still might be a very small chance that the UFC does pay Hawaii a visit in the future.

Don't hold your breath though.

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