The President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Dana White, has announced that the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion will be opening a Performance Institute in Africa with the aim of giving up-and-coming mixed martial artists from the continent access to world-class training facilities.
The president said the ultimate plan of the UFC has always been to be a global promotion that would in turn make MMA a global sport. Having held events in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania, Africa appears to be the only major continent not to have experienced a UFC event. Just like Dana White noted, it would make perfect sense at this time to do just that and it starts with a Performance Institute.
“We always believed that this thing would be big globally, that we could create talent from all over the world. Do you know what makes sense? Africa is finally catching up and coming in. I’m going to build a PI (Performance Institute) over there.”Dana White
With three current UFC champions coming from Africa; Kamaru Usman (Welterweight), Israel Adesanya (Middleweight) and Francis Ngannou (Heavyweight), the continent boasts the highest number of current UFC champions. It is, however, remarkable that none of them was able to hone their skills and become professionals back on the continent.
This is testament to how talents in Africa go untapped and unexploited, a situation Dana White would be happy to reverse.
“Anytime you find a place where people grow up in hard times, you’re going to find talented, incredible, not just fighters but athletes of all kinds,” Dana White said. “The question is what resources do they have to create and learn, and things like that. I’m going to build a PI over there, and let me tell you what, you’re going to see some bad dudes coming out of Africa over the next five, six years.”
It is yet unclear which country Dana White intends to locate UFC’s Performance Institute. South Africa might seem like a ready choice with the country boasting its own promotion, the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC). But this strength could be its weakness seeing as the aim of the UFC is to put resources and facilities in places where they are lacking. South Africa with the EFC is clearly not lacking in facilities.
The other possible location would be Nigeria. Asides from having more African UFC champions, the country also has a considerable number of fighters from Africa with the likes of Super Sodiq Yusuff (Featherweight), Kennedy Nzechukwu (Light Heavyweight) and several others.
There is also a fast-growing acceptance of MMA as a sport in the country aided by the undeniable dominance of its champions. With more than 220 million people, UFC would witness an explosion in global fanbase if it could establish a solid presence in the country. And having produced some of the biggest names in combat sports including Anthony Joshua, Efe Ajagba and more recently, Deontay Wilder who reportedly claims to be from Nigeria, there’s an undeniable ocean of untapped talents.