Still an Unknown Commodity

By Elena Katretskaya Dec 9, 2019

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has staged three events in Russia in the last 15 months, visiting St. Petersburg on one occasion and Moscow on two others. There were rumors about the UFC planning five events in the different regions of the country, but those have not yet been substantiated. While global interest in mixed martial arts seems to increase on a daily basis, attendance figures in Russia have not necessarily reflected the trend.

A few numbers to consider:

• UFC Fight Night 136 on Sept. 15, 2018 drew 22,603 fans to Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Moscow. It was the sixth-largest attendance figure in UFC history.

• UFC Fight Night 149 on April 20 resulted in a crowd of 7,236 at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg. No UFC event has drawn fewer fans in 2019.

• UFC Fight Night 163 on Nov. 9 brought 11,305 fans to the CSKA Arena in Moscow.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut in Russia had plenty of hype behind it and led to a quick sellout. Most observers believe it could have drawn a crowd of 40,000 had the stadium been equipped to accommodate them. However, past history has shown that the venue is not the only major factor in attendance. Ticket prices and locale also play significant roles.

The St. Petersburg event resulted in the smallest crowd despite the presence of an Alistair Overeem-Alexey Oleynik main event. A little more than six months later, the second Moscow show saw improved attendance. Well populated by native fighters, the fight card provided some promotional oomph and benefitted from the presence UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. A number of Russian fighters fell in defeat, but their setbacks were balanced out by performances from Zabit Magomedsharipov and Alexander Volkov. Magomedsharipov held off a late rally from Calvin Kattar, emerged victorious in the main event and moved one step closer to a shot at the UFC featherweight championship. Volkov shined in the co-headliner, as the former Bellator MMA heavyweight titleholder outpointed Greg Hardy in a tactical battle.

Russian fans are already looking ahead to the UFC’s next visit. According to UFC executive David Shaw, the promotion has two events planned in Russia in 2020, though the dates and venues for those events are not yet known.

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