The UFC has big plans for 2009. After two years of 19 events per, the UFC will add between 4-6 new events to the calendar. One of my biggest criticisms of the UFC has always been a low number of shows. There are dead times during the year when nothing is going on and MMA loses its momentum. Obviously, it is not simple to put on events and no other MMA promotion comes close to matching the total the UFC produces, but I always felt like they were missing out on opportunities. Dana White and the UFC top brass must think the same thing because in 2009 they plan on saturating the market with all the events fans can handle.
A couple months ago, Dana White began talking about the UFC's global plan. He said he wanted it to be a worldwide sport that rivals soccer. Most laughed at him and did not put much stock into the bold statement. It turns out he was not shooting off his mouth and the UFC actually does have very real plans to go global. The only non-USA events so far have been in Canada and England. Both are places where English is a common, if not primary language. I'd hardly call either international. 2009 will change things dramatically.
There are talks of possible events in Italy, the Philippines, Sweden, Australia, and Japan. From my site visitor statistics, I can say with certainty that each of those nations has a strong fan base. Marshall Zaleznik, the UFC's United Kingdom division president, claims "In the spring of 2009, we plan to have two (international) events outside of the United Kingdom." This could mean the UFC's total number of non-USA events could reach 7-8 next year. That is a 100% increase over 2008's total of 4 (England 3, Canada 1). The last time the UFC had a major increase in events was in 2006 when they went from 10 events in '05 to 18 in '06.
The biggest question is what will the added events look like. Will they be Fight Night cards, Pay-Per-Views, or possibly some thing entirely new we have never seen? My best guess is the additional 4-6 events will be a mix of PPVs and Fight Nights. I do not see them adding more than 2 additional PPVs. They would run the risk of watering down PPV cards for the sake of a couple more shows.
No matter what the shows end up looking like, it is great news for MMA fans. The UFC does not want to let the growth of the sport pass them by. Some may worry about a weaker product. I think they are still well within their talent level, though. For all we know 1-2 of the events could be proving ground fight cards featuring less experienced fighters. I have been saying for years they should have 6 shows a year like that broadcast only on the Internet. At some point in the next year it would make sense for Uriah Faber and Carlos Condit to make the jump. Maybe one of the PPVs will be a UFC/WEC fight card with WEC fighters battling for UFC contracts?
The possibilities are endless. MMA is unlike any other sport because it is constantly adapting, and with the UFC's expansion plans, 2009 should be the best year yet.