SUNRISE, Fla. – The UFC's return to South Florida was five years in the making. Unfortunately for area fans, it might be another five before the next visit – if not more.
UFC president Dana White, following Friday's UFC on FX 3 card at BankAtlantic Center in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Sunrise, Fla., said he was disappointed in the turnout – and that continued trouble with ticket sales in the Florida market have him perplexed.
When reminded at the post-fight news conference that it had been a while since the UFC had been to South Florida, White quickly quipped, "It's going to be a while again."
The UFC boss said he doesn't understand the promotion's difficulty with ticket sales for events in the Florida market.
"I love it down here, but we just have a hard time selling tickets down here," White said after the post-fight news conference. "It's not that I don't like South Florida – believe me. I wish we could do more events down here. It's just a really tough market to sell tickets."
White announced a live gate of $329,110 on attendance of 6,635 for Friday's card, which featured a main-event flyweight-title-eliminator rematch between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall, which Johnson won by unanimous decision.
Attendance during the eight-fight preliminary card was sparse, though the seats filled in closer to the start of the main card, which aired live on the FX cable network. Preliminary fights aired on a combination of Facebook and FUEL TV.
But though the card was televised for free, meaning there were some advertising dollars to be had, White said making sure shows have robust ticket sales will always be a point of emphasis for the company.
"If we show up and get 10 people in an arena, that's not a good thing," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "Ticket sales are what kept us alive before we got on pay-per-view. One thing about the UFC is, before we were on pay-per-view, and even back in the dark days when this thing was burning cash, we always did sell tickets. Just not down here (in Florida). It's so weird. I don't get it."
The UFC last visited South Florida in June 2007 for a UFC Fight Night card at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, not far from Friday's event at BankAtlantic Center, home of the NHL's Florida Panthers. And in February 2009, the UFC paid its first visit to Tampa for a UFC Fight Night at USF Sun Dome. That show had a gate of $428,000 and attendance of nearly 7,600, both of which topped Friday's card.