BANGOR — UFC President Dana White admitted all along that bringing the world’s top mixed martial arts show here to the Cross Insurance Center was a personal desire that defied business logic.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night drew 5,329 fans, about 700 shy of a sellout, with a gate receipt of $321,470.
The fans were there early and into the action right away. The crowd’s enthusiasm peaked when bloodied Lincolnville native Tim Boetsch came from behind to score a stunning TKO in the second round of his middleweight bout against Brad Tavares.
Leading up to Saturday’s event, White had indicated that if the Bangor show, televised live on Fox Sports 1, worked well enough, he could consider a UFC return to Maine, possibly in Portland.
In the post-fight press conference, White was non-commital when asked if Bangor had shown him enough to warrant a return to Maine.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” White said.
“Like I said, the first one didn’t make too much financial sense and Lorenzo (Fertitta) and the team, everyone supported me that I wanted to come here and do this thing no matter what. I wanted this fight (in Bangor) to happen.”
Fertitta is chairman of Zuffa, LLC, the UFC’s ownership group.
“The arena was being built, they gave us a walk-through and I said, ‘… I’m going to make this happen no matter what,’ and we did,” White said.
The UFC receives revenue from myriad sources besides ticket sales, including its seven-year TV contract with Fox Sports worth at least $100 million annually.
So the fact that the Bangor gate was less than the UFC’s lowest announced gate of 2013 ($355,290 for The Ultimate Fighter finale in Las Vegas) won’t bankrupt the Las Vegas-based company with over 350 employees and offices in London, Toronto, Beijing and Sau Paulo.
But the small gate undoubtedly did not cover even the paychecks for the 20 fighters, especially since the UFC gave four of its standard $50,000 bonus awards, including a Performance of the Night check to Boetsch.
“For a guy like Tim, at this point in his career, to be able to fight in his hometown and pull off what he pulled off tonight, I know it was really important and special for him,” White said.
The fight card lacked mega-star appeal but produced entertaining fights.
Of the six main card bouts there were four knockouts and one submission. The only decision came in the grueling five-round light heavyweight main event when Ryan Bader beat Ovince Saint Preux. Bader (No. 8) and Saint Preux (No. 10) were the only top-10 fighters in Bangor.
“The thing that needed to happen tonight was that the people needed to leave this arena happy,” White said.
“These (fighters) delivered. I did my job and they did their job. We’ll see what happens in the future. Obviously, I’m biased. I’d love to come back here. I’d do it again in a second. But it’s going to have to make a little more financial sense for us.”
BOETSCH EARNED his Performance of the Night award after absorbing considerable punishment.
Boetsch, 33, was cut on his forehead and below his cheek from blows by Hawaiian Brad Tavares, 26, who won the first round decisively and was in control for the first three minutes of the second round.
Shortly after the crowd began chanting “Tim, Tim, Tim,” referee Kevin McDonald broke up a stalemated clinch against the cage.
Boetsch quickly turned the fight in his favor. He backed up Tavares with a front kick, then sent Tavares stumbling to the opposite side of the cage with a thudding left hook to the neck and side of the head. A right hand connection decisively dropped Tavares to the canvas and seconds later the fight was over via TKO at 3:18 of the second round.
“Once I started to turn the tide I could just feel the energy,” Boetsch said.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to fight so close to home and finishing things the way I did, it definitely feels good.”
Boetsch improved to 18-7 overall and 9-6 in the UFC. A loss likely would have meant his release from the UFC.
ETC.: Thiago Tavares of Brazil also earned a Performance of the Night bonus for his submission victory against Robbie Peralta. Alan Jouban’s first-round knockout of Seth Baczynski earned both fighters Fight of the Night bonuses. It was Jouban’s debut in the UFC. …
Tom Watson of Southampton, England stopped a two-fight losing streak with a decision win against UFC newcomer Sam Alvey that featured a wild flurry of activity by Alvey in the final round. Watson later confirmed that he broke his tibia in the first round of Saturday’s bout. …
In the main event, Bader took down Saint Preux nine times over the five rounds, including a couple of thunderous slams along the edge of the cage. Bader, a two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State, said he had to get back to his wrestling roots. “For awhile there I got away from (wrestling) and I feel like all my losses were when I tried to exclusively kick-box with guys. That’s my strength, wrestling. I need to mix that up with everything else,” Bader said.