Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
Ultimate Fighting Championship is exploring the possibility of bringing a mixed martial arts show to the new 8,000-seat Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, its president said Thursday.
Rashad Evans backs Dan Henderson into a corner during UFC 161 in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Saturday June 15, 2013. Ultimate Fighting Championship is exploring the possibility of bringing a mixed martial arts show to the new 8,000-seat venue in Bangor, Maine, its president said Thursday, June 27, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)
"We're actually working on it," Dana White said. "I'm working with the casino up here, working with the venue up here to see if we can make it happen.
"A couple years ago it was a desire because they were redoing the arena. Well, the arena's done. It's more than a desire. We're in talks."
White is vacationing at his home in Levant. He is a graduate of Hermon High.
White said the discussions are still in an early stage, adding he has yet to determine if a UFC show would work financially.
"It would have to be a televised fight, which would be good for Bangor, too," White said. "It would be telecast not just here in the United States but all over the world."
White said gaining supporting sponsors is another key component.
"They have gaming up here now, a casino, so I'm trying to get the casino to help out," White said.
Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway is a 148-room hotel with gaming tables and slots in Bangor.
UFC produces more than 30 live mixed martial arts (MMA) events a year. As UFC's president and promoter, White is the omnipresent face of an organization that uses multiple programming platforms, including "The Ultimate Fighter" show, to broadcast in more than 145 countries in 28 languages.
"UFC is the worldwide standard in MMA," said Jon Lemke, 34, of Brewer, who is 3-0 as a pro fighter. "It's definitely exciting to think even about the possibility that the UFC could come here."
Lemke said the magnitude of a UFC show would be a boon to his sport.
MMA has gained a strong foothold in Maine over the past two years. New England Fights shows, co-promoted by Maine legislator Matt Peterson (D-Rumford) have sold out in Lewiston, Portland and Biddeford.
In March, that burgeoning interest led Bellatore MMA to host a live, televised card at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Bellatore is generally regarded as the second-biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
"Bellatore did a show in Lewiston and gave a lot of Maine fighters, including myself, a chance to compete on that next level and on that bigger stage," Lemke said.
White has noticed the surge of interest in Maine. He said the UFC is "absolutely going to start finding some talent out of Maine."
White was conducting a series of telephone interviews to promote the UFC's Aug. 17 show at TD Garden in Boston. It is scheduled to be the first live event on Fox Sports 1, a new 24-hour, all-sports channel scheduled to begin broadcasting that day.
"Fox obviously knows the power of the UFC," White said. "The fact that they chose us to launch a new sports network is pretty damn exciting."
Besides spending his senior year at Hermon High, White has a long association with the Bangor area.
Two years ago he donated $100,000 to Hermon High for athletic facility upgrades and to help fund the start of the school's football program.
He said some of his "greatest memories," from childhood are of visits spent at his now deceased grandparents' home in Levant.
"I spent so much time up here and I used to come up at such a young age that I actually still know a lot of people in town here," White said. "Last night at my house we did fireworks and half the town was at my house. It was awesome."
Known for his accessibility to UFC fans (he has more than 2.5 million Twitter followers), White said the fireworks crowd included many first-time acquaintances.
"Let me tell you what, if you're a UFC fan and pull in my driveway, we can hang out," White said.
At least on Thursday, White sounded like a man who wants 8,000 fans to hang out and watch his show in their own back yard.
"If I can even remotely come close to pulling this thing off, I will do it," White said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: