The UFC has become something of a cult phenomenon since it has risen to global prominence over the past decade. And now it looks as if a British version might be in the pipeline, one of the UKs most recognisable boxers, Amir Khan, fronts it.
As well as putting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) firmly on the map, the UFC is an American championship which has marketed itself to the world through a succession of shrewd media deals and the promotion of star names such as Conor McGregor, Randy Couture, and Ronda Rousey.
One of the UFC’s most successful markets outside the US has been the UK. It is broadcast on cable channel BT Sport and frequently covered in the tabloid media. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that plans are afoot to set up the UKs own MMA league. Amir Khan seems like the perfect man to front it.
Khan is as close to a household name in the UK as boxing has right now. He is a former world champion at both light-welterweight and welterweight divisions and also won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.
He has always retained an interest in other business ventures out of the ring too. It includes setting the Amir Khan Boxing Academy in Pakistan and a whole host of charitable ventures. Now it seems he has his eyes set on the growing interest in Mixed Martial Arts.
Khan had taken a financial stake in an organisation called ‘Super Fight League’. Super Fight League is an indian promotion which runs a Mixed Martial Arts league in the sub-continent and describes itself as the world’s second Mixed Martial Arts League.
To date, the Super Fight League has run an Indian-based individual league with events taking place in various locations around the world. But with Khan’s involvement, it is now looking to set up a team event based in the UK.
Speaking to the BBC World Service, Khan revealed that they intended to launch a league consisting of eight teams. They would all fight each other, with the winners will become the UK MMA champions.
Whilst they haven’t formally announced the details of the league, they expect it to begin before the end of 2017. They expect the teams involved in different locations across the country in an effort to develop local fan bases.
UK newspaper the Mirror asked him how the league would function, Khan explained that “There will be eight fights every week and a points system. Depending on how you win a fight – by KO, stoppage or tap-out – there are different points. If it’s a draw, both teams get a point each.”
He also noted that the Super Fight League were already in discussions with UK broadcasters about the television rights to the new competition.
“MMA is big and getting bigger,” Khan explained to the BBC. “Fighters like Conor McGregor are making a lot of noise. It is hitting some high numbers on pay per view. The market is massive for us. We want to reach countries like India with a population of 1.2 billion people.”
If it sounds like Khan is just in the venture for the money, think again. He has previously noted an interest in joining the UFC and fighting someone like Connor McGregor, with whom he has a close friendship.
Amir Khan once again hinted that this was a possibility in his interview with the BBC. He said that “I am always involving in boxing but to have my foot in the door with MMA is brilliant.”
No doubt that a competitive league in the UK would be a big boost for MMA participation in the country. It is already on the rise. But the opportunity to watch live bouts and cheer on local hero’s in always to lead to greater participation, especially amongst younger audiences.
And if there is also the chance of some established household names, such as Amir Khan himself, taking part as well, popularity is likely to grow still further.
Whilst they still haven’t confirm the precise details of the UK’s new league, one thing is for sure; the future looks bright for MMA in the UK.