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No plans for UFC in Hawaii

Billy Hull

BOSTON » UFC President Dana White is excited for what he believes will be the biggest gate ever for a mixed martial arts event in North America.

Aloha Stadium fits the bill, but Hawaii isn’t even on the UFC’s radar.

White spoke with passion about the UFC’s planned trip to Toronto, which rivals Hawaii as one of the biggest markets for UFC pay-per-view buys.

At one point White couldn’t wait to bring the organization to the islands, but he was pretty clear they won’t make the trip anytime soon.

"It’s the economy," he said on Wednesday. "To make the trip out there, people are going to have to travel to Hawaii for the event and people aren’t really doing that right now."

The only real UFC presence in Hawaii came when the organization promoted the rematch between Georges St-Pierre and B.J. Penn, which took place in January 2009.

A press conference was held at the Blaisdell Concert Hall and the line to get in wrapped around the building hours before just to hear the fighters talk.

Imagine if it was a fight.

Many thought that once the state started regulating the sport just over a year ago, a UFC event in Hawaii would soon follow.

However, issues with a tax implemented in the regulations, which was eventually changed, delayed the UFC’s pursuit to come to the islands.

Now, the UFC head man says the economy makes holding an event in the middle of the Pacific Ocean unprofitable.

"It’s definitely not personal," White said. "Hawaii isn’t big enough to hold the event itself. You need people coming from the states, people coming from Japan. We’d have to carefully plot out a trip to Hawaii.

"We’re calculated guys. We only move into a market when we know it’s going to do well."

One glance at the attendance for recent local shows at the Blaisdell Arena proves his point.

GalaxyMMA held an event on Aug. 6 that drew fewer than 1,000 people. X-1, the biggest name currently running shows in Hawaii, struggles to fill half the arena.

Its Sept. 11 show, featuring Niko Vitale and Kala Kolohe Hose as the main attraction, will be the ultimate test to gauge local interest in MMA. If Vitale and Hose can’t get 5,000 into the Blaisdell, then White’s point makes sense.

It’s a far cry from just a few years ago, when the Blaisdell Arena was sold out for Icon Sport and Rumble on the Rock events.

"There was a time, when this thing first got regulated, if it wasn’t for the tax thing, we would have been there in 5 minutes," White said. "It would have happened."

Penn, who fights Frankie Edgar in a rematch for the lightweight title tomorrow night at UFC 118 at the TD Garden, isn’t on speaking terms with White and has no idea if the UFC will ever make it to Hawaii.

"It’s sad, really," Penn said. "It’d be a great thing for the state of Hawaii."


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