This appears in philstar.com
UFC’s Ken Berger talks grassroots & a Filipino version of Ultimate Fighter
by rick olivares
For Kenneth Berger, Executive Vice President and General Manager for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Asia, Fight Night 66 Edgar vs. Faber held last May 16, 2015 in Manila “was a beachhead”.
“Even before I joined the UFC two years ago, the Philippines was already on our radar,” revealed Berger in an interview at the Conrad Manila Hotel last Wednesday, August 17. “The passion and knowledge of Filipino sports fans is known to all within the organization; that was the big takeaway from last year. The country is a fount of martial arts and fight disciplines such as boxing and arnis to name a few. So it seemed like a natural progression for the UFC to come to these shores and bring our brand of mixed martial arts and see what else we can soak in from this country."
The world’s premier MMA organization is returning to these shores on October 15, 2016 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City with a fight card headlined by legend BJ Penn who will take on Ricardo Lamas. Berger also announced a flyweight showdown between Japan’s Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2-0) and Russia’s Ali Bagautinov (14-4-0).
The UFC executive also hinted at the possibility of adding a women’s match for the event. “With the increasing popularity of women’s MMA and who we have in our stable, we need to get them fights. We’re just looking at the possibilities for match-ups. We don’t want to simply put anyone on the card. The fans may not appreciate the difficulty and complexity on events as half of what we do is in the United States while the other half is in Europe, Asia, and Brazil where there is a high demand. We have to align the dates, fighters, venues, and other requirements for these events to happen. So there’s a lot of work that we put into each event."
"There isn’t a market in Asia that we don’t touch,” extrapolated the UFC executive. "For the Philippines, we found some great distribution partners from SM and new partner, TV5. But for us, it is more than just putting together events. We are seriously looking into grassroots development.”
“That entails tapping into local partners,” added Berger. “For partner markets, we have what we call a “Fighter Development Program” where we identify pro fighters with potential and soon to be high-level amateurs. We bring them to the United States for camps and skills development then unleash them in local promotions. We did that successfully last year with "Road to UFC: Japan."
“It isn’t 'Ultimate Fighter’ that is a very expensive and high-level production but it is something that will work for our Asian partners. So here in the Philippines, we have ongoing discussions on how to duplicate that 'Road to UFC: Japan’ program and I think that will be very exciting for our fans here. We won’t be able to roll that out in October. Hopefully, in the near future."
Berger ended the interview by saying, “We want to leave this nugget for fans to chew on — we were here last year and then a little over a year later, we’re back. Usually, we don’t get to return right away. Again the complexity of aligning different things as I previously outlined. For us to be back in Manila, you know we have something special."