UFC President Dana White roughly a week ago was in Hawaii to watch local promotion Trinity Sport Combat for an upcoming episode of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s YouTube series “Lookin’ for a Fight.” Naturally, the possibility of a UFC event in Hawaii was broached. Backstage, he told my colleague at KHON2 News the following: “Max [Holloway] wants it bad. We want to come here. We love this place. We got to get this thing figured out eventually. We’ll see what happens. I want it. Does the tourism board want it? Do they or do they not? If they do, we’ll come. If not, we understand.”
This sentiment isn’t new. The UFC met with the Hawaii Tourism Authority in 2018 to discuss holding a potential event in Hawaii and was unable to make a deal. The UFC asked for a $6 million subsidy, but the HTA was only willing to offer $1 million. Neither side budged, so they parted ways. The narrative that took place afterward and resurfaced again this week essentially goes like this: The greedy UFC is trying to exploit the hapless HTA. On a cursory glance, it certainly seems this way. For starters, it’s not as if the HTA is some island bouncer preventing anyone from coming. It isn’t necessary to get a subsidy from them to hold any kind of event in Hawaii, whether it’s a Bellator MMA card or a Snoop Dogg concert.
More to the point, $6 million is a lot of money, more than the HTA gave the NFL for the Pro Bowl ($4.2 million) or to have the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Shanghai Sharks play preseason games a few weeks ago ($2 million). Plus, part of the deal in those cases was for the NFL and NBA players to participate in community outreach programs, something the UFC can’t do because fighters are not employees and are only contracted to do fight-related activities, like open workouts and media conferences. In this way, paying more money for one event that offers less than what other cheaper investments offer does seem ridiculous.
That’s not the full story, though…