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London, UK – UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation, is disappointed and saddened to announce it’s withdrawal of support to the European Judo Championships, following a threat from the European Judo Union (EJU) to cancel the event if UFC was to remain involved.
The EJU threatened to cancel the international event just eight weeks before it was due to take place on 9-12th April at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland, possibly jeopardising many athletes’ journey to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and harming the legacy of the Commonwealth Games, which took place in Glasgow in July 2014.
The UFC has agreed to step back and withdraw support from the event in the interest of Judo athletes and fans but continue to support British Judo and other combat sports federations and associations, remaining hopeful that the situation may be resolved in the future.
David Allen, Senior Vice President and General Manager UFC EMEA said: “We love to see sport thrive and athletes prosper, which is why the UFC prides itself on supporting all combat sports both mixed and individual disciplines. Our aim was to help Judo reach a new audience, increase promotion, help to sell tickets and create a buzz around the European judo Championships. It is disappointing to see that the European Judo Union cannot see the benefits of collaboration and celebration of all sports.”
Through their association with the British Combat Sports Federation, UFC was due to support the European Judo Championships with branding, marketing and also promotion of the event to their global audience of millions of engaged mixed martial artists – of which Judo is a founding discipline.
Just one week ago, mixed martial artists from Glasgow, one of whom started his career as a Scottish Judo champion, teamed up with Judo athletes at a press conference to begin promotion of the Championships. Robert Whiteford was thrilled to be involved in the event and said: “It’s superb to see the cross collaboration between mixed martial arts and individual combat sports, this is the development of sport and it’s important to embrace it. Sharing techniques, skills and knowledge is important for personal, professional and physical development. The UFC’s involvement in supporting the European Judo Championships cements that forward thinking.”
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Rousey's JUDO skills make her an undefeated UFC champion
The next Ronda Rousey could be discovered as the UFC aims to bring together all British combat sports with its partnership with the European Judo Championships.
Rousey, the Californian women’s bantamweight champion, is one of the UFC’s biggest superstars and started her sporting career excelling in judo.
The mixed martial arts organisation will encourage the development of future fighters through an affiliation with the judo tournament which takes place in Glasgow in April – part of Scotland’s successful Commonwealth Games aftermath.
“We are the hub of combat sports,” David Allen, the UFC’s senior vice-president and general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), told Sky Sports.
“People practice tae-kwon-do, karate and judo individually but if you want a career to earn a living, and you’re good enough, MMA is the sport where you can become a professional athlete.
“Mixed martial arts is embracing the whole family of martial arts with judo being one of MMA’s core components. People saw the UFC as a niche sport in the past but we promote the world of martial arts.
“Ronda Rousey won a judo bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, Nick Hein is a two-time European champion Glasgow’s Robert Whiteford is a judo player as well. The marriage between the two sports is something we want to help with.”
Scotland Chris Sherrington (R) won gold in the Commonwealths
Allen insists this focus on judo will benefit grassroots sport as well as developing future UFC talent.
“We are partners, through British Judo, of the European Judo Championships which take place in Glasgow. It’s part of the legacy of the Commonwealth Games where the British team had such success. Now we’ll have athletes from all over Europe in Glasgow.
“No matter what country you go to, there is a combat sport practiced. With football, martial arts is a truly global sport. We’re embracing these sports, helping people participate, and helping fans understand the training, skills, ethos and ethics of martial arts.
“We are actively involved in setting up something that will be called the British Combat Sports Federation, we want that recognised by Sport England.”
The UFC recently announced its first event in Glasgow for this summer but London and Dublin (who missed out on Conor McGregor’s title fight to Las Vegas) must wait.
“I live about seven or eight streets from where Conor is from,” continued Allen. “The champion is from Brazil so can you ask him to fight in Dublin? I told Conor he now has the honour of wrapping the Irish flag around him and taking the hopes and dreams of his nation to the fight capital of the world.
“London is the flagship for everything we do across the Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It’s the first city on our calendar. We’re looking at coming back at the back end of this year but it’s not looking favourable, it’s likelier to be early 2016.”