Head for the border: Zuffa aiming for UFC live events and programming in neighboring Mexico

UFC 95: "Sanchez vs. Stevenson" is set to go down this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, England, on February 21 in what is expected to be yet another success for the mixed martial arts promotion as it continues to expand overseas.

In addition to its exploits in Europe, Zuffa was wildly successful with its debut in Canada last year at the Montreal-held UFC 83 "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2." Now they hope to replicate that success with UFC 97 "Redemption" -- assuming the UFC brass can convince the Quebec Athletic Commission to lower their swords.

With that, the UFC has conquered two of the three major markets they set their sites on in early 2006. While events in Germany, Italy and Japan are all a part of the organization's aggressive growth strategy, neighboring Mexico has somehow still eluded them.

Though that may be just a matter of time.

UFC President Dana White has recently returned from a trip to Mexico City in an effort to negotiate a television deal that would broadcast the country's first-ever live UFC event according to the Las Vegas Sun.

While it's never a good idea to spread the troops too thin, it's hard to be critical of the UFC's rapid expansion when it continues to produce record breaking numbers and global hype.

Think of La Conquête du Monde -- only instead of having a little plastic cavalry plopped in front of your door, you get two guys kicking the crap out of each other inside a steel cage.

I don't think there's been a better time to capture the Hispanic market, specifically in Mexico, which already has a deep rooted interest in combat sports thanks to the rich history of Mexican boxers like Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Caesar Chavez.

The UFC can now capitalize on the popularity of MMA fighters of Mexican descent like Diego Sanchez, Leonard Garcia and Miguel Torres, who are steadily becoming household names south of the border.

In addition, they can ride some of the free publicity that Bellator Fighting Championships will generate when the promotion debuts on ESPN Deportes later this Spring.

The Ultimate Fighter reality show is currently a hot ticket in Mexico courtesy of DirecTV, and I'm sure Zuffa knows that it's important to strike while the iron is hot, hence the recent trip to Cuidad des los Palacios.

Whether or not the UFC is able to hold a live event in Mexico in 2009 remains to be seen -- though it does look promising. If they can, I'm wondering how quickly "El Matador" will reconsider his early retirement.

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