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UFC yet to announce Wembley Arena co-main event
The co-main event for London's Wembley Arena card in February has yet to be revealed, Garry Cook, the UFC executive vice-president and managing director of EMEA, told ESPN on Tuesday.
Cook has been part of a team effort to bring an outstanding main event to the UK early in 2013, with Renan Barao taking on Michael McDonald in an interim bantamweight title showdown. Tickets, unsurprisingly, are disappearing rapidly.
A total of eight bouts have currently been announced for the February 16 show, with the likes of Jimi Manuwa, Terry Etim and Che Mills all on the card. But Cook says the co-main event will be coming in the near future.
"That hasn't been announced yet," Cook told ESPN. "Like everything, these things are unpredictable.
"We thought we had it nailed down about eight days ago but things occur that you can't control. So we're always going to be at the beck and call of these highly tuned athletes, as we've seen with the cancelled event earlier this year [at UFC 151].
"We'll have a co-main event and we'll be announcing that very shortly. We're excited by the co-main, we've got a couple of things to pull off but I think we'll be in a good place."
The name of Carlos Condit had been linked to the UK card, and one theory might be that Rory MacDonald's weekend decision to call out Condit for a rematch in his native Canada could have inspired a switch in the UFC's thinking.
Cook prefers not to deal in speculation, opting instead only to deal with the facts surrounding the London event. And the fact is, as Cook explains, that a catalogue of fighters want to come to Europe.
"Fighters are telling us: 'I want to fight in London, I want to fight in Stockholm, or Manchester, or wherever it may be'. That's interesting, because when a fighter wants to be somewhere - and Jimi Manuwa made his statement for London a couple of weeks ago, that's a fighter who wants to be in front of his fans and wants to be there."
Cook said in a statement at the start of December that the Wembley Arena event would be one of three held in Europe during 2013, but he does not rule out the possibility of a fourth leaping onto the calendar. The UFC is changing the way it approaches the European market, with even greater emphasis being placed on what the fans want, and Cook cautiously predicts a fourth event might materialise.
"I certainly don't think it'll be any less [than three]," he said. "The plans we have for Europe get everybody excited in Vegas, and they want to make sure we have momentum. That momentum is building.
"I don't in 2013 see it being any less than three, I would hazard a guess there might be one more, maybe, but as 2014 rolls around it'll definitely be in the four region. And out of 34 events, that's between 10-15 per cent of UFC cards in Europe. That's not a bad start.
"We have tremendous support from Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, who I admire and respect, they are committed to building the European market - particularly the UK.
"There is more engagement from UK fans than what we perhaps give it credit for, and we need to start delivering UFC content and product for them. They want something that's real, important, and they want it to have meaning. That's why we all at the UFC have to come up with the cards."