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Garry Cook 'excited' by 'seismic' shift towards UK fans

ESPN staff
December 13, 2012
Garry Cook talks to ESPN

Garry Cook, the UFC executive vice-president and managing director of EMEA, has formed an outline of the promotion's European plans for the next two years, and he predicts fans will be "very excited" by what the future holds.

Cook, who is keen to acknowledge the team effort that goes into running the UK market, spoke exclusively to ESPN this week discussing a range of topics, including his own role at the UFC, the potential for pay-per-view cards in the UK, and the exceptional role the fans have played in giving his a team a base on which to build the future.

Addressing firstly the mission statement of the company, he explained: "Nobody could ever have foreseen the growth of Google. Nobody could ever have foreseen Apple. And we are one of the very few who have redefined the landscape in sport. It's unbelievable what the UFC has been able to achieve in such a short space of time.

"What you have to do is then continue that momentum, and I have a strong belief that what gets you 'here' doesn't always get you 'there'. So how do you plan for growth and development? Keep doing the same things and expect better results? That doesn't always work. So we've got ideas that we think will work, but it's so unpredictable because it's sport.

"We've got plans for events and we've got a pretty good idea of where we're going over the next couple of years. People will be very excited by what we've got coming up. Will I divulge such plans? I've got myself into trouble in football by doing that, so I'll keep them close to my chest!"

Probed as to whether those plans include a second UK event in 2013 - to add to the February 16 card in London, Cook remained understandably cautious: "The first question is, inevitably, 'Can we have another event in the UK?' And we're asking ourselves that question. Will there be? At this point we don't know."

Arriving from a background in football with Premier League giants Manchester City, the assumption is that Cook might boast the necessary contacts within the police and transport industries to deliver UK events in the early hours. Such a scenario would make pay-per-view cards - and the return of megastars such as Anderson Silva - a renewed possibility.

Another theory is that the UK could align itself to the boxing model, putting on competitive evening cards that act as the precursor to 3am events in the States. Cook insists the path forward is undefined and his team will never stop exhausting all options in order to ensure the fans get what they want.

"Everybody looks at London as a global influence. We put the February card in London because we know everybody will be looking at us. As you move forward you have to find ways to make it work, but that doesn't limit you to just being a US television product.

"There will be events that could start early in the morning. David Haye and Ricky Hatton both fought in the early hours of the morning. None of these issues are decided upon, but the questions are always being asked internally."

Cook's role is not only to ensure the fans are getting the right fight cards but also to give them a greater overall interaction with the sport, whether it be through how it is broadcast in the UK or through improved merchandise opportunities.

"I love chatting to the fans and now it's about bringing more product to the European consumers," he said. "I'm certainly not engaged in telling people who should fight with who. As a team we have to bring the sport and everything in it to the fans and find ways to grow the interest in a compelling way across Europe, Middle East and Africa."

To this point, the UFC has largely been an American-spawned product exported to UK shores. Cook insists the major cultural change happening at the UFC is the aim to make it a globally-owned creation, so that areas like the UK and Europe have greater importance and say in how the sport grows.

"We were once an American television product going out to different regions and enjoying the fruits of that," Cook said. "What we've moved to is a global business with five regions. Those regions have to ensure the growth of the UFC, through broadcasters like ESPN, through fight cards… every fight has to mean something.

"We're changing the culture of how we develop as a global business. It's a shift in mentality, behaviour, resources, it's a huge seismic shift we're undertaking and it's exciting."

And Cook insists Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta are more committed than ever to the UK market, naming the UK their No. 1 focus in Europe.

"Clearly the UK is our No. 1 focus in Europe in the short-term," Cook said. "Scandinavia is also a huge market, we've seen success there - Stockholm sold out in three hours.

"But whenever you're sat in a meeting and Lorenzo Fertitta asks, 'What are we doing currently in the UK?' you know the fans have played their part in putting us on the map in the UFC. So the message is 'thank-you'.

"When Dana asks about the UK, if it wasn't for the fans, they wouldn't be asking that question."

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