In the UK, UFC (stand E015) began a licensing programme two years ago after establishing its London office. The UFC holds attendance and merchandise records in the six biggest venues in the UK, leading to claims it is the biggest indoor sport in the country.
Marshall Zelaznik, UK president, comments: "We have some of the most passionate fans in the world, there is a whole lifestyle around the UFC, and licensing is a big part of the business."
The Ultimate Fighting Championship began in 1993, with the idea of finding out which fighting style was superior to another, so for instance - would someone with a black belt in karate be able to beat a boxer.
Zelaznik explains: "From that time to now, what we discovered was that a fighter had to know a mix of the martial arts in order to be successful and thus mixed martial arts was formed.
"Now in order to succeed in the sport, you have to become an expert in all of the fighting arts including boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu and Thai. In January 2001, we, Zuffa, acquired the Ultimate Fighting Championship and with Dana White as president, The UFC has become the fastest growing company in sports history, the world’s number one pay-per-view provider, and the sport of choice for a new generation of fight fans."
The first key licensees signed for the property were THQ for video games and DVDs, Jakks for action figures and Topps for trading cards. The firm has since gone on to launch a wide variety of products, some of which will be on show at BLE, including UFC Undisputed 2010 (THQ video game), clothing, accessories, fitness equipment, trading cards and UFC magazines.
Zelaznik comments on the choice to exhibit at BLE this year: "Not everyone understands the overwhelming popularity of the UFC, or the size of our business worldwide. We believe by exhibiting at the show we will be able to demonstrate just how big the UFC is – and it’s still growing."
He continues: "There are a number of areas we feel we could comfortably target but at this point we are just excited about the opportunity to expand our licensing programme."