Waianae native and current fifth-ranked UFC featherweight Max Holloway is on a campaign to bring UFC to the islands, and has recruited the help of two-time UFC Champion and soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee B.J. Penn.
After a third round submission victory over Cub Swanson on April 19, instead of asking UFC President Dana White for a title shot, Holloway brought up the idea of bringing UFC to Hawai’i.
“I was up for B.J.’s last fight and that was in Vegas,” said Holloway. “It was crazy. I felt like I was home, I felt like I was in Hawai’i. It just felt so crazy and I just want to bring that feeling back to Hawai’i.”
“We got to have one over here,” said Penn. “I think we like UFC more than anyone else.”
Bringing a UFC event to Hawai’i has long been a popular topic of discussion and the reality of it happening came close several years ago, but the deal was nixed when state MMA regulations required two percent of all pay-per-view sales to be paid to the state. However, those regulations have now been modified to a $50,000 limit — eliminating financial concerns.
In Feb. 2012, UFC President White told MMAWeekly.com that his original plan was to have Penn headline UFC’s first Hawai’i event, but after Penn’s loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137 in Oct. 2011, he decided to take some time off to relax for a while.
Despite the absence of Penn, White said, “We’re coming regardless.”
However, White would later tell MMAWeekly.com in July 2012 that he’d love to go to Hawai’i and do an event, but was worried about the potential weather concerns of having it outdoors since it “rains every 15 minutes.”
He then added that, “it’s not in our plans right now.”
The 50,000-seat capacity Aloha Stadium would be the most likely venue for a UFC event held in Hawai’i as the 9,000-seat Blaisdell Arena and the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center are deemed too small to hold a major event. The concern with holding the event at Aloha Stadium is that it would be held outdoors.
Penn recalled fighting in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112 — the first UFC event to be held outdoors in an open-air arena.
“They didn’t even have an arena,” said Penn. “If they can put something together like that, a canopy, [it’d] make Dana guys happy.”
Now, three years after White said that Hawai’i was not in the UFC’s immediate plans, Holloway and Penn are trying again to make it happen.
“The best thing to do is go straight to the man himself and constantly hit [White] up on Twitter,” said Penn. “Constantly hit up his Facebook and just don’t stop. By that time, it’s just like ‘You know what? Now I see how big this is.’
“What you do when you got a problem with a guy?” continued Penn. “You go straight to his house, right?”
White has not commented on the recent campaign.
Both Holloway and Penn urge the use of the hashtag #UFCHawaii to help garner support.