State senator says UFC brass ‘very, very interested’ in holding Hawaii event next year

Max Holloway // UFC

When UFC president Dana White told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello earlier this month that the UFC didn’t have a proper venue to bring an event to Hawaii, it seemed to give a TKO to hopes of a hometown throwdown for featherweight champion Max Holloway.

But a state senator says not so fast.

Sen. Glenn Wakai, D, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, says the organization is very interested in making a pit stop in the Pacific.

He says he and Aloha Stadium manager Scott Chan spoke with Peter Dropick, UFC senior vice president, event development and operations, last week Tuesday.

“He conveyed to us a very different scenario that he was very, very interested in having a fight here in Hawaii and to really capitalize on the popularity of Max Holloway,” Wakai said. “This year’s schedule has been booked up so we can’t get in before the end of 2017, but he was very receptive to the idea of bringing a UFC fight here next year spring or summer of next year, and have Max Holloway be the headline for that card.”

White previously told KHON2 he was lukewarm about bringing an event due to concerns of rain at the outdoor Aloha Stadium.

But Wakai says the stadium can put a canopy over the ring and its fan, and has done so in the past.

“Perhaps that was Dana White posturing that,” Wakai said. “The stadium can put a canopy over the ring and its fans. They did that, in fact, in 2005 when there was a K-1 fight featuring BJ Penn. Twelve-thousand people were there. I don’t know if it rained or not, but it was a very successful event 12 years ago.”

Wakai says a UFC event in Hawaii would bring great exposure to the state, and provide a huge boost to the local economy.

“When you look at the numbers, UFC fans stay longer than your typical tourist to a locale, and they spend a lot more. So from an economic standpoint, I think it makes a lot of sense to bring them here,” Wakai said. “You look at what the Pro Bowl has done for us in the past. The state pays $5 million to have the NFL bring that game here. It generates $28 million in economic activity. (It’s) a good plus-plus. But $28 million versus $37 million (potentially generated by a UFC event), to me, it makes a lot of sense to have this particular event funded and supported by the tourism of Hawaii.”

As for what happens next, Wakai says it all depends on the “Blessed” Waianae native.

“We’re not that far down the road. I think the discussions will get a lot serious after the next Max Holloway fight,” Wakai said. “It was conveyed to us that as long as Max Holloway stays healthy following the upcoming fight later this year, then that’s when serious discussions and those negotiations on the dollar amounts and the specifics on the venue will be discussed more seriously.”

White told us Holloway will fight Frankie Edgar later this year.

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