Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 2 p.m.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship took its next step towards global growth Tuesday, announcing UFC 99 “The Comeback,” which will take place June 13 in Cologne, Germany.
Headlining the main event will be former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin taking on former Pride 205-pound champion Wanderlei Silva at a catch-weight of 195 pounds.
“June 13, 2009, is a huge day in the history of the UFC,” said company president Dana White, who was accompanied to the press conference in Cologne by UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta and German entertainment promoter and MLK CEO Marek Lieberberg.
"It has been a long time coming, but the best fighters on the planet are finally heading to Germany for our first event ever in mainland Europe.”
While UFC events have been held in six different countries — including the organization’s most recent show staged in London, England, last month — the foray into Germany is not only a first, but also a significant step in stretching its mixed martial arts empire even further.
“Our vision for the UFC has always been global,” said Fertitta, whose promotion is currently working on a deal for an upcoming event in Mexico.
“Following on from our successes in the United Kingdom and Ireland, our first card in mainland Europe is another significant step towards making the UFC’s brand of mixed martial arts the biggest sport in the world.”
It was originally thought that UFC 99 would feature a main event between UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn and No. 1 contender Kenny Florian. But Penn apparently requested more time off from his loss to UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, thus the Franklin-Silva match-up.
While both fighters are coming off losses — Franklin (26-4 MMA) suffered a split decision loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 93 in Ireland in January and Silva's (32-9-1) latest setback came courtesy of a big left hand from Quinton Jackson at UFC 92 in December in Las Vegas — both are still extremely popular in the sport, making them an easy option to market for an international audience.
“We are coming with a stacked card and a unique main event. Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva is another of those dream fights fans never thought they’d get to see — but we are making it happen in Germany," White said.
"Everyone knows Rich moved up to light heavyweight a couple of fights ago while Wanderlei is planning on fighting at 185lbs from now on, but this fight is too exciting a match not to happen and both these guys deserve a ton of credit for taking this fight at 195lbs.”