Monday, July 1, 2013 | 5:30 p.m.
Mixed martial arts fans in Las Vegas are going to get as spoiled this year as a child whose grandparents hit the lottery during holiday season.
Three of the expected seven or eight pay-per-view cards remaining in 2013 will take place in the Fight Capital of the World. Saturday’s UFC 162, headlined by a middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, would normally be the most significant card of the year.
But while the promotion puts the finishing touches on the annual UFC Fan Expo-included Fight Week, it’s concurrently preparing for the next major local event. Las Vegas will host the promotion’s 20th anniversary celebration Nov. 16 with UFC 167.
Headlined by a welterweight championship bout between Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks, UFC President Dana White hinted UFC 167 would be special.
“Obviously it’s going to be a stacked card for the 20th anniversary,” White said at a lunch with reporters. “We did special programs for it. We’re doing a lot of stuff.”
Another year of New York failing to legalize MMA during the state’s legislative session ultimately enabled Las Vegas to land the event. Unable to use the Nov. 16 hold the UFC had at one of country’s most famous venues, White figured it would be best to stay at home.
“Our original plan was Madison Square Garden — (Jon) Jones vs. Silva for the 20th anniversary,” White said. “None of that (expletive) worked out.”
St. Pierre vs. Hendricks isn’t a bad backup. Media and fans have clamored for the once-beaten Hendricks, winner of six in a row, to get a shot at St. Pierre, who hasn’t lost since 2007, for a year and a half.
It could end up coming in as the UFC’s best-selling pay-per-view of 2013. Las Vegas seemed like an interesting choice, as St. Pierre’s last four fights have taken place in Canada where he’s one of the country’s biggest stars.
St. Pierre headlined record-shattering UFC 129, which sold out in a day and attracted an attendance of more than 55,000 people, 2 1/2 years ago at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
He was supposed to make his following defense at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in November 2011, but a knee injury forced him out of a bout with Carlos Condit.
UFC 167 will mark St. Pierre’s first local fight since a UFC 100 unanimous-decision win over Thiago Alves.
“We’re getting to the point now where Canadians are like, ‘OK, Georges has fought here a zillion times. We’re ready for it to be in Vegas,’” White explained. “Canadians want to come down here to watch Georges fight.”
Days of fight-night and discretionary bonuses could be numbered
UFC fighters may no longer have a chance to earn extra cash with Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses.
Frustrated with the recent outcry over minimal wages for non-marquee fighters, White said the UFC was considering getting rid of the bonus system in order to pay preliminary-card participants a bigger base salary.
“The bonuses were something we’ve been doing out of the kindnesses of our (expletive) hearts,” White said. “That’s not something that was ever done or structured. We started doing it and that was it. It was something we liked to do, thought it was a cool thing to do. Apparently people don’t like it. They want the lower-level guys to get paid more money.”
Asked to clarify if this was really a move the promotion could make in the not-so-distant future, White answered emphatically.
“(Expletive) yeah, it could happen,” White said. “That’s what I’m thinking about doing. All the (expletive) lower-level guys think they need their money boosted. Everyone thinks it’s not enough money, so that’s easy to do.”
White responds to Tim Kennedy
White was set off on the fighter-pay rant after a reporter asked about recent comments made by UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy.
Kennedy, who makes his promotional debut against Roger Gracie on the main card of UFC 162, called fighter pay “pathetic” on a podcast last week. Kennedy, who said he stood to make $70,000 with a win Saturday but would only keep $20,000 after expenses, opined he could make more as a garbage man.
“Then be a (expletive) garbage man,” White lashed out Monday. “There’s the answer to that question.”
Kennedy apologized after the interview was released on his official Facebook page and praised the UFC, but the damage was done with at least one of his bosses.
“No disrespect, but who gives a (expletive) about Tim Kennedy,” White asked. “Is he selling out venues? Are they buying a (expletive) of tickets for Tim Kennedy?”
Bellator feud escalating
Less than two years ago, White said he had nothing negative to say about Bellator, the world’s second largest mixed martial arts promotion.
That’s changing by the day. White typically won’t refer to Bellator by name anymore, instead calling it “Viacom MMA” after its mass-media owners, and poked fun at the ratings for its new “Fight Master” reality show on Spike TV.
White said he fired off a taunting email to one of Spike’s public relations officials when the show debuted with 432,000 viewers two weeks ago. He got a response when “Fight Master” improved to 545,000 viewers with its second episode.
“Oh boy,” White said sarcastically. “Expectations have come down over at Spike TV these days if you’re dancing about 500,000 viewers. Good for you.”
The final season of the UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” on Spike averaged more than 1.5 million viewers two years ago. White has developed a disdain for Bellator because he feels it’s attempting to copy many of the successful elements the UFC implemented.
“Everyone else cruises in behind all of the hard work we do,” White said. “Everyone else just rides the wave. It used to drive me crazy, but now I’m getting used to it.”