SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim to talk about Saturday's UFC 122 card at the König Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany.
SI.com: Not a lot of buzz surrounding Saturday's fights.
Wertheim: It's not a great card. This is not Lesnar-Velasquez.
SI.com: It's not the first time the UFC has featured a watered-down card in a foreign country. What are your thoughts on that approach?
Wertheim: This is the New Jersey Nets going to China. Eventually the novelty is going to wear off and fans abroad are going to want the same caliber of fights the fans in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and the rest of the United States get. But if you're talking about spreading the brand, they seem to have done a really good job. You're not going to see the top fighters going overseas (at least outside of Dubai, which is sort of a special case), but they're good enough and it's also a way to get some free programming to fans in the U.S.
It's interesting from a business perspective. But is this one of the best cards the UFC is putting on this year? Absolutely not.
SI.com: Isn't the anti-MMA movement in Germany stronger than other countries?
Wertheim: Definitely. It's certainly stronger than it is here in the U.S. It sounds like the New York state legislature with Gov. Pataki circa 1995. I know there were restrictions on broadcast and on advertising. And it's because of the strength of the brand, mostly by virtue of doing all this digitally, that they can still get such good attendance numbers. They can still fill three-quarters of an arena in a foreign country without TV ads. That says something right there.
The pre-Zuffa UFC got in trouble for basically taunting legislators. It's such a popular sport in so many places, I'm not sure I totally get the wisdom of picking these fights with unwelcoming countries. You have this groundswell of support elsewhere and you're underscoring the bad publicity, allowing people to go on TV and say it's a blood sport. I'm not sure I totally get why you don't just move on to the next market and deal with it later.
SI.com: What do you make of the main event between Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt?
Wertheim: It's a pretty shaky main event. Okami is not known as one of the more entertaining fighters in the stable. The prize is pretty major: It's basically a date with Anderson Silva. That's particularly attractive with all that's gone on in the middleweight division over the past 18 months, like Silva looking mortal against Chael Sonnen. People seem to be looking more toward the fight after this one.
Marquardt-Okami can be a good fight. Marquardt puts on a good show, he's been in there with Silva before. But I don't think I've ever been entertained watching Okami fight.
SI.com: Which of these undercard fights are you looking at?
Wertheim: Jorge Rivera meets Italy's Alessio Sakara in a middleweight bout. Sakkara is a fun fighter. I don't know what reception of UFC is in Italy, but that's sort of logical. Put a card in Rome and put Sakkara on it and I think you've got something. He's a fun guy. People were talking about Sakkara vs. Michael Bisping if Sakkara can win this fight.
SI.com: After the last UFC card in Europe -- UFC 120 in London on Oct. 16 -- Dana White expressed anger upon learning ESPN ran fight results on its score crawls hours before the Spike TV tape-delayed broadcast.
Wertheim: The age of tape delay has passed us by. That may have worked at the 1980 Winter Olympics, but with all the technology available today, it's naive to expect anyone to sit on results. At some point, in theory, this will all be live streamed. Every company that deals with time zones has to deal with this issue. Not a lot of people are watching Spike at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. But the notion that people who know information are going to suppress it because of tape delay is probably a little quaint.