Every Wednesday, The MMA Corner’s Duncan Price will bring a view of the MMA world from across the pond in England, covering well-known British fighters within the UFC and Strikeforce, and also looking at significant events put on by British promotions within the borders of the United Kingdom.

UK MMA – 2012 Preview

The short period between Christmas and New Year seems like an excellent time to look ahead to 2012. Next year should prove to be interesting for all British MMA fans with several significant storylines promising to unfold. In this week’s Brits & Pieces, we review the situation so far and turn our attention to how things may progress over the coming twelve months.

The Continued Development of British Promotions

The biggest factor in emergence of British MMA in the past few years has been the continued growth of our national promotions. Stand-out performers include the likes of BAMMA, Cage Warriors and UCMMA/Cage Rage, who have all secured television deals and are looking to progress to the next level.

The UFC purchased its closest rival, Strikeforce, in March, leaving a gap open for newer or smaller organisations to fill the void not only in America, but also internationally.

Joseph Duffy (L) and Ivan Musardo battle at Cage Warriors 44 (WWBRD.com)

BAMMA have taken advantage of this opening by snapping up some of the fighters let go by the UFC, whether it be for poor performance or disciplinary issues. One of the biggest signings was former UFC middleweight title contender Nate Marquardt, who will make his debut next year at BAMMA 9. The very fact that BAMMA can attract this level of talent says a great deal about the promotion’s future intentions.

If BAMMA can iron out some issues it has had with broadcasting live action and increase its overall production values, I can see it forging ahead as one of Europe’s leading MMA promotions in 2012.

Cage Warriors had a stand-out year in 2011 as it not only diversified into the Middle East, but also other areas of the UK. Graham Boylan and his assembled staff have put a lot of work into returning the company to its former glory and after signing an exclusive deal with Sky Sports they look to be well on the way.

Next year, Cage Warriors are not only looking to hold more events than ever before, but also extend its global reach by holding events in the likes of Hungary and Turkey. Many fans I have spoken to believe that Cage Warriors is the leading national promotion and that is a reputation I’m sure they would like to cement as we move into next year.

Action from Cage Rage UK 25 (WWBRD.com)

UCMMA, often also known as Cage Rage UK, has been ever-present on the British scene for a good while as president Dave O’Donnell is a long-time promoter and proponent of MMA. One of the most consistent British organisations, Cage Rage UK has made The Troxy in London its home and barely a month goes by without a highly-charged fight card at the venue.

It was confirmed recently that infamous Rough House welterweight Paul Daley had agreed to headline the promotion’s upcoming event in February. This is a big-name signing, even if it only works out short-term, and a clear statement that Cage Rage UK is not going to be shy in attempting to capture elite level competitors.

There are many other national and regional promotions deserving of praise and I hope they see the three discussed above as a benchmark to aim for in 2012.

Bisping will get a Title Shot

Some pundits thought that a win over Jason “Mayhem” Miller at the recent TUF Finale would be enough to propel British middleweight Michael Bisping to a title shot, but it was not to be.

Michael Bisping (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

The No. 1 contender to Anderson Silva’s belt will now be decided by a match-up between Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz at UFC on Fox 2.

Ironically, Bisping will compete on the same card against former title-challenger and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia.

So Bisping was passed over, but all is not lost as there are two potential scenarios that could see him get the opportunity he has been working so hard for.

Firstly, Sonnen and Munoz could be involved in an all-out war. If both men were to receive lengthy medical suspensions, Bisping could jump to the front of the queue. The only unfortunate issue would be that if he were to slot into an event where the venue and dates were already set, it is unlikely that the fight would take place in the UK.

Secondly, and the most likely outcome in my opinion, is that if Bisping beats Maia, he then faces the loser of Sonnen vs. Munoz.

If he were to prove successful in that subsequent contest, then the UFC should look to have him face the champ, likely still Silva, in London at the tail-end of the year.

The Triumphant Return of Dan Hardy

Less than two years ago, Dan Hardy was preparing himself for a title bout with welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Hardy, although brave, was ultimately dominated over five rounds, proving that he needed to seriously evolve as an all-round fighter.

Dan Hardy (Stephen Albanese/tailstar.com/Sherdog)

However, rather than progressing, he went on a worrying run of four consecutive losses, culminating in a recent decision loss to veteran Chris Lytle.

The fans and media alike expected the Brit to be cut from the UFC roster, but UFC president Dana White came to his rescue, stating that “The Outlaw” would keep his job as he always gives his all in the Octagon.

So the future is uncertain for Hardy. It is unlikely he will be pitted against a title challenger in his next outing, so he may have to take a match-up against a newcomer or a competitor in an equally precarious position.

Don’t expect to hear much from Hardy in the first half of the year, but a main card outing at a potential UK event in the third or fourth quarter is not out of the realms of possibility.

I would like to see him face Matt Hughes in a super-fight, rematch Mike Swick, or welcome someone like Marius Zaromskis over from Strikeforce.

At Least One UK UFC/Strikeforce Event

We all know the saga that surrounded UFC 138, which took place in Birmingham this year. The promotion almost went as far as to say that they would not hold an event in the UK during 2011, only to cobble a card together a card at the last moment.

Could Gilbert Melendez and Strikeforce be UK-bound? (Strikeforce)

Although the level of talent on the show was perceived as fairly weak and the headline bout no better than a co-main at any other event, the British fans got behind the fighters and the weekend was deemed a resounding success.

Whilst many supporters were grateful that they were able to see some UFC action without travelling abroad, many were also left disappointed by the lack of star-power and any truly meaningful contests.

I do believe that it is time the UFC rewarded the loyal fans in the UK for their continued backing, even though they have been let down by false promises in the past.

I was personally disappointed to see the bantamweight title match-up between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson headline a free-to-air card in the U.S. shortly before UFC 138 when it could easily have headlined our numbered event here.

With the additional weight classes now in the organisation, that is exactly the type of tussle we would feel privileged to witness.

And so we move on to the possibility of the UFC coming to Britain next year. It is likely that the promotion will look to visit Europe first, as a potential trip to Sweden has been rumoured for the second quarter. My instinct is that they will return to England in the winter with a card headlined by Bisping in Manchester, or a World title fight in London.

One other possibility is that Strikeforce, now under the Zuffa umbrella, could attempt to go global. The fans are generally well-educated in all matters MMA and I’m confident that they would love to see the likes of Gilbert Melendez compete here in the UK.

Wishful Thinking – Expo 2012

The UFC held its first-ever expo outside of U.S. in 2010 when the promotion journeyed across the Atlantic to Earls Court in London.

Earls Court hosted the last UFC Fan Expo to hit Britain (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

The show as a whole was a big success with fans flocking from around the country to meet their favourite superstars and purchase MMA-related merchandise.

Since then, people have been badgering the promotion to bring the event back to the UK, with almost every other tweet aimed at the UFC about UFC 138 also enquiring as to whether there would be another expo.

My feeling is that it is unlikely that the UFC will hold another expo in Europe until 2013 at the earliest. Last year saw expansion of the show to Canada and it strikes me that they may be looking to hold one in Brazil or Australia before they return to our fair shores.

All is not lost though, as the UFC is not the only MMA promotion in the world, nor is it the sole representative of the sport.

One event to look out for is the 2012 SENI international combat show, which will be held over the weekend of June 2 and 3, at the ExCel centre in London.

Whilst the exhibition as a whole features all forms of combat sports and martial arts, there has been more and more focus on the MMA aspect in the last few years. Stars who have appeared or held seminars at the SENI include Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi and even UFC president Dana White.

More information about the SENI will be released soon, so stand-by for updates on fighter appearances, training seminars and potential exhibitors. We will, of course, keep you updated with any relevant news here on Brits & Pieces.

In Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this look ahead to 2012. It is important that we not only look to the UFC, but also our home-grown promotions to increase the quality and overall awareness of sport in the coming months. As they grow and generate more fans, we then benefit by seeing the stars of MMA compete in the UK.

This should be an interesting year for British MMA and let’s hope it’s one of the best we’ve ever had!

Top Photo: Paul Daley stepped into a BAMMA cage in 2011 and is headed to Cage Rage UK in 2012, just one of a number of high-profile signings by Britain’s growing MMA promotions (Lee Whitehead/BAMMA)

This piece was authored by Duncan Price. Follow him on Twitter, @DuncMMA