Ever since Manny Pacquiao fought two consecutive fights at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in 2010, it feels like the UFC has been itching to put on stadium shows of its own. In 2011, the UFC held an evening of fights in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Rogers Centre, home to Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. For a baseball game, the stadium seats 49,282. A whopping 55,724 fans packed the house for UFC 129 to see their countryman, Georges St-Pierre, take on Jake Shields in the main event that night.

In interviews ever since, there has been speculation of the promotion holding another card in a stadium venue, rather than just an arena. There was a realistic chance of having the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen at a soccer stadium in Brazil, and UFC President Dana White has said time and time again that it will happen, only given the right circumstances.

But when news broke earlier this week about the next possibility of a stadium show taking place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it left me scratching my head wondering why.

The first thing that comes to mind with an event that would take place at an outdoor venue is the weather and how fighting outdoors affects the action inside the cage. Weather and sports have always played hand in hand with each other to some degree. Sports like basketball and hockey, which are primarily played inside except on rare occasions, don’t find themselves in the same dilemmas as football and baseball. Occasionally, playing a game in the rain, snow or in windy conditions are elements that the athletes are prepared for and can handle. They could play in high temperatures one week, only to turn around and see the barometer fall towards the low end of the spectrum the next week and not bat an eyelash at it.

Worst case scenario, the night of the fight brings horrible rainstorms into town. The Octagon, along with what would equate to the floor seats, would more than likely get some form of a cover. However, what about those who would be sitting in the NASCAR seats? Or if the rainstorm quickly turned into a thunderstorm, which would most likely cancel or postpone the event and therefore create more problems because fighters have weighed in for a specific date which only holds for 24 hours, making it a nightmare to potentially reschedule. Sure, Las Vegas isn’t exactly known for its rainfall, but you have to run through all possible scenarios when it comes to planning something like this.

Even if the fights take place under normal, nice weather, there would be many different bits at play for the fighters, as was the case at UFC 112, which was the first and only time the promotion held a card in an open-air arena. Undercard fighters would most likely want to fight with sunglasses on depending on where they are within the cage, while all of the fighters would likely become sweatier than normal due to the fact that they would be out in the dry, desert air rather than a climate-controlled, air-conditioned arena. Any fight fan who tunes in regularly and hears Joe Rogan add his color commentary will be able to tell you about the difference of high-level no-gi grappling between sweaty fighters and fighters who haven’t started sweating yet. Sure, both fighters involved would be dealing with the same conditions, which keeps things equal, but it would still be different from everything they had previously experienced, making it difficult for the fighters.

For the fans, sight lines would be awkward. Depending on the sport, arenas are built with the seats facing a certain spot. In football, the seats face the middle of the field to ensure that fans can see the action from goal line to goal line without having to strain to see. In baseball, they’re facing home plate, where nearly all of the action takes place. But with NASCAR tracks, it is a bit different. The seats are designed for the fans to be able to see as much of the track as possible, which often results in most of the seats being up higher, away from the actual track, allowing for fans to see what is going on when the cars are across the track from them.

Sure, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway seats 142,000, but that is taking into consideration the fact that the track is a mile and a half around. If the Octagon was placed in the middle of the tri-oval, anyone sitting in the seats would be about half a mile away from the action, but if the cage was exclusively against the side of one of the walls, a stage would have to be set up to account for the banking of the track for there to be level surface to fight on, but at the same time it would most likely leave 100,000 seats with far away, unwatchable sight lines, which begs the question as to why the event would even take place at the venue to begin with.

The UFC trying for a partnership, so to speak, with NASCAR would only benefit the promotion. After all, NASCAR is the No. 1 spectator sport in the country for a reason. If the UFC was able to somehow interest a small percent of racing fans that would have otherwise never tuned into its fight cards, then it would most likely be a victory for the UFC. But there are other ways for the promotion to try to capture racing fans. Fox, which already has the television rights to the UFC, has television rights to NASCAR. Purely having the network advertise for upcoming fights could do the trick, or the promotion could simply sponsor a car of its own.

But to try to hold an event at a NASCAR track is just silly. If the promotion wants to have an event at an outdoor arena, it needs to do it at one that has a retractable roof in the case of inclement weather, and it needs to ensure that there wouldn’t be any wasted seats. Fans want to go to a UFC card to watch the fighters in the cage fight, not to watch it all unfold while looking at a television screen because they’re too far away or have an obstructed view. The UFC needs to really rethink this idea before actually following through with it.

Photo: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Wikipedia)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.