Dana White, McGregor, Alvarez, Woodley, Florian talk about what it means to have UFC in New York City for the first time (w/Keller’s Analysis)

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

 On FS1’s “UFC Tonight” this week, Dana White talked about what he anticipates tonight for UFC’s debut in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

“New York is always a rowdy, fired up place with a ton of energy,” he said. “I expect this to be an iconic event. It’ll be one of the greatest live fight ever in Madison Square Garden history. For us to put on an event, and to become part of the history and legacy, it’s pretty surreal. It’s awesome.”

UFC Tonight host Kenny Florian said he is excited and it’s about time. “MSG was built for combat sports,” he said. “This city was built for combat sports, and finally, we have a UFC event here.”

Conor McGregor agreed. “There’s a very strong energy here. I look forward utilizing it in the fight,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m honored and overwhelmed and grateful. I’m relishing the moment.”

Eddie Alvarez knows this is a special night for him and his career. “It’s a blessing,” he said. “We’re about to do something really special in three days.”

Tyron Woodley is so excited, he told his opponent to be ready to perish. “They didn’t tell me they were going to walk me in front of the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali billboard and for me to fight at the same arena as Muhammad Ali,” he said. “Wonderboy better be ready to die because he’s going to get these hands.”

Keller’s Analysis: In September 2001 when UFC made it’s debut in Las Vegas, Nev., I covered the event in person in press row at a time when there weren’t nearly the proliferation of mainstream outlets and dedicated MMA outlets covering UFC, yet the Vegas debut brought out more media than usual. That, though, pales in comparison to what is likely to be not just an intense energized fan gathering, but an unprecedented number of mainstream big media outlets also covering the event, many for the first time. Dana told me 15 years ago after UFC’s debut event in Las Vegas was a disaster – all main card fights ended in boring draws and the main event challenger Vitor Belfort was a late no-show against Tito Ortiz – that anything that could have gone wrong, did. Somber fighters, knowing what was at stake, were apologizing at the press conference afterward for how lousy the fights were. UFC is much more secure in their place in the sports world that one event won’t be a huge setback even if tonight’s event is a disappointment, but nevertheless, this is as good a time as any in recent memory for the fights to deliver. It could be a boost to UFC’s profile and the acceptance of the New York based media establishment that MMA is part of the mainstream sports fabric if this show blows them away.

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