When our team at Greenspun Interactive was trying to figure out our sports strategy for the then-very-new Las Vegas Sun website in the summer of 2008, we knew we were dealing with a much different market than we had at previous newspapers.
I knew nothing about UFC at the time, and what I did know had me raising my eyebrows.
Now that I’ve been living in Las Vegas for a year, I understand it a little more. And I really do believe the UFC is Las Vegas’ major-league sports franchise. As Forbes magazine put it in their cover story from May 2008, it’s the “Ultimate Cash Machine,” with a likely worth near $1 billion, according to the article.
The UFC’s home offices are in Las Vegas. The operation is owned in part by the Fertitta family, which started/controls several Las Vegas casinos aimed primarily at locals in the area. And many of the UFC’s fighters live and train in this area.
More than any of that, when I walk around a mall in Las Vegas or I’m at my kids’ activities, I see folks wearing UFC shirts or TapouT clothing, or just always see these weird random references to UFC. When I am out to eat in suburbia, I hear people talking about the UFC kind of in the same way you might hear folks in Lawrence talking about the Jayhawks’ latest recruit.
Heck, one of the sport’s most popular fighters actually lives in my neighborhood.
A few weekends ago, as my son Johnny and I were videogame shopping at a big electronics store here in Las Vegas, I saw something that completely solidified it for me that the UFC is a big deal to many of the local residents in the Las Vegas Valley:
There has been a marked evolution in how our team has covered UFC over this last year. It kind of started with UFC 86. It has morphed and expanded to how we covered UFC 100 — the recent “super fight” held July 11 here in Las Vegas.
We pulled out all the stops and by the time it was all over, we had built a full-fledged site for the event, with our team’s utility infielder, Billy Steffens, doing much of the site development.
So, what did the coverage look like?
* Our main MMA/boxing writers — Andy Samuelson and Brett Okamoto — produced nearly 20 stories leading up to and from the event. And that doesn’t include the tons of content about UFC 100 that came from our organization’s other journalists.
* We had a live blog on Fight Night.
* And great post-fight coverage.
* An interactive timeline of the history of the UFC built by our team’s resident MacGyver, Sean Hellwig.
* And on Fight Night, Alex and Christine shot/produced/edited six videos documenting the evening’s events … all posted to our site by the time the print edition of our newspaper was hitting folks’ driveways.
We’ve watched as our traffic to lasvegassun.com grows with each UFC event.
This week, the UFC makes its first trip to Philadelphia with UFC 101.
And we’ll be there to document it with tons of stories, daily blogs, lots of photos, audio podcasts, cool video, reader-submitted photos and videos … the works.
It’s the kind of treatment that any major news organization would give its major-league sports franchise.
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