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Lonergan in bid to bring UFC to New Zealand

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012
Dean Lonergan
UFC BID: Promoter Dean Lonergan.

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New Zealand's most successful boxing promoters are meeting UFC bosses in Las Vegas on Wednesday to explore bringing the fighting world's biggest growth product here.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a no-holds-barred mixed martial arts extravaganza that is threatening boxing's traditional reign over the fight game.

Dean Lonergan and David Higgins, the brains behind Duco Events, which promotes Fight For Life and pulled off the David Tua-Shane Cameron Fight of the Century, are meeting Marshall Zelaznik, UFC's Managing Director of International Development.

The meeting has been set up by Kevin Barry, the expat Olympic silver medallist and former manager of Tua, who also has a link to UFC boss Dana White that Lonergan and Higgins hope to maximise.

Lonergan has no doubt that a UFC promotion in New Zealand would "go gangbusters".

"There is massive potential in New Zealand ... not just for a promotion but also for potential fighters," Lonergan said.

"That's what we will be emphasising. New Zealand's Polynesian contingent is huge and they are supremely gifted.

"I think the United States is growing aware of this. The way Polynesian players are making their mark in the NFL with their gladiatorial approach has given them a huge profile there."

New Zealanders Mark Hunt and James Te Huna are already in the UFC's growing stable of fighters. Te Huna is acknowledged as a rising star of the light-heavyweight scene and Hunt is considered a possible future heavyweight title challenger.

"You look at those two, and then you look at guys like Ray Sefo and David Tua, and what they have done for the Polynesian profile in the fight game, and we already have a proud heritage."

Born in the United States, UFC has gained a foothold in Europe. It is pushing into Asian markets, and has already held three tournaments in Australia.

Lonergan believes New Zealand is a good fit and says his outfit would like to help make that possible, believing it has the track record to ensure success.

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