Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White was one of the dignitaries chosen Thursday to put one of the first golden shovels into the dirt for the groundbreaking of Las Vegas Arena.
White was thrilled to be part of the event. He’s even more excited about the potential for the finished product when the MGM Resorts-funded venue is completed in two years.
“It’s awesome. These guys have been great partners since Day One,” White said. “This company has been fantastic to us. It’s a big day for everyone. It’s a big day for AEG, MGM and Las Vegas.
“What everybody’s been talking about for years is that we needed an arena here. We needed this really bad. People don’t realize what a game-changer this is.”
White said the state-of-the-art venue will clear the way for the Las Vegas-based organization to have more major events in the city. The UFC already has several of its biggest events in arenas at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.
Those arenas lack some of the amenities of many of the new buildings the UFC visits around the world. White pointed out things ranging from as simple as improved Internet service to top of the line hospitality options in premium seating areas, crystal-clear LED screens and center-hung production elements.
White said he was unsure what the new arena will mean to UFC events at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay but that it will be a welcome luxury to have options when other events are in town.
He was blown away by the plans for the new venue.
“Everything they did was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in an arena,” White said. “Think about AEG. They’re the best at building management around the world. They’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all, they’ve built it all. They’re going to knock it out of the park.”
White said he hopes the UFC gets to host the first event in the arena, which probably will have a sponsor’s name attached to it.
■ UFC GOES SOUTH — After several years of trying to make inroads in the market, the UFC finally announced it will hold its first show in Mexico on Nov. 15 when UFC 180 takes place in Mexico City.
Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will headline the event against Fabricio Werdum, with the two serving as assistant coaches on a Spanish-language season of “The Ultimate Fighter” before meeting in the cage.
White often has said he expected Mexico to be a “slam dunk” market for the organization, but several road blocks were encountered along the way.
The path has been cleared now.
“Anyone who has followed this company and this sport knows I’ve been talking about Mexico for a very long time,” White said during a news conference last week in Mexico City. “I thought Mexico worked very well with this demographic and this sport, and I always knew it would be big here if we had a chance to come here.”
Velasquez is recovering from shoulder surgery but said he should be ready for the fight.
■ MENDES GETS SECOND CHANCE — Top UFC featherweight contender Chad Mendes will get a rematch against champion Jose Aldo on Aug. 2 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The bout will headline UFC 176, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mendes suffered the only defeat of his career in January 2012 when he was knocked out by Aldo in the closing seconds of the first round. Mendes has gone 5-0 with four knockouts since.
The event will be the organization’s first in Los Angeles since August 2012.
■ TEIXEIRA, DOS SANTOS HURT — Glover Teixeira suffered a torn labrum in his fight against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones last week and will undergo surgery.
Teixeira was hurt by a shoulder crank against the cage in the first round. He lost a five-round unanimous decision. He has yet to decide when or where to have the surgery.
Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos suffered a hand injury and has withdrawn from his main event bout against Stipe Miocic on May 31 in Brazil.
No replacement opponent has been named.
■ PALHARES WITHDRAWS — World Series of Fighting welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares has pulled out of his July 5 title defense against Jon Fitch for personal reasons.
Brazilian website Combate.com reported Palhares made the decision to be with his ailing mother.
The Las Vegas-based organization announced Fitch instead will fight UFC veteran Jake Shields, who will be making his WSOF debut. The location of the event has yet to be announced.
Justin Gaethje will defend his lightweight title against Nick Newell in the main event.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.