The first sporting event inside the Sphere could occur in September, thanks to UFC CEO Dana White’s self-admitted obsession with the new venue.
White said he has booked the Sphere — the $2.3 billion, 17,500-seat entertainment venue, which opened in late September — for a UFC card for Mexican Independence Day. Fights are scheduled Sept. 14.
White said in a post-fight news conference for UFC 295 on Nov. 11 in New York’s Madison Square Garden that once he saw events at the Sphere, he knew he had to arrange something for UFC there.
“I’m super-excited about this,” White said at the news conference. “I love challenges. Everybody keeps saying to me, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to put the octagon in there. I don’t understand how you’re going to do this. I don’t understand how you’re going to do that.’ Remember that I said this to you tonight, I’m going to put on the greatest live combat sports show anybody’s ever seen.”
Sphere officials would not confirm if the date is booked.
White’s technical adviser said Wednesday it’s too early to explain how UFC would use some of the Sphere’s technological capabilities for the fight presentation.
The Sphere has a 160,000-square-foot screen — nearly 4 acres — that wraps around the audience, 2,000 speakers nestled behind the screen and a haptic system that vibrates on 10,000 seats.
UFC at the Sphere would be different from most fight venues. Most fight sites have the octagon surrounded by seats. But the Sphere has a concert stage with steep rows of seats on one side of the venue.
White said during the news conference that he enjoys a challenge the Sphere would provide one for him.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge, and I love every minute of it,” he said. “I can’t wait to dive into this thing.”
White said he has a good business relationship with Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which built the Sphere. The name of the company managing the building has since changed to Sphere Entertainment. He said the company “did everything right” when it opened in late September for the first of more than two dozen U2 concerts.
White said the Sphere’s operators “hit an absolute grand slam home run with the opening” and that since then, he has been obsessed with the venue.
While the Sphere has established itself primarily as an entertainment venue, company officials have said they’re open to some sporting events there and have used the exosphere screen to publicize other sporting events and teams.
When the building was first illuminated in July, it was in the middle of the NBA Summer League season, a Las Vegas summertime staple, and the Sphere was transformed into a giant basketball. James Dolan, executive chairman and CEO of Sphere Entertainment, also is owner of the New York Knicks.
In September, the Sphere’s first advertising campaign involved YouTube’s Sunday NFL Ticket, and the Sphere became a showcase for all 32 NFL team helmets.
This month, when it was announced the Oakland A’s were relocating to Las Vegas, the Sphere displayed a gigantic baseball with the A’s logo on it.
And, also earlier in November, the Sphere became one of the fan zones for the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, and for the race, F1 imagery covered the Sphere while cars raced around the building.
Dolan and his team have discussed staging boxing or other combat sports at the venue as well as esports competitions — video game tournaments that are popular worldwide.