One of the most noticeable aspects of the new venue for “Dana White’s Contender Series” is how much cooler the new location is than the old building in an office park behind the Palms.
“Any of you that were ever in the old place will notice right away the air conditioning and bathrooms,” White joked while guiding a tour of the new UFC Apex facility in southwest Las Vegas just across the street from UFC headquarters.
The building will eventually bring all of the UFC’s production capabilities under one roof. An arena that can be configured to seat 1,500 spectators for live mixed martial arts events, including the ‘Contender Series’ and “The Ultimate Fighter,” is the crown jewel.
“UFC Apex is going to be a massive game changer for combat sports and for UFC,” White said. “This facility gives us the flexibility to try new things and push the envelope on producing and distributing combat sports all over the world. We are limited only by my imagination.
“When you think of where we started and where we are now, it’s pretty incredible.”
It has been a long journey for the UFC. When White first convinced friends Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to purchase the fledgling organization in 2001, he was running the company out of a map room at Fertitta Enterprises.
The company soon grew into its own building on Sahara just west of Palace Station before eventually constructing a massive global headquarters complete with the state-of-the-art UFC Performance Institute in 2017.
The organization and its parent-company Endeavor purchased the adjacent former Scientific Games building in late 2018 and began construction on Apex in October.
When finished it will feature 50,000 square feet of production space and another 70,000 feet of office space. The complete overhaul of the building included 18 miles of new wire, two new 12-ton support beams for the roof, 6 miles of steel studs and 170 LED panels on four displays.
The UFC will be able to broadcast live cards and studio shows from the facility as well as run the production for live events around the world. There are plans beyond just their own events, as well. White said they have the ability to host boxing and kickboxing events as well as wrestling or jiu-jitsu tournaments. There are also plans for comedy shows and concerts.
Tuesday night marked the first event in the new facility as Season 3 of ‘DWCS’ kicked off. It was a thrill for Las Vegan Punahele Soriano, who was one of two fighters from the four-bout card awarded a UFC contract.
“It was crazy,” he said after scoring a unanimous decision over middleweight Jamie Pickett in the featured bout. “You know how when you’re walking at the top of a high rise and they tell you not to look down? I was trying not to look around. I didn’t want to look around and see the bright lights and the fans and get starstruck by it all. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to keep my eyes on my opponent.”
Heavyweight Yorgan de Castro was also awarded a contract for his quick knockout of Alton Meeks to open the card.
Hannah Goldy and Brendan Loughnane scored wins but were not offered a contract.
It was a more elaborate production than when the show used to be taped in a corner unit of the Windriver Industrial Complex and victorious fighters would await their fate in a staff kitchen.
Now, there are directors’ chairs on a soundstage with cameras capturing their emotions when White announces which fighters will join the UFC. The new building also has dedicated rooms for post-fight medicals, the Nevada Athletic Commission, the organization’s social media teams and production crew, as well as locker rooms, engineering and production offices, 12 general-purpose rooms, a media lounge and a VIP Suite above the arena floor.
“As we’ve grown, to walk around and have this be our reality right now is awesome,” White said. “This place was designed for fighting.”
Dana White Contender Series
■ Punahele Soriano (6-0) def. Jamie Pickett (9-4), middleweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
■ Hannah Goldy (4-0) def. Kali Robbins (6-3), women’s strawweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
■ Brendan Loughnane (17-4) def. Bill Algeo (12-4), featherweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
■ Yorgan De Castro (5-0) def. Alton Meeks (3-1), heavyweights, knockout, round 1 (4:45).