There comes a time in the life of many English mixed martial artists when fighting near home just isn't good enough anymore.
Not for the promotion, which wants to build stars it can rely on for the United Kingdom market but also must feature personalities that resonate with a global audience. It's neat to have local draws, especially in this time of heavy international expansion, but it's much better to have someone fans around the world will tune in to see.
Michael Bisping has reached that level. Of Bisping's first 10 fights in the UFC, five were held in England. Since then? Bisping's only competed on British soil one time, and it's been over three years since he's done so.
This may not always be the case, but for now, this is how it goes: The UFC wants to create stars for foreign markets, to be sure, but fighters who can star in all markets are much more profitable.
Jimi Manuwa, who defeated Ryan Jimmo (sort of) at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester, is the latest fighter to make the leap from local-market support act to potential star. His first three fights in the UFC have all taken place in England, but it appears those days are over.
"During the fight, I was texting with Joe Silva," White said at the post-event news conference. "I said, "It's time to take this kid to the next level – get him over fighting in the United States and get him in a big fight with somebody.' I don't know who."
Of Manuwa's three UFC wins, two have come by injury, and one has come by doctor stoppage. That's a fancier way of saying that Manuwa lacks any sort of emphatic victory in the UFC, not to mention the kind of career-defining win that should make White stand up and make proclamations about getting him fights against big-name opponents in the United States.
And yet, that's exactly what's happening. The only available candidate in the current UFC light heavyweight top-10 rankings is Gegard Mousasi. I'm not sure consecutive injury stoppages should earn Manuwa a fight with Mousasi, and "The Dreamcatcher" wants a piece of Fight Night 30 main event winner Lyoto Machida anyway.
But there's no need to rush things. If White wants a big fight for Manuwa, that's exactly what he'll get.
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