CHICAGO | The UFC will return to Chicagoland in January, more than three years after its last show in the area.
On Wednesday the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion, made official a Jan. 28 nationally televised card at the United Center in Chicago. The three-fight main card will be broadcast live on Fox and will be the UFC's first official Fox card under its new seven-year deal with the network.
The UFC last was in Chicagoland for UFC 90 in October 2008 for a pay-per-view featuring middleweight champion Anderson Silva. That show took place at the Allstate Arena in northwest suburban Rosemont. UFC president Dana White said it was important for the UFC to return to Chicago, and stressed the company wanted to be at the United Center due to its proximity to downtown Chicago.
"We were due to come back to Chicago and obviously this is the venue to be in," White said. "When we were looking at cities to bring the big Fox fight to, Chicago was a no-brainer. The (the shows that will be) on Fox are big fights, and we wanted to come to a major sports city."
Since UFC 90, Chicago area MMA fans have been calling for the UFC to come back - especially considering the sport's popularity surge even since the last time the UFC came to town. But in the last three years, the closest the UFC has come to the region has been Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Columbus, Ohio.
Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president for regulatory affairs, told The Times there wasn't an intentional snub of Chicago, but trying to schedule dates at the United Center around the Bulls, Blackhawks, circus and concerts makes it a difficult task.
"It's a very, very busy arena," Ratner said. "We were never able to coordinate dates, and this was the first time we were able to. It's been a long time coming. Allstate was a good arena for us, and we had no problem with it at all, but we certainly wanted to come back to Chicago, at the United Center if we could."
On Wednesday, White announced a "tripleheader" of fights for the Fox portion of the card - what he believes are three main event-worthy bouts. Chicago resident Rashad Evans will headline against Phil Davis, with the winner getting a light heavyweight title shot. The co-main event will feature Chael Sonnen vs. Mark Munoz, with the winner moving on to face middleweight champion Anderson Silva in June. And Michael Bisping, who just four days ago after beat Jason Miller in a main event in Las Vegas, will fight Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Demian Maia.
Evans, a former Michigan State wrestler who trains in South Florida, said he's excited to be able to fight in his adopted home city.
"It feels good," Evans said. "One pressure you have is that a lot of people want tickets, but that's a good problem to have. It's good to actually fight in the city I live in."
Other fights for the card have been announced, including Eddie Wineland, of Westville, against Demetrious Johnson and Chicago police officer Mike Russow against Jon Olav Einemo. White said other Chicago-area fighters could still wind up on the prelims. It is unlikely, however, that East Chicago native Miguel Torres, who fought and won Nov. 19, will be on the card.
"When guys fight in the UFC, it's everybody's dream to fight in their home town," White said. "Especially in this venue. I'm sure it's been a lot of guys who live in this city's dream to fight here, in this venue, in their home town, in front of their hometown fans. So I'm sure there will be."
Tickets for UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis go on sale to the general public Friday at 10 a.m.