The majority of UFC cards take place in the United States. In their attempt to conquer the entire world, though, the organization has taken their events around the world. They have held events in Canada, Brazil, Australia and across Europe, and they are soon heading to Japan. Typically, when the organization heads into those countries – especially for the first few times – they like to stack the card with as many cheering interests for the home town crowds as they possible can. When they first headed to Brazil, for example, there was a Brazilian fighter in all eight fights on the card, and a total of ten Brazilian fighters in all. The same has been true around the world – Georges St. Pierre has been a fixture on Canadian fight cards, for example. For handicappers, this stacking of home country fighters presents a real challenge. At first glance it would seem like these fighters would have a huge advantage because of the home crowd support. Sometimes that proves to be true, and other times it just doesn’t. The trick is to figure out which fighters are going to get a boost and which ones aren’t. The betting public will typically tend to favor the fighters fighting at home, so there could be great value in betting against them if you aren’t convinced the location will be a big factor. Here are five questions to consider when looking at these fighters:
Will the fighter get more support than normal? – A fighter carrying the flag of the host country will always get a whole lot of support. In some cases that will be a significant increase in attention compared to what they are used to – especially if the guy is typically an undercard fighter. Sometimes, though, the location won’t be particularly significant because the fighter always gets overwhelming support. The Canadian crowds went crazy for GSP, for example, but since he is one of the most popular and most talented fighters in the world he gets a very boisterous response no matter where he fights. While fighting in Canada will certainly not be a bad thing, then, it isn’t going to be as significant as some people will perceive it to be.
Does he have strong ties to the country? – Some fighters are very closely aligned to the countries that they are from. They train there, they live there, and they define themselves by their nationality. Other guys are from the country, but they have left the country long ago to train, live and compete. A guy who has already detached himself from the country may not be as affected by the response of the crowd than a guy who still lives there. the public may not also be as excited by a guy who used to live there than one who still lives among them.
Does he deserve the spot on the card? – When the UFC really looks to stack a card with local fighters – like they did in Brazil and in Australia – they inevitably have to make a stretch a few times in order to find fighters to fill all the spots on the card. If they didn’t do that then there just wouldn’t be enough main event fighters from the same country ready to go at the same time. If a guy is fighting in a fight that would likely be above what he is ready for if it was held elsewhere then he could be at a big disadvantage – one bigger than the support of the crowd could overcome.
Who is the opponent? – It doesn’t matter how much the crowd likes one fighter, or how loudly they support him, if the opponent is clearly and significantly better. The location of the fight can blind the betting public to these clear edges at times if they have really got carried away by the hometown angle. Location can be a factor, but it ranks far behind the fundamentals of the fight when it comes to picking a likely winner. It’s also quite possible that the public will have respect and admiration for the opponent that will overcome their love of their home country fighter.
Will the fans care? – The crowd at a fight isn’t going to be intensely excited and very vocal for the length of each fight, and they don’t have the stamina to be really loud for even part of every fight. They will probably be very supportive of the first local fighter or two, and they will be very supportive of any big name local fighters. In the middle of the card, though, the novelty of local fighters is going to wear off and there will inevitably be guys from close by who don’t get the enthusiastic support that the betting public would expect.