Hol­loway’s win­ning streak re­news in­ter­est in home­town bat­tle

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - BUSINESS | BUSINESS REPORT - By Al­li­son Schae­fers as­chae­fers@starad­ver­tiser.com

Feather­weight cham­pion Max Hol­loway re­tained his world ti­tle against Jose Aldo this past week­end re­new­ing in­ter­est in a pos­si­ble home­town throw down.

The Hawaii Tourism Au­thor­ity is sched­uled to talk to the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship (UFC) to­day, but it’s still un­clear if that phone call will bring lo­cal fans and tourists any closer to see­ing Hol­loway or any of the other 11 Hawaii guys on the UFC’s ros­ter up close and per­sonal.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai

(D, Salt Lake, Alia­manu), who has been push­ing the UFC to come here next sum­mer, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion told him it would be in­ter­ested if Hol­loway con­tin­ued his win­ning streak un­in­jured. Hol­loway’s win Satur­day at the main event of the UFC 218 in Detroit ex­tended the 145-pound fighter’s win­ning streak to 12 and drove his fans wild. It’s also upped the ante for lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions like the HTA that have been on the fence about bring­ing the Wa­ianae na­tive home to bat­tle.

The state’s top tourism agency was no­tably silent when sto­ries emerged over the sum­mer about whether the UFC would con­sider Hawaii as a venue. The agency didn’t ar­gue on Hawaii’s be­half when news re­ports in­di­cated UFC was leery of hold­ing an event here be­cause it thought the state’s two largest in­door venues, the Neal S. Blais­dell Cen­ter and the Stan Sher­iff Cen­ter, wouldn’t hold enough fans.

The Aloha Sta­dium was raised as a possibility, but the rain-averse UFC typ­i­cally shies away from out­door fa­cil­i­ties. Wakai, who rep­re­sents res­i­dents who live in the Aloha Sta­dium district, said a canopy over the ring and its fans would likely suf­fice as it did in

2005 when BJ Penn drew 12,000. The big­ger im­ped­i­ment has been HTA re­sis­tance, he said.

“(HTA Board Chair­man) Rick Fried and (HTA Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer) Randy Balde­mor said it at­tracts un­de­sir­ables to Hawaii. I told them that in Ve­gas the UFC fan spends more and stays longer than an av­er­age Ve­gas tourist. I didn’t see any sta­tis­tics show­ing an in­crease in as­saults or ‘hooli­gan’ be­hav­ior,” Wakai said.

Fried said the HTA board has not de­cided if UFC would be the right brand for the state’s tourism agency.

“We’ll wait to see if they give us a pro­posal,” Fried said.

Les­lie Dance, HTA vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, said she is slated to talk to UFC to­day. If UFC makes a pro­posal, Dance said HTA’s sports mar­ket­ing con­trac­tor As­cen­dent Sports Group will take the lead in eval­u­at­ing it.

HTA has al­lo­cated

$5.5 mil­lion for its fis­cal year 2018 strate­gic sports fund, which is de­signed to at­tract sports prop­er­ties and events “that bring eco­nomic ben­e­fit, pro­mote Hawaii as a de­sir­able des­ti­na­tion, and de­liver pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences to Hawaii res­i­dents.”

So far, most of HTA’s largest sports com­mit­ments re­main fo­cused on golf, en­durance events, bas­ket­ball, foot­ball and vol­ley­ball. The agency is look­ing to grow its com­mit­ments to ten­nis, soc­cer, rugby, surf­ing and other water­sports.


Wa­ianae na­tive Max Hol­loway wore the cham­pion’s belt af­ter de­feat­ing Jose Aldo of Brazil dur­ing their UFC feather­weight mixed mar­tial arts bout in Rio de Janeiro in June.

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