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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Ultimate Fighting's new recruit

Britain's Michael Bisping (above) and Elvis Sinosic of Australia
Michael Bisping (above) is Britain's biggest star in UFC
One of British boxing's greatest warriors, Wayne McCullough, has joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship organisation as an official spokesperson.

And the Olympic silver medallist and former WBC bantamweight champion believes his first love has a lot to learn from a sport that has taken America by storm in recent years.

Belfast born McCullough - who has fought a who's who of the top little men in his boxing career - is highly respected both in and out of the ring after developing a twin career as a sports writer and broadcaster and is as qualified as anyone to assess the UFC's meteoric rise.

"The UFC is doing everything right that boxing has been doing wrong," McCullough said.

"I love both sports - they are both about courage, fitness and excitement - but they are different at the same time.

I'm going to start taking MMA lessons just because it looks great fun

Wayne McCullough

"I don't see why fight fans have to choose between the two, but I think a lot of boxing promoters are very worried when they see the UFC getting the young audience which just isn't interested in boxing and hasn't been for a while now."

The UFC's most recent event last Saturday drew 800,000 more viewers on American television than Ricky Hatton's defeat of Jose Luis Castillo the same night.

And more than 10,000 tickets have already been sold for the UFC's London card at the O2 Arena on 8 September, and this after sell-out shows in Manchester and Belfast earlier this year.

While the 36-year-old McCullough still plans to continue his ring career, part of his new role with the UFC will be to help the British media better understand the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), a combination of boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

The Belfast battler said: "I think some old-school boxing writers just don't want to sit down and actually learn about the sport.

Wayne McCullough (left) and Oscar Larios
McCullough's (left) last fight was against Oscar Larios in 2005

"I can understand that a little, because I only attended my first UFC event four years ago. I'd known Dana White - the UFC's president - for years and I went to a Vegas card just to see what he'd been doing.

"But I was blown away by the skills these fighters need to fight in the Octagon [the eight-sided 'ring' in which UFC fighters compete].

"People who are saying it is street fighting don't really look at the techniques on the ground or - if they do - they don't know what they are looking at.

"People talk about them being allowed to kick and use chokes, but you can do that in judo in the Olympics. Are the judo gold medallists street fighters?

"I'm the type of person who wants to learn about new things - I'm going to start taking MMA lessons just because it looks great fun.

"I love boxing and what it has given me in life but if I were a young kid all over again I can't say that I wouldn't have gone into mixed martial arts instead of boxing."

McCullough isn't the first big name from boxing to join the UFC. Last year Marc Ratner, who had overseen boxing for years as the head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, joined as their vice- president for regularity affairs.

"The UFC is on a real roll," McCullough said. "Boxing throws up a great fight here and there but the UFC is putting on the best versus the best on every single show and the fans know that."

And McCullough believes the UFC will very soon enjoy the kind of mainstream media coverage in the UK that it enjoys back in the US.

"It is bigger than boxing in America," he said. "The sport of boxing is great but the business side of it has been in a real mess for so long now.

"It needs new stars and, more importantly, new promoters with an up-to-date way of promoting the sport. Meanwhile, the UFC is producing new stars every month it seems."

SEE ALSO
Boxing's biggest fight
20 Apr 07 |  Boxing


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