Going Ringside Ep. 17: How Jacksonville turned into THE UFC & Pro Wrestling hotbed

Jacksonville Mayor discusses UFC/AEW relationships and previewing June 24th UFC fight

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is about to leave office following two terms at City Hall. One thing that is often overlooked during his tenure is the great strides he’s made with pro fighting leagues in Jacksonville. That includes Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and the upcoming Valor Bare Knuckle which is an organization being formed by legendary fighter and wrestler Ken Shamrock.

Curry sat down to discuss these relationships he’s developed on “Going Ringside” as UFC has a major fight night in Jacksonville on June 24th. The main event pits American Josh Emmett vs. Ilia Topuria from the country of Georgia. Also, former Jacksonville Jaguars Austen Lane makes his UFC fighting debut against Justin Tafa from New Zealand. Both Emmett and Lane sit down to speak with us on this episode of “Going Ringside”.

During the interview Curry said the relationship with UFC and its President Dana White really started to grow during the height of the pandemic. “I went and met with him,” said Curry. “We said hello we exchanged numbers and from there we started communicating from time to time.”

The fights that were of note were in both 2020 and 2021. In 2020 there was a fight in Jacksonville but no crowd. But the city and UFC made even more headlines in 2021 when they played for a packed house at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville when there was still no indoor events around the country. “Everyone said no in 2020,” added Curry. “He came back here first because we said yes. Once we said yes in 21 guess what started happening. Immediately he old me once they scheduled Jacksonville all these other venues told him well if they can do it we can do it. My guess is they knew we would take all the front end criticism.”

Historically Jacksonville had been a medium-market city where there would be the occasional fight or wrestling event. The pandemic changed much of that. UFC has now been in Jacksonville for four consecutive years while AEW is headquartered in Jacksonville. It’s owned by the Khan family who also own the Jacksonville Jaguars. During the pandemic AEW hosted weekly live shows broadcast nationally on TNT when no other cities were allowing such events. Around that time UFC got wind of the environment in Jacksonville and hosted a huge event with a large indoor crowd in 2021. “My guess is UFC saw that there were AEW events happening,” said Curry. “They probably saw that and said hey we need to check this city out.”

At the end of this episode we also highlight a new podcast that’s highlighting Jacksonville. It’s called “Jenerally Speaking” and the host joins us to tell us what it’s all about.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.