Only weeks after state authorities sanctioned mixed martial arts fights in California, the sport's leading U.S. brand on Monday announced plans for an April 15 card at the Arrowhead Pond.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship program marks the first of a series of big-ticket events in California, UFC president Dana White said.
"This is very important for us," White said. "The hotbed of MMA has always been California."
Rules sanctioning MMA events in California took effect Dec. 28. The sport has in recent years demonstrated growing box-office and television appeal, particularly among younger men, with major fights staged at venues in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, N.J., that often play host to championship boxing matches.
Four of Nevada's top five MMA gates of all time, according to that state's athletic commission, involved UFC fights last year in Las Vegas arenas -- with attendance of 10,000 or more.
An MMA match features fighters who are allowed to utilize elements of different striking and grappling styles, including boxing, kickboxing, karate, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. UFC events take place in the "octagon," an eight-sided cage.
The April 15 card, White said, will feature UFC heavyweight champion Andrei "Pitbull" Arlovski. Also on the program is a light-heavyweight fight between UFC stalwart Tito Ortiz of Huntington Beach and Forrest Griffin, a standout from the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," a cable reality show credited with propelling interest in the sport.
White said plans are also in the works for a May match in Las Vegas pitting UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes against one of the sport's legends, Royce Gracie of Brazil.