Jazz Owner Ryan Smith Recaps UFC 291, Promotes Power Of ‘New Utah’

Jul 30, 2023, 10:32 AM | Updated: 10:42 am


Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje face off during their Lightweight fight at UFC 291 at the Delta Center July 29, 2023 at the in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITYUtah Jazz and Real Salt Lake owner Ryan Smith spoke to the media after UFC 291 to discuss the event, the future of mixed martial arts, and other sporting events in the Beehive State.

UFC 291

UFC 291 took place at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, July 30.

It was the second Ultimate Fighting Championship event to take place at the arena in 11 months. UFC 278 in August 2022 was the first UFC pay-per-view in the state’s history.

Less than a year later, Smith and Dana White set up what proved to be a sequel just as good.

Ryan Smith talks UFC in Utah

Following the event, the Jazz owner talked about the fight night and UFC’s future in Utah.

“We’re already talking about next year,” Smith said during his press conference following the fights.

The Jazz owner talked about his organization’s partnership with the UFC and some of the reasons why Utah is appealing for the MMA league.

“I think you’ve got the fastest-growing state in the country.  I think you’ve got the youngest state in the country and it’s been that way for a few years. I mean, it’s what brings me to want to go do what we’re doing in sports and our partnership with UFC. I think we’re both all in on trying to improve,” Smith said. “I think you look from the card standpoint and I mean, the last two years, there’s not going through the motions. I mean, we’re literally working to have an amazing event here and hopefully like the staple of the summer.”

RELATED: Members Of Utah Jazz, Celebrities Attend UFC 291 At Delta Center

Smith also discussed the future of the UFC in Utah.

“We’re taking it year by year but I was just talking to folks about next year, what we can improve on, how we go bigger. I think at the numbers that’ll come out, they’re significantly better than last year,” Smith said. “As you’re coming into a market, you know, people can start putting it on the calendar, they know. Everyone who was here is gonna go tell their friends, right? And you start to see that and you know, we have a lot of people come in from out of town as well. I mean, if you look at the proximity to the airport, how we’re here. It’s just easy. Utah is easy and it just works.”

Ryan Smith on “New Utah”

During his press conference, Smith also talked about the work his company, Smith Entertainment Group, has done since acquiring majority ownership of the Jazz in 2020.

“If you look at SEG and what we’ve done, we’re two years, two and a half years in taking over the Jazz. Obviously the arena, we brought the Delta Center back. I think it’s the first time in sports we’re actually able to bring the naming back. Karl [Malone] was here tonight. He walks in, he’s like ‘Holy cow, it just feels different,” right?” the Jazz owner said. “We just launched a media company to go wall-to-wall in the state of Utah so what, three-point-something million people have access to games. It’s the first in the NBA, the first thing like it. We’re going direct-to-consumer as well. We’re gonna sign a deal to go outside of the state because we’re, you know, 30 minutes from Wyoming and Idaho and there’s a lot of people from there that came down to see the fight.”

Smith continued to speak bullishly on the Beehive State and the power of “New Utah.”

“As you start to look at the power of how to activate this new Utah, and when it comes together, I think All-Star Game was the first time it all came together and everyone’s like ‘Whoa, this is what it looks like,’ since the Olympics maybe,” Smith stated. “If you go fast forward, there’s events like this where it came together. You look at the Olympics coming back, it’s coming together and I think people are realizing like what the power of this place is. So hockey’s on the radar. You know, I think we could walk in on Day One and have an incredible presence. So, I’m excited. Obviously, I’m in the business. So it’s fun.”

No dates have been set for another UFC event in Utah. In the meantime, Smith will continue his push to land an NHL franchise and evangelize others on his home state.

Kyle Ireland is a Sports Producer and Locals in the NFL Insider for KSLSports.com. He’s also co-host of the Yards After College Podcast. Follow him on X/Twitter (@kyleireland), Instagram (@kyleirelandksl), and Threads (@kyleirelandksl).

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Jazz Owner Ryan Smith Recaps UFC 291, Promotes Power Of ‘New Utah’