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UFC 304 to be Co-op Live’s first sports event

Co-op Live’s test event on April 20, 2024

Featured image credit: Nick Flynn/Co-op Live

Co-op Live, Manchester’s new 23,500-capacity arena, has secured an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event as its first sporting attraction.

With UFC president and CEO, Dana White, stating earlier this month that the English city would host an event, the mixed martial arts promotion has today (Wednesday) confirmed that Co-op Live will be the destination for its first European fight card of 2024, UFC 304.

Arriving in Manchester on July 27, UFC 304 will see prelims begin at 11pm BST (6pm ET in the U.S.), followed by the main card airing at 3am BST (10pm ET in the U.S., the traditional start time for a UFC Pay Per View).

White said today: “I’m so excited to get back to Manchester. And no better time than this summer. We have two champions from the UK (Leon Edwards and Tom Aspinall) and fans have been dying for a UFC PPV event. So here we come to the largest indoor arena in the UK.”

Co-op Live executive director and general manager, Gary Roden, added: “With the north of England home to so many of the world’s leading fighters, we are primed and ready for UFC and its knowledgeable, passionate fanbase.

“Offering a state-of-the-art platform for globally broadcast events, Co-op Live is extremely proud to welcome entertainment of this scale and calibre as the future home of combat sports in the UK.”

MMA and boxing had been envisioned as a key target for major sporting events at Co-op Live and UFC 304 is set to test the terms of the premises licence the venue was granted last month.

In terms of opening times, conditions stipulate that Co-op Live can operate ancillary spaces until 1am GMT (1:30am close) from Sunday to Thursday, until 2am (2:30am close) on Friday and Saturday, and until 2am (2:30am close) on a Sunday before a Bank Holiday. All auditorium bowl activity must end by 11:30pm daily.

Co-op Live is permitted to apply for extended hours for a maximum of 25 events per year. Twelve can be for 24 hours opening, and 13 for opening until 4am. Each application for extended hours is subject to case-by-case approval by the Licensing Authority. Co-op Live’s operating hours had been questioned in relation to transport plans and impact on local residents during the arena’s planning and development process.

The arena has suffered an inauspicious start to life as Manchester’s second major arena, alongside ASM Global’s AO Arena. On Monday, it was announced that Co-op Live would not open as scheduled yesterday (Tuesday) due to issues relating to the venue’s power supply.

Comedian Peter Kay had been due to open the venue yesterday, with a second event scheduled for today. These shows will now take place on April 29 and April 30. The announcement on Monday came after the arena issued an apology after it was forced to reduce capacity for Saturday night’s test event featuring Rick Astley at short notice.

Co-op Live is a joint venture between Oak View Group and City Football Group, the parent company of Manchester City. It forms part of the Etihad Campus, which houses City’s Etihad Stadium.

The arena has been built at a cost of £365m (€423m/$451m). The venue had been due to stage its first event in 2023, but last June the opening date was pushed back to April 2024.