Mark Fischer, Managing Director, UFC Asia (second from left) and Zhang Tiequan, China's first-ever UFC fighter …
Global mixed martial arts (MMA) giant Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) unveiled plans on Thursday to make major inroads into Asia, with the promise of a Chinese reality TV programme late this year as well as a series of events to be held in Macau and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) come 2014.
The announcement sees the Las Vegas-headquartered company cross swords with Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC), which has staked its claim as Asia’s largest MMA organization. The latter has had a run of nine high-powered shows across the region in the last two years.
“They do what they do, we do what we do. It’s complementary,” he said.
“We’re the global leader, and they’ve done a good job of developing the sport at the local and regional level,” added Fischer. “No issues there.”
ONE FC CEO Victor Cui hailed the “fantastic news that the two biggest organisations in MMA are finally in Asia”.
“An increase in MMA events in Asia will grow the sport exponentially,” he said in an e-mail response. “Of course, UFC will be doing two to four shows and we are going to be doing 24 throughout the region.”
Cui then drew a contrast between the venues of choice for the two promotions. “ONE FC has consistently sold-out events at the 12,000 capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium, the largest indoor venue in Singapore.”
“Fans now have the opportunity to watch MMA at a more intimate venue,” said the Canadian, referring to the as-yet-unnamed locale within MBS that will host the UFC bouts.
Fischer responded that with the UFC show “configured for at least 5,000… we can hold a very high-end, exclusive event there.”
“People that really want to see (the UFC shows) are definitely going to come, and everybody else will hear about it,” he said.
Aside from the live fight event, slated for “early first quarter next year”, tryouts for the Chinese version of UFC’s wildly-popular “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series will also be held at MBS, on 25 July.
Fischer moved to explain the rationale behind UFC’s decision to zoom in on the island-state.
“Singapore is important as a sports hub in Southeast Asia – and a hub for MMA, quite frankly,” he commented. “Despite its small population, the government has a very bold vision for developing sports.”
“We’re happy to participate in that vision by bringing in one of the most exciting sports in the world.”