A fight is on for Mixed Martial Arts' Asian market
US giant UFC will challenge Singapore upstart ONE FC for regional supremacy
As the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) continues to take Asia by storm, a David-and-Goliath mega battle for the continent is brewing between an American giant and a Singapore upstart.
The Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's biggest MMA property, aim to mine it for all it is worth. They had already set things in motion last February with a return to Asia after 11 years, staging an event before a sell-out crowd at the 20,000-seat Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo.
In contrast, their rivals, One Fighting Championship (One FC), have had an early start. Within a year of their existence, the Singapore company have staged six full-house cards in Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila. They are scheduled for their seventh event, their third here, on Oct 6.
Mark Fischer, Asia Managing Director of UFC owners Zuffa Sports, told TODAY that the region will be worth more than their North American markets within the next five to 10 years. To become the dominant force, they aim to stage at least 10 events annually in this part of the world within three years.
For the time being, Fischer said One FC are complementary and not a threat to UFC's plans.
But One FC chief executive Victor Cui is up for the challenge and declared that his organisation are on track to becoming the premier MMA brand in Asia.
"One FC is built on opportunities for the region," said Cui. "Despite its infancy, Asia is the home of martial arts and our focus is in developing that growth and becoming the No 1 brand in the region.
"There is a competitive and unique advantage to being an Asian-based organisation that is looking to develop the region like we are, from the gyms, working with local promoters, to scaling the One FC event. People have become One FC fans because they know this is the best brand in Asia."
UFC are already planning another gig in Japan in March, and have Macau, South Korea and China on the itinerary as well. If talks with sponsors and authorities pan out, an event will also be staged here within 12 months.