This is my reply to Luke Thomas concerning his post "Wall Street Journal Looks at MMA in Hong Kong". It is worth watching if you have not yet seen it. This post merely contains my thoughts on Luke's original article - I have only written it as a fanpost because it seemed a bit too long to leave as a comment.
*Note: I do not claim to be an expert in the HK MMA scene. My parents are from HK and I live there periodically during the year. This post merely contains my thoughts and observations of the MMA scene in Hong Kong.
Exposure: My last visit to HK coincided with the Art of War 14 event, which was held in the neighbouring SAR of Macau. There were giant advertisement posters placed on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which is the main link between HK Island and Kowloon. This area is heavily congested, and there is no doubt that it is one of the best places to get exposure/advertise to the population. Besides this, there were also smaller posters dotted across various bus-stops around HK.
Art Of War is a fairly big promotion in Asia (probably the biggest in China), so it is not surprising that they would have the resources to advertise as they did. On a smaller level, I also saw posters advertising a bout between local HK kickboxing celebrity, Anthony Ngalani, and Bob Sapp. The promotion of this event, even though it was based in HK, was a lot more sombre than the AOW promotion - it was only small posters placed on the side of buildings. Apart from this, I also saw some posters advertising a kickboxing event (I forgot the name of the promotion) inside some of the 'small buses'. At the end of the day, I am pretty certain that if the UFC decided to host an event somewhere in China, it would receive a lot of exposure and promotion in Hong Kong.
Attitude: The impression that I got from my stay in Hong Kong is that people are just indifferent to MMA. For a culture which has been traditionally intertwined with martial arts, the truth is that the attitude of HK people have changed. Many people already know that Hong Kong is a highly-competitve business hub, and those who have visited the country may have experienced this first hand. The adult population is concerned only their work and becoming the best in HK's fierce corporate world. The younger generation, even my friends, have shifted their focus from worshipping martial arts icons to following celebrities, famous singers, fashion and gossip.
However, there is an acknowledgement in Hong Kong that interest in martial arts is dying out from our culture. But instead of trying to rekindle interests by promoting the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, the Hong Kong people work hard in trying to preserve the values of traditional Chinese Martial Arts. This is hardly surprising, as much of the Chinese culture is based upon traditional martial arts and it's teachings, but it just exemplifies my point: Hong Kong citizens are just not interested in Mixed Martial Arts.
Outcome: Despite Luke stating his belief that Hong Kong would be the first likely destination for the UFC to target, I would respectfully disagree. I believe that Macau would be the UFC's first choice if promoting an event in China. Macau is perfectly built to host a UFC event; with its fabulous casinos and grand hotels, it is akin to the 'Vegas' of China. The Art of War promotion has already previously hosted an MMA event in Macau, and so it would be easier for the UFC to go where MMA has already been widely exposed to the audience, rather than entering a 'new' territory in Hong Kong.
With all this being said, it is nice to see some coverage showing the MMA scene in Hong Kong. Hopefully, it marks the introduction of MMA becoming a mainstream sport in China.