It's full speed ahead for the UFC in Asia. We've discussed the potential problems the UFC will encounter in depth here before. Now Zuffa has found the man they think can adapt and overcome. UFC President Dana White introduced the new Executive VP Mark Fischer who spoke briefly at the UFC 118 press conference:
"It's great to be here back in my hometown. I'm delighted and honored to work with UFC president Dana White and the Fertitta brothers to build the Ultimate Fighting Championship and our other businesses in Asia. It's a fantastic market. I think we're just scratching the surface. A lot martial arts began their tradition there. We're very respectful of that... I was with the NBA in Asia for 12 years. Five or six of those were building the NBA in China. I think as successful as the NBA was there, what we were able to do with that, I think we can just as much with the UFC and more."
Fischer was the front man for the National Basketball Association (NBA) in Asia and should have the contacts in place to help make things happen. While his credentials are impeccable, he clearly has some work to do getting up to speed. When questioned by reporters after his introduction, Fischer couldn't even answer a simple question about whether the company was targeting Japan as well as China for future shows.
The Hollywood Reporter talked to Fischer in a less pressure packed environment and he seems to have some concrete steps in mind for the UFC's expansion into the region:
Based in Beijing for now, Fischer will try to build up local mixed martial arts talent and forge ties with regional sports federations, such as the China National Wushu Federation.
In North America, the UFC’s primary business model is pay-per-view, and the company hosts about 12-14 events per year, which on average attract about a million subscribers, many of them public venues such as bars, Fischer said, adding that total viewership is considerably higher.
In fact, UFC President Dana White cites statistics that show the company’s events and programming are now reaching 500 million households worldwide, Fischer said.
“Our goal is to be in a billion households worldwide in the coming years, and Asia is key to that growth because of the regions’ aptitude in martial arts,” Fischer told The Hollywood Reporter over the phone from Boston.
One thing that's important to note - while Fischer and the NBA had great success in China, they did so with a superlative Chinese athlete leading the charge. To make a real impact in China, the UFC needs their own Yao Ming. Is that person out there? Time will tell.