Just going to keep this short and sweet, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder....is ZUFFA really this stupid and culturally ignorant?
It's clear that they've loaded the card with Asian fighters and put an Asian guy, Cung Le, as the main eventer.
This leads me to believe that they're trying to follow what they always try and do when they enter a marketplace: pack the card with local fighters. The problem is, in this situation....only one fighter is actually Chinese. The rest are either South Korean or Japanese or, in Cung's case, Vietnamese.
Is the UFC actually dumb enough, and unprofessional enough, to believe that the Chinese fans will root for fighter just because he's...Asian? If so, they are sorely mistaken.
As someone who is of Chinese heritage and fairly well-traveled, I can say that it's hard to find a country that is more nationalist and more proud of its history than China. Expecting Chinese fans to feel as though a South Korean fighter were one of their own would be like, I don't know, expecting American fans to cheer for a French fighter due to feelings of ethnic camaraderie.
And don't even get me started on the Japanese fighters. As I said, it's hard to find a culture that keeps its history as close to its heart as China. For instance, historical dramas have remained a hugely popular genre of entertainment for generations. Given the acrimonious history between China and Japan, expecting Chinese fans to cheer for Japanese fighters simply because they're Asian is nothing short of insulting. You'd almost be better off choosing a fighter of any nationality BUT Japan. It's an amazing bit of ignorance on ZUFFA's part.
The thing is, even if ZUFFA isn't aware of the fact that, shockingly, the Chinese don't view other Asian nationalities as one and the same, Cung Le does. Every time an interviewer asks him whether he's excited to fight in China, clearly hoping for a racially driven answer, Cung skirts around it, focusing instead on his sanshou, saying that he's proud to fight in the birthplace of his art, hoping that the Chinese fans will root for him on that basis and connect with him on those grounds. Because Cung knows that as a Vietnamese-American, as far as having ethnic appeal to the Chinese fans, he might as well be Brazilian. Perhaps to the American ZUFFA brass, a Vietnamese guy who practices sanshou is "close enough" to being Chinese but, shockingly, it doesn't work that way in reality.
And don't even get me started on the UFC's hiring a Korean ring-girl, as though no Chinese girls could be located. The Japanese fans got a Japanese girl but when it comes to the Chinese fans, again, all Asians are one and the same, seemingly.
I'm not really going to broach the subject of the lack of Chinese fighters on the card being ZUFFA's fault. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't really any UFC-level talent in China as of yet, even if I do think giving a couple RUFF guys a kick at the can on the prelims would've been cool. The issue, instead, is ZUFFA's stacking the card with Japanese and Korean fighters due to some notion of Chinese fans' better connecting with them. It's complete cultural ignorance. Quite frankly, in expanding into China, if there aren't any Chinese fighters, they'd've been better off just booking the funnest fights they could, stacking the card with guys who WAR regardless of nationality or ethnicity.
Anyway, that ended up being longer than I meant for it to be. Just had to get it off my chest.
I'll admit that there's the possibility that the card is only stacked with Asian fighters for pragmatic reasons - Asian fighters are geographically closer so it'll be easier for them to fight there (though, of course, this doesn't explain Le's main event status). That said, given the UFC's track record of ALWAYS trying to stack cards outside the US with fighters from the host country, I have my doubts.
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