Babalu Sobral vs. Melvin Manhoef and Kevin Belingon vs. Masakazu Imanari will be featured on ONE FC's third event this March. -- Graphic by Anton Tabuena
As part of that conversation I had with Victor Cui this past weekend in Jakarta, Indonesia, the CEO of ONE Fighting Championship also talked about their 3rd event happening on March 31st.
They had a successful debut event last September, and Cui says there's even more interest from the Singapore fans now that they will be returning to the country for their third show.
"I think the event is already going to be sold out next week, and I haven't even started marketing for the March card," Victor Cui, said in an interview with BloodyElbow.com, "After our first event, we had a waiting list of over 2000 people. It's crazy. They wanted the tickets now, and we haven't even announced the fight card, and we didn't even announce the March date then."
As of this writing, there are only two fights that have been announced, Renato Sobral vs. Melvin Manhoef, along with an excellent match up between Kevin Belingon and Masakazu Imanari. Gregor Gracie, Eduard Folayang, Zorobabel Moreira, Eddie Ng and Nicole Chua are all expected to compete on the event, but none of their opponents have been confirmed yet.
That partial card already looks good, but Cui also credits the massive interest from Singapore by successfully establishing a strong identity in the country.
"ONE FC, and the brand is just so big in Singapore now. Our home base is in Singapore, and we're so strongly supported by all the major departments of the government." Cui exclaimed, referring to multiple branches of the government backing them such as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB).
"There's a reason why they bring F-1 and they support F-1 in Singapore, and there's a reason why they're supporting ONE FC," he continued, "It's cause they want to see a long-term thing. We have a 10-year partnership with ESPN, we're hiring a lot of guys from Singapore, and we're such good partners to have for (the government)."
Apart from working on their upcoming events, Victor Cui and ONE FC has also been working with several other organizations to continuously build their network.
Some people think it's a great idea, while some people have said that trying to have all those promotions and orgs under one roof, might spell trouble with having too much politics involved from all sides. Cui says it doesn't matter, cause for him, establishing and growing that network will be beneficial for the MMA scene in the region.
"The growth of Asian MMA is exciting. I've spent an inordinate time on growing the sport, doing stuff like the ONE FC network," he says, "A lot of people criticize it, but no one is doing it, and that's why it's hard."
"It is hard to coordinate all these guys' schedules to come together and to talk. They've never done this before even if we're all in the same business. It's a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, a lot of conversations and discussions on how we are going to work together." Cui said, as he explains the challenges of setting up a network that already includes different gyms and promotions such as DREAM, URCC, Road FC, and CFC among others, "I do that, and I spend a lot of time, because I know it will be better for the sport, better for the fighters."
"That stuff is not easy. It's not easy to talk to all of these gyms, all these organizations to work together." Cui exclaimed, "Guys from these different gyms and promotions are now in ONE FC, and it's career changing for these guys. Now there's a lot of opportunities for fighters and gyms. They get more fights and more sponsorships."
With several fighters on the March event coming out of gyms like Evolve MMA and Team Lakay, and from top promotions such as DREAM and URCC, footprints stemming from the partnerships made on that network is already being seen.
There will be a lot of fighters, a lot of personalities, officials, CEO's and owners. There will probably also be a lot of egos and politics that will be involved as they continue to grow this network. There will be several challenges that they will be facing, but it will be very interesting to see how it all unfolds and what they can accomplish from this.
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