UFC 144 happened in Japan this past weekend, and word has come out that the UFC brass is already looking to continue their Asian expansion this year. The news comes from Dave Meltzer's latest newsletter (subscription required):
The current plans are to run a November show in Asia, debuting in China if all the politics obstacles can be worked out. If not, they could do the Philippines or South Korea.
The UFC has long desired to break into China, and they have invested a lot of resources in hopes of tapping into that market. It's understandable cause of their potential, but frankly, there just aren't much people in the mainland who are that interested in the sport, especially if you compare it to the other countries in the region.
If they're having trouble with politics, and if the UFC desperately wants to break into China now -- which I think isn't the best option for their Asian expansion at this point -- I think they do have to start at Macau, or Hong Kong first. MMA isn’t as big there compared to the other Asian countries still, but both areas are more familiar with the sport and are more likely to accept them than going straight to the mainland.
So what are the best options for the UFC's Asian expansion?
Their 2 other choices are pretty good as I believe they're part of the "sure-bets" in Asia. The top countries that are ripe for the taking are definitely 1. Philippines, 2. Singapore, and 3. South Korea. Why? I discuss that all after the jump.
- The top two countries have a very large and educated fan base that are willing to pay for UFC events.
- The Philippines and Singapore both have a large casual fanbase, and a hardcore community that keeps on growing. This is evidenced by the success promotions like the URCC and PXC (which moved from Guam) are having in the Philippines, and ONE FC in Singapore.
- Both countries are the most 'westernized' in the region, meaning the UFC product in itself will be readily accepted compared to other cultures. This means they won't need to adjust anything by forcing Asians to headline their event, and they won't need to stack it with too much 'local talent'. (Although that's not really a bad thing as both countries house two of the very best teams from the region, in Team Lakay and Evolve MMA)
- Although Singapore has a much smaller audience compared to the Philippines, both locations would be very easy for the UFC to expand to. If the UFC truly wants to start their Asian expansion, those are the two best markets which would do well every time.
- South Korea on the other hand, has a lot of potential as well. It's an easy market to break in to, but I ranked them below the two other countries simply because their fanbase isn’t as big as one would expect, especially considering the huge amount of talented fighters that are being churned out by the top-notch camps they have. Plus they do have Ben Henderson, Dong Hyun Kim, and the Korean Zombie to help boost people want to watch their product.
Either way, here's to hoping that their Asian expansion pushes through. As a guy who covers how much the MMA scene and the fan base from these countries are already rapidly growing, I can only imagine how things can skyrocket even more once the UFC marketing machine flexes its muscles. Don't let me down, Dana.
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