Victor Cui, the head honcho at the helm of arguably the world’s largest MMA network, ONE Fighting Championship, has been a busy man. In less than a year he has secured partnerships with all the major fight leagues in Asia, the likes of which includes DEEP, ROAD FC and URCC. This gives him unprecedented access to fighters ranging from PRIDE FC legends (Masakazu Imanari) to BJJ World Champions (Zorobabel Moreira) and up and coming prospects like Juggernaut Fight Club’s Quek Kim Hock.
Having inked a 10 year deal with ESPN, and after 3 live events (and a fourth to come this June 23rd at ONE FC 4: Destiny of Warriors), ONE FC will bring MMA into sold out arenas and living rooms throughout Asia. Traditionally dominated by Japan, the Asian MMA scene was struck a major blow by the demise of PRIDE FC back in the 2007. But ONE FC promises a revival, with the network opening up to fighters and fans throughout South East Asia. Names like Team Lakay and Evolve MMA are already emerging as standard bearers with dominant victories from fighters like Eduard Folayang and Eddie Ng respectively.
ONE FC exercises a network model which would bring together the best of Asia through fighter exchanges, while assuring each fight promotion of its continued existence and growth. It seems almost stereotypical that it would take an Asian MMA effort to embrace so Eastern a philosophy of unification and harmony.
What this means for fight promotions and gyms is exposure of their fighters to a greater variety of opponents, and their names to a wider regional (and eventually, global) audience. Fight fans will get to cheer on their heroes in both local circuits and in international match ups, never having to choose between the two. It really is one big fighting championship.
Despite its strong Asian roots, ONE FC is not content to field only Asian fighters and has featured Holland’s Melvin Manhoeff , Russia’s Rustam Khabilov, The New York Bad Ass Phil Baroni and MMA royalty like Rolles and Gregor Gracie, amongst other international names, in its fight cards, with more to come.
And more is to come indeed this weekend when ONE FC holds the inaugural ONE Asia MMA Summit at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre in Singapore. The Summit will see fighters, gyms, sponsors and other key stakeholders in the fight game come together to discuss the future of MMA in Asia, and the major issues that will impact how we get there. Asia’s not just home to the largest populations on Earth, it is the bedrock of much of the world’s martial roots. Much of the summit’s focus would no doubt be centred on developing fighters as more prospects emerge from within the hallowed halls of Asia’s manifold martial traditions and enter the cage.
If the upcoming summit is any indication, Asian leagues will dominate MMA for decades to come. Oddly enough they will not do this through bitter rivalry, but by fighting as one.