It's always interesting to see the take of the old-line mainstream corporate media on mixed martial arts. Today's suspect is a story from Time's Keeping Score blog about the UFC's efforts to expand into the Asian market and what One FC is already doing there.
Here are some notable excerpts first about the UFC's expansion of The Ultimate Fighter reality show into mainland China:
On Dec. 7, around 830 million households will be introduced to spinning back fists, flying knees and the guillotine choke when the reality series The Ultimate Fighter debuts on Chinese television. The show's basic format will remain the same as its popular U.S. counterpart - 16 Chinese fighters will live, train and brawl together, with two emerging as champions.
Although the fastest growing sport in the world, this Western-born aspirant has not until now been embraced in Asia - the spiritual home of Kung Fu, Karate, Muay Thai and a host of other iconic fighting styles. That, however, looks likely to change with UFC - the original and largest of dozens of MMA promotions currently in the U.S. - aggressively staking a claim.
"Historically, The Ultimate Fighter has been a great show to introduce the sport of mixed martial arts, and the UFC as the leader of the sport, to wider audiences," UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer told TIME. "We expect it to be a similar type of game changer in China as we bring out the Chinese version." Although there have been significant inroads into Southeast Asia in recent years, promoters believe the Middle Kingdom's huge population remains the golden ticket.
And on the competition from One FC:
Since launching, (One FC) has already laid claim to 90% of MMA's market share across Asia and packed out stadiums in Manila, Jakarta, KL and Singapore. "I'm watching this business grow into a multi-billion dollar empire in North America, but it was non-existent in Asia three years ago or four years ago," say Cui. "Asia has always been ready for mixed martial arts... but nobody has approached it from a media-side like ONE FC has."
Behind the scenes, Cui has made some of his largest investments in ensuring that not only his business thrives but that MMA also spreads deep roots across the region. One of Cui's initial moves was to host a MMA summit in Singapore where he brought together about 500 people from the industry - gym owners, trainers, promoters and fighters from across Asia to discuss a cooperation scheme. Now he boasts approximately 2,000 fighters signed to exclusive contracts, and a 10-year deal with ESPN Star Sports puts ONE FC in touch with 450 million viewers in 25 different countries.
It's interesting to note that the article completely ignores the 10 year long boom and bust of MMA in Japan. I'm not sure if this reflects total historical ignorance on the part of the author or if it just reflects a blind focus on the hear and now or if perhaps aging Japan with its moribund economy is seen as irrelevant.
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