UFC announces expansion to Singapore, plans 2014 show at the Marina Bay Sands

Photo by Anton Tabuena

After officially announcing plans for TUF: China, Mark Fischer has also stated that the UFC will be heading to Singapore early 2014.

The UFC has earlier announced their plans to host The Ultimate Fighter: China, with multiple tryouts happening in Beijing, Macau, and Singapore starting next week. Weigh classes for the tryouts will be at 170, 155 and 145 lbs, but the matchmakers will eventually decide on picking 16 fighters for 2 divisions on that season.

Related: TUF: China announced, here's everything you need to know

The show will be filmed in Shenyang, Liaoning, China, with the live Finale happening at the Venetian hotel, which was the same venue for the promotion's first foray into Chinese territory early this year. Through their partnership with that Sands China group, it was also announced that the UFC is also planning to host a show at their sister hotel, the Marina Bay Sands which is in Singapore.

Here's Mark Fischer with the announcement, saying that a Singapore show will happen on early 2014:

"The event in Macau was a tremendous success and I think it was an eye-opener for both the fans and the UFC. We'll be bringing at least one live fight event to the Singapore Marina Bay Sands, with the first one coming early first quarter next year. We'll have well-known fighters on the main card but we want to fill the card with more Asian fighters. We really want to build a base and create more relevance with local audiences."

Although the partnership is the major driving factor for the venue choice, it is interesting to note that the Venetian Hotel in Macau was configured to host roughly 9000 people. Singapore, which has had MMA events in large arenas and has a much better market for MMA at this time, will have a much smaller venue for its first UFC event. The Managing Director of UFC notes that Marina Bay Sands event will host roughly 5000 people for a more intimate and exclusive show:

"....configured for at least 5,000. we can hold a very high-end, exclusive event there. People that really want to see (the UFC shows) are definitely going to come, and everybody else will hear about it."

Although Singapore has a relatively small population, the country has a burgeoning economy, which likely would make high end tickets still sell well with the hardcore base. This fan base of course, has been helped cultivated by ONE Fighting Championship, which is also based in the country. Fischer though says they're unconcerned with the top Asian MMA promotion, and doesn't consider them as rivals:

"No concerns whatsoever. They do what they do, we do what we do. It’s complementary. We’re the global leader, and they’ve done a good job of developing the sport at the local and regional level. No issues there."

That has also been my view point, even with some promotions considering others as "rivals" whether it's from Asian promotions relating to the UFC, or fellow regional promotions gunning against each other.

Like Fischer said, it really is complementary. The UFC can host a handful of shows in Asia per year, while the other promotions from the region will keep chugging along, hosting dozens. Regardless of what these promoters think of each other, the fact remains that the more high quality shows hosted in the region, the better it is for everyone in the sport. As MMA is still relatively young in most parts of Asia, all these promotions can only just help the market mature and grow more.

As for potential fighters for the planned card Fischer says he wants to pick up more fighters apart from their established roster of Asian stars. There aren't much UFC-ready Singaporeans at this moment, but the highly diverse and westernized country does have a lot of adopted fighters that can draw well with the fan base. Although still under contract with ONE FC, perfect examples of these adopted and beloved stars in Singapore would include lightweight champ and soon to be featherweight star, Shinya Aoki, along with his other teammates at Evolve MMA.

Related: Mark Munoz draws thousands of fans during homecoming, Fischer predicts UFC: Manila in 2014

On other major cities targeted by the UFC as they plan their Asian expansion in 2014, Fisher says "Seoul and Jakarta, no firm plans yet but we are in discussions in both of those cities. Manila is in our sights, we're in advanced talks with Tokyo and I guess to round it out would be Bangkok."

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