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Mark Fischer talks TUF: China and the search for UFC's Yao Ming

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Mark Fischer, the head of the UFC's Asian division spoke in length about the TUF: China Finale, their goal of eventually breaking into the Mainland, and developing the UFC equivalent of NBA superstar, Yao Ming.

Photo by Paolo Tabuena

As the The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale approaches, this weekend will be the culmination of one of the UFC's major plans towards eventually breaking into the Mainland. The company knows that there is still a lot to be done, but according to UFC Asia head, Mark Fischer, the first Asian iteration of the popular reality show was a success and a huge step in the right direction.

"We reached an average of 10 million viewers on The Ultimate Fighter: China per week. It was a great boost for awareness," Fischer said, "I'm sure we gained quite a few more fans as well and we are going to build on that in the future."

Fischer used to spearhead the Asian division of the NBA and was part of the success that came with the explosion of that league in China. He believes it's only a matter of time before the same happens with Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC down the road.

"People need to be patient," Fischer said as he talked about the development and eventual move to mainland China, "It's our first foray, but the thing is, in China, once you get big, you get real big. I saw that with the NBA, and the NBA has been around for 100 years. The NBA has been on TV for 20 years in China before Yao Ming entered the NBA and had that incredible success."

"We're still in the building phase, but it's going to happen. It's just a question of when we are going to take off. UFC in particular has incredible potential within 5 years, 10 in the outside, to be the top 3 sport in China."

Fischer believes that with those goals, this weekend's TUF: China Finale will be a good building block for that. The welterweight finals will be a bout between the two most experienced fighters in the cast in Wang Sai and Zhang Lipeng, although unfortunately, the featherweight side of things has been postponed for now. No reason was mentioned on the initial announcement, but Fischer did confirm that it was due to an injury to Yang Jianping.

"Yang sustained a lower back injury during training, which unfortunately was too late to recover from," Fischer confirmed with, "We will reschedule that likely for Asia. It doesn't have to be in the next Macau show. It could be in any one of the other locations, and we would want to reschedule it as soon as possible when he gets a clear bill of health."

Chinese stars such as Jumabieke Tuerxun, along with the welterweight finalists and the other cast members will be the flag bearers on Saturday. There's real potential in that group, but they know this is just the beginning of a plan to develop talent and awareness in hopes of recreating a UFC version of that surge the NBA received just a couple of years back.

"We think it's going to happen. I'm not saying these guys today will be the 'Yao Ming' of the UFC, but the thing about Yao is that he wasn't the first Chinese player in the NBA, but he was the first real superstar," he said, "It may take us a few years to develop a superstar, or maybe it's one of these guys. Time will tell, but it is going to happen. We are going to have a Chinese champion in the UFC in our lifetime."

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