Ultimate Fighting Championship declares first-ever fights in China
It will host region's 'biggest show' in Macau, including 10 Asian fighters, in November
The Ultimate Fighting Championship brought its razzle-dazzle to town yesterday. It declared its first-ever bouts in North Asia and boasted that the event would be the biggest show the region has ever seen with a global audience of around a billion fans.
On November 10, the UFC will host a card at the Venetian Macao-Resort Hotel's Cotai Arena that will include 10 Asian fighters. They include China's Zhang Tiequan and Vietnam-born American Cung Le, best known in Hong Kong for his appearance in director Peter Chan Ho-sun's multi-award winning film Bodyguards and Assassins. Headlining the card against Le will be Rich Franklin, a former UFC world middleweight champion and an American former teacher.
"It'll be broadcast in 20 different languages and reach more than a billion homes around the world," said UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer. "This is the start of what we believe will be an incredible journey for us in China. It's taken us a long time to get here, but we believe China is one of the spiritual birthplaces of martial arts."
The UFC phenomenon is unmatched in contemporary sports, growing over two decades from essentially a backyard operation to selling out major stadiums across the globe and setting all sorts of records for its broadcasts.
"In China, mixed martial arts has become huge," said Zhang, whose UFC record stands at 15 wins and three losses.
And unsurprisingly for a man who fights out of Inner Mongolia, Zhang counts Genghis Khan as a hero.
"On television and on the internet in terms of fans you are talking in the tens of millions. There are MMA clubs everywhere and around 10 to 20 Chinese fighters who are ready for UFC events," he said.
Fischer said the UFC was developing a stable of Chinese fighters. It is bringing them to the United States for training and sending coaches to the mainland to identify talent. UFC is also looking at a long-term partnership with the Venetian as host venue for its events.
Fischer was unconcerned about the relatively rocky history MMA has in these parts, with the sport marred by cancellations and poor crowds.
"This is a global event," he said. "We believe this event will attract fans from all over the region - we're not just anybody's MMA promotion."