MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

WWE lays down challenge to UFC in Middle Kingdom by signing first Chinese wrestler to its ranks

American sports-entertainment giant heats up its challenge for market share against UFC franchise by announcing broadcast deal, live event in Shanghai and new Chinese fighter

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 12:44pm

Battle lines were drawn in the combat sports arena when American company WWE recently made a trio of announcements aimed at challenging the popular UFC franchise for market share in the lucrative Chinese market, according to a sports marketing professional.

The sports entertainment giant on Friday revealed a new partnership with Chinese broadcaster PPTV as well as details of a live event to be held in Shanghai on September 10th. But the news that caused the most excitement among wrestling fans in China was that they would be getting their first wrestler in the WWE’s ranks with Anhui-native Bin Wang signing a development contract.

WATCH: Triple H introduces WWE’s first Chinese talent signing, Bin Wang

Tom Elsden, a senior client manager, whose company Mailman Group works with UFC, believes that announcement is what WWE hope will capture the attention of Chinese fans.

“The Chinese are obviously very patriotic and WWE is hoping that a Chinese wrestler joining the ranks will have a snowball effect and lead to more eyes on WWE,” said Elsden.

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“A lot of Chinese have followed WWE for years but they then transition to something a little different, that’s one of the reasons MMA became so popular,” said Elsden. “But this is not a response to the growing popularity of MMA as WWE has been popular on the mainland independent of that.”

The Shanghai event will be the WWE’s third foray into China after staging events there in 2010 and 2013.

At six-foot-three-inches tall and weighing 220-pounds, WWE chairman Vince McMahon is hoping Chinese heavyweight Wang will be able to shoulder the hopes of a host of new fans in China.

“Today’s historic announcements further demonstrate WWE’s long-term commitment to China,” said McMahon in a statement. “Partnership with PPTV … as well as the signing of Bin Wang, will enable us to engage our fans in China like never before.”

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The 22-year-old Wang was part of Japan’s Inoki Genome Federation promotion for two years, but has now relocated to Orlando, Florida where will begin training at the WWE Performance Centre.

“It’s an honour to be the first-ever Chinese talent in WWE history,” said Wang. “There are no fans in the world that show the same passion as the WWE Universe, and I look forward to training and developing my skills so I can perform for them in the future.”

UFC, the American mixed martial arts company, has previously hosted productions in Macau but is yet to announce a mainland event. UFC’s sole Hong Kong fighter, Alberto Mina, is set to fight on a bill in Las Vegas next month.