image

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Can newcomer Just MMA kick-start Hong Kong’s ailing cage-fighting scene? New organisation aims to showcase local fighters

Territory will be helped by new organisation aiming to showcase local talent

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 11:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 10:19pm

Hong Kong’s efforts to carve itself a niche in the rapidly evolving world of mixed martial arts have received a boost with a new promotional organisation to be launched using the city as its base.

“We want to build a sports media company and we want to nurture Greater China talent,” said Tony Au, CEO and founder of Just MMA.

“To bring fighters up and to present them to Asia could be something very interesting. Taking the talent to the world is one of our goals. As a sports media company we also want to tailor make events for individual clients.”

Just MMA will launch with an 11-bout card featuring 10 local fighters at Wan Chai’s Southorn Indoor Stadium on December 1.

Efforts to establish regular and credible MMA events in Hong Kong have been met with mixed results with the likes of the Legend and IMPI organisations falling by the wayside after giving hope to the city’s growing band of fighters.

Other groups have combined MMA with other combat sports such as Muay Thai and kick boxing at their events with varying degrees of success.

The major players in Just MMA were involved in the IMPI promotions and Au said they would take their experiences from hosting events and expand the reach and opportunities the sport is offering.

“There is a need to get a balance between getting the event right but also getting the right sponsorship,” said Au. “I believe also that the focus should solely be on MMA.”

Those involved in MMA like to boast the sport is the fastest growing on the planet and it is hard to argue in the face of the figures the likes of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) throw around.

Considered the forerunners of the sport globally, the UFC claim an estimated 93 million fans across Asia and have returned to the region with two sell-out shows this year – in Singapore in June and last weekend in Tokyo – while their first-ever event in mainland China is set for November 25 in Shanghai.

The Singapore-based One Championship, meanwhile, have gone from strength to strength this year with sell-out shows in eight cities across the region and an ever-expanding stable of fighters from across the region, including the superstar of the sport in Asia, world atomweight champion Angela Lee, who fights out of Singapore, her father’s hometown. One Championship claims to have a broadcast reach of over one billion viewers.

UFC beefs up Chinese presence on its November Shanghai card as it announces the signing of two mainland fighters to its ranks

Asia also has any number of smaller promotions from which fighting talent can emerge and Au said the plan with Just MMA was to give rising talent a platform on which they could showcase their skills.

Hong Kong has certainly under-achieved in terms of producing regionally recognised talent. Cameroon-born heavyweight Alain Ngalani (3-3) lit up the One organisation’s recent card in Jakarta with a record-breaking 11-second knockout of Japanese fighter Hideki Sekine, an effort that has earned “The Panther” top billing at the One: Hero’s Dream card in Yangon on November 3 against Burmese world middleweight champion Aung La Nsang.

Featherweight Ramona Pascual, meanwhile, was a shining light in early IMPI cards before losing her past two fights to fall to 2-2 overall.

Regardless, Pascual’s talent has caught the eye of the Seoul-based Road FC group but other fighters failed to make much of an impact – something Au said Just MMA can help address.

‘I don’t feel my age, so don’t tell me,’ says history-making 42-year-old MMA knockout king Alain Ngalani

“All our shareholders are Hong Kong people,” said Au. “We already have close relationships with the gyms in Hong Kong. So naturally we will look to Hong Kong talent.

“The pool is small but we should be able to nurture a handful of fighters, and we know there is an audience for the sport here already.”