UFC makes long-awaited return to Asia with Singapore set to host fight night in June
The Ultimate Fighting Championship announces its return to Asia with the promise that the organisation is on the verge of signing China’s ‘biggest MMA star’
It’s not Hong Kong – or China – but it’s close.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on Thursday announced its long-awaited return to Asia, with a card set down for Singapore on June 17. And the news came with a promise that the organisation was on the verge of signing China’s “biggest MMA star.”
“We expect to have news on that in the next few days,” said Joe Carr, UFC head of international and content, before attention was turned to news that had been confirmed.
“The fighter that we are going to sign will be able to step in and fight right away – he’s that good. At the more development level we’re going to be signing more Chinese fighters and try to get them ready to fight at the UFC level.”
The UFC was last in Asia for an event Seoul, South Korea on November 28, 2015 – but things have been quiet ever since.
“We’re committed to this market,” said Carr. And 2017 is really our re-entry into this market.
“We’re definitely working on our first event in mainland China. We’ve had a couple of events in Macau but it’s completely different going to a Beijing or a Shanghai. I have nothing to announce but it’s definitely a priority and a focus for the organisation. We were successful in Macau and that’s fine but our ambitions are mainland China.”
Manila was down to host a card in October last year before headliner BJ Penn injured his ribs. The American had been scheduled to take on compatriot Ricardo Lamas as part of an 11-fight card in the Philippine capital.
“I will admit that we’ve been a little inconsistent in our event calendar,” said Carr. “We had the Manila event that was cancelled and we had some venue issues in Seoul. We expect to be back in Seoul early next year. There’s been some challenges but we think out Asian talent is at a higher level than it’s ever been.”
In between hosting events in the region, the organisation has been pushing Asian fighters across its many cards in North America and the buzz has been building about fighters from out this way.
Chinese welterweight Li “The Leech” Jingliang was a winner at UFC on Fox 23 in Denver on January 28, as was “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung-jung on his return after three years in the military with a commanding performance at UFC Fight Night in Houston on February 4.
Then there’s “The Korean Superboy” Choi Doo-ho, beaten by American featherweight Cub Swanson at UFC 206 last December but lauded for his contribution to what most experts had down as the fight of the year.
Flyweight Jenel Lausa of the Philippines is next to get his chance to shine on the biggest stage there is when he faces Russia’s Magomed Bibulatov at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York, on April 8.
“We’re aware of the need for an Asian champion as we’ve never had one,” said Carr. “That’s really the last piece of the puzzle for us and we’re working hard to find one.”