ONE Championship looks to up the ante with its blockbuster event next week, April 24 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. Titled ONE: VALOR OF CHAMPIONS, it is expected to be a sell-out event and one of the biggest sporting events in the country this year. UFC will then follow with an event in May.
Both organizations are at the top of the heap in their respective regions, and have both played their part in raising the profile of mixed martial arts, now one of the world’s fastest rising sports.
One man who revels in the challenge of breaking into new markets is none other than ONE Championship CEO, Victor Cui.
“I really feel the emergence of a global duopoly of East versus West,” said Cui, in an interview with Sherdog.com a few years back.
Cui is of course a multinational himself, born and raised in Canada but with Filipino origins. He embodies both Eastern and Western cultures and is incidentally the perfect guy for the task of bringing the immense popularity of MMA over to Asia.
ONE Championship, established in 2011, is on the cusp of greatness, having held successful shows in countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia, where mixed martial arts is not yet a household term.
It has even successfully staged the first ever professional MMA event in mainland China last December, with a spectacular card in Beijing featuring the country’s best professionals and prospects — including a slam-bang main event featuring cage veteran Ji Xian and young prospect Song Ya Dong.
With success in the region, Cui takes pride in ONE being the top dog in the East, while acknowledging its western counterpart.
“You’ve got UFC in the West, ONE Championship as biggest in the East. You see the storyline of East versus West play out in almost every industry you can think of, from Apple versus Samsung, YouTube versus Youku, Twitter versus Weibo, Facebook versus Renren,” said Cui.
“If you compare, UFC has got a 90-percent market share in the states. We’ve got a 90-percent market share in Asia. UFC is 90-percent caucasian, we’re 90-percet Asian, 10-percent non-Asian. We’re filling the biggest stadiums. We’ve got the biggest gates, biggest attendance,” Cui explained.
In fact, ONE Championship has amassed a widespread popularity in the region in the four years they have been in operation.
Beginning with little known local fighters in their first event, now transformed into transcendent superstars in their home countries, ONE Championship continues to scour every inch of Asia for the best talent and develop them into world-class athletes.
Now in the Philippines, when people hear the names Eduard Folayang and Team Lakay, they know who these guys are and what they represent. In Malaysia, Ann Osman, the nation’s first professional women’s MMA fighter has become a global superstar whose reach has extended even to the western hemisphere.
The list goes on and on and the potential is endless.
“We have a television reach of over 600 million viewers. We’ve got fantastic blue-chip sponsors on board, and UFC has the best sponsors on board,” said Cui.
With both the UFC and ONE Championship pushing the envelope for sports entertainment, doing their best to develop the sport into a global phenomenon, the opportunities to expand are limitless.
And they don’t just stop in the cage as well, the sport extends beyond the confines of the cold steel. Ronda Rousey, UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion recently starred in the box office hit, Fast and Furious 7 alongside co-stars Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker.
In Asia, Peter Davis is a cross-over star, model and actor, as well as a dominant force in ONE’s lightweight division. Osman bears the flag for women’s MMA, alongside former women’s boxing champion Ana Julaton.
With stars such as these, it’s no wonder more and more people are getting into the sport that was once considered brutal and barbaric. With more stringent rules and governing bodies putting the health and safety of the fighters first, the face of MMA has changed over the years and it’s all thanks to organizations like the UFC and ONE Championship.
As the UFC holds Fight Night Manila in a few weeks, so too will ONE Championship take the stage. And while the two organizations go head-to-head in a skirmish for global supremacy in the battlefield of MMA, the real winners are of course the fans.
ONE Championship is back in Manila on the 24th of April, featuring a fantastic main event wherein ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren defends his title against top contender Luis Santos. It’s action that fans would certainly not want to miss.