Since its debut in 2011, ONE FC has held each of its events in one of four places: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. However, last year, CEO Victor Cui made it clear that he would break this trend in 2014 and target cities outside of Southeast Asia. While Cui left fans guessing on when and where these events would take place, he did mention some possible venues: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.
Here’s a look at each one.
Cui said that he loves Japan, and why shouldn’t he? The “land of the rising sun” has both a rich martial arts history and mixed martial arts history. It gave the world judo, the original jiu-jitsu, karate, Pride Fighting Championships, Shooto, and perhaps most importantly for Cui, three of ONE’s four reigning champions: welterweight champion, Nobutatsu Suzuki; lightweight champion, Shinya Aoki; and featherweight champion, Koji Oishi.
Furthermore, Japan has a proven track record of MMA fandom. Last year, almost fifteen thousand Japanese fans packed into the Saitama Super Arena to watch “The UFC on Fuel TV 8” – an impressive turnout for a non-pay-per-view event. If that many fans would clamor to see Wanderlei Silva – a man who hasn’t fought in Pride since 2007 – imagine how many more would pay to watch one, two, or even three of ONE’s Japanese champions in the same night.
Holding a card in Japan would give ONE the chance to stage the biggest event in its history.
South Korea is one of the entertainment capitals of Asia. First it took Asia by storm with its “K-pop” (Korean popular music) then it took the entire world by storm with the catchy grooves and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
Why then, shouldn’t ONE put itself smack in the middle of this glimmering jewel that everyone in Asia is fixated on?
True, Korea does not have the same MMA history as its southeastern neighbor, Japan, but Korean MMA fighters have made their presence known in MMA’s current hegemon, the UFC. Jung Chan Sung and Kim Dong Hyun are both well-known fighters, and “The Ace” Lim Hyun Gyu is quickly making a name for himself. The popularity of these fighters can only help MMA grow in South Korea.
Short and to the point, it’s where Bruce Lee grew up and it is one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia. What better reasons could there be for holding a martial arts event in China’s special administrative district?
Taiwan has potential. Though the small island does not have much of an MMA following, fighters such as ONE heavyweight Paul Cheng and former Legend FC / current ONE FC fighter, “Sam” Ming-yen Sung could help popularize it.
Cui is aware of Taiwan’s potential, and he is already taking steps to build MMA there. According to an article in The Taipei Times (“ONE FC on a hunt for ‘next Bruce Lee’ by Adrian Hardie) Cui is partnering up with such Taiwanese fighting organizations as Royal Chiou’s PRO Fighting and Tough MMA. He plans on holding an event in Taipei later this year.
Doing business with the Chinese is not easy, and Cui knows it. In an interview with Sherdog, he said:
“ . . the strategy for entering China is a strategy on its own; it is different than any other country, with its state-controlled media and policies. [You] have to have the right relationships. (taken from “ONE Fighting Championship CEO Victor Cui Outlines Bold Plans For 2014” by Trule Howe)”
Still, the CEO is optimistic. In the same interview, he said ONE will “without a doubt be in Hong Kong and Beijing” and “will probably have an entire team devoted to a Chinese branch.”
Cui has good reason to devote his time to China. The East Asian behemoth has one thing no other country can offer him: about twenty percent of the world’s population. By gaining access to China, Cui would be gaining millions (or perhaps even billions) of new customers.
But wherever ONE FC goes, fans will no doubt be happy to see it expand into new territory. ONE has grown immensely since it charged onto the scene in 2011, and if “Asia’s largest MMA organization” can make headway in these new markets, there is only one direction it can go –