Manny Pacquiao’s recent business shift to Mixed Martial Arts might have come as a surprise to many.
Headlines were poured when it was announced that the popular world Boxing champ purchased a stake in ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s premier Mixed Martial Arts outfit.
But for ONE FC CEO Victor Cui, it was a deal that was four years in the making.
“I first met Manny in 2010 and we instantly connected,” Cui said. “He was a new fan to MMA and he was always looking to expand his ever-growing business interests, ranging from gyms, to clothing lines, merchandise and all that kind of stuff outside of what he does in the ring.”
“Since day one when we launched ONE FC, we really wanted to be game-changers and do things differently. We wanted to take this sport to new levels. This is just another opportunity for him and for us.”
Pacquiao’s obligations within the promotion weren’t announced, but the Boxer’s popularity throughout the world alone, on paper, should be seen as enough to help enhance both the sport and ONE FC’s reputation.
Pacquiao currently operates a series of gyms in the region which offer MMA classes. When queried on whether the Filipino icon will ever daunt four-ounce gloves and step into an MMA cage, Cui recalled an interesting tale.
“It wasn’t really anything we talked about,” Cui said. “Although, just a little while back when I was at his place in Manila for his mother’s birthday party, we were sitting together and he put on a pair of ONE FC gloves. And he just pounds his hands together, and looks at me.”
“You could just see it in his face; he was calculating the kind of damage he would do to somebody with MMA gloves on. He said ‘Man, I could really put a lot of hurt on somebody with this’ in Filipino. Everyone just laughed and were imagining what that would be like. I think that was probably the extend of it.”
Cui, himself, is Filipino by heritage, with his parents hailing from the city of Cebu. The local dialect, there, happens to be shared by Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos City.
And with the two now working hand-in-hand, Cui maintained it’s intriguing times, as ever, for Asian MMA.
“We’re two and a half years old and people around the world are watching Asian Martial artists for the first time competing on a global scale,” he concluded. “I’m happy that Manny’s somebody who has come on board as a small stake shareholder with ONE FC. That’s exciting stuff for the sport, exciting opportunities for athletes and for Asia.”
Credit: Victor Cui, Red Card Sports Radio