It has taken less than 2 years for ONE Fighting Championship to establish itself as one of the premier Mixed Martial Arts organizations in the world. And the future certainly looks voluminous for the Singapore-based promotion.
I spoke to Victor Cui, the CEO and Founder of ONE Fighting Championship, and I could tell he has been indefatigable in trying to conquer the MMA landscape.
For starters, I was interested in knowing why he decided to launch a Mixed Martial Arts promotion. The Canadian felt that MMA was an unknown commodity in Asia, and saw potential in introducing an exuberant combat sport to Asian fight fans in the region:
“The reason why I wanted to start ONE FC is because the fact of the matter is: MMA is the world’s fastest growing sport, by far. I’ve been in the sports media industry for over 15 years and I’ve been lucky enough to work in major world class organizations from the Commonwealth games to the Olympics, and ESPN with the PGA tour. But I have never ever seen a sport that is exploding and growing this fast,” he said. “MMA is the 3rd most popular sport in North America; it’s watched almost every day on television and it’s phenomenal. Yet, this sport of Mixed Martial Arts is at its infancy in Asia! I mean, I was watching this sport grow and explode everywhere but nobody knew about it in Asia. So I said there’s a big opportunity here because not only is the sport growing, Asia is the home of Martial Arts. And to educate and make sports fans fall in love with Mixed Martial Arts is a very easy step to do in Asia. So that’s really how the opportunity presented itself: I looked at it and with all my experiences I realised that hey, there is an opportunity now to bring this world-class sport and take it to a whole other level in Asia.”
Victor Cui also believes that ONE FC does indeed stand out from other top promotions around the world. And he gave 3 simple reasons:
“What separates us is first and foremost, we are regional. We are holding events all across Asia. And the second thing is, we have the biggest television reach of any MMA organization in this region. We have an unprecedented 10-year television deal with ESPN StarSports, and a global broadcast. That puts us with over 500-million potential viewers in 28 countries across Asia, “ he said. “And the third reason is we have 90% of the top fighters in Asia signed in proximity with ONE Fighting Championship. And that means we can find the very best of the best. Why do we have the best? Because if you’re a fighter, don’t you want to be on a show that you can see all around the world? It’s good for you, it’s good for your gym, good for your martial arts which means that you get more exposure, get another sponsor; All those kind of things. So it’s a win-win for us because we’re getting the best fighters, and it’s a win for the fighter(s) because they’re getting bigger exposure than they’ve ever had.”
The founder was also quick to mention about the success of the ONE FC Network, having established numerous partnerships with a myriad of gyms, regional promotions, sponsors, and more. Furthermore, through MMA Summits and what not, Victor believes that the Asian MMA platform will evolve, with all the major players working cohesively as a unit:
“The ONE FC network is very different and is a distinctly Asian approach to doing business. Everywhere else in the world, if you look at the MMA industry, other promotions have started fighting against each other. There’s zero collaboration, “ the CEO said. “But in Asia, I brought together all the different promotions in every country and I said look, we’re all friends (because I knew them even before I launched ONE FC) and this opportunity is at its beginning. This sport is growing so fast, so how do we work together to make it better for all of us? How do we work together so that this sport is more exciting, so that there’ll be better opportunities for you, better opportunities for the fighters, better opportunities for sponsors, and better opportunities for everybody that will grow the sport safely, quickly and exponentially? So as a distinctly Asian approach to business, I said let’s work together. Let’s make this a collaborative effort. How do we bring together all these pieces? And that’s what we did. So you know, when we held the first Summit, that was the first time in all of Asia where we brought together the entire community. And we’re going to do it again this May 2nd to May 4th and bring over 500 people from every Martial Arts in all of MMA, every top gym, every top promotion; We’re bringing people from the industry around the world to come here and share our knowledge, to share our passion of how to grow the sport.”
Next up, I was eager to know about Victor’s take on the blended ONE FC MMA rule set. This unique rule set encompasses the combination of the best practices from the east & west, and the Canadian believes that this will lead to faster and better fights:
“The rule set is another reflection of the philosophy of ONE FC. It’s a blend of the very best from the west, and the very best from the east. We didn’t simply take western rules and drop it into Asia and say ‘okay here, take this’. Instead, we said hey, some elements of the PRIDE/DREAM rules are really good, and there are also some really good elements from the west, so how do we make a blend to make things better?”, he said. “So that’s how we came up with the global rule set that makes fights more fast paced and more exciting, where fighters aren’t allowed to hide behind rules. This really captures back what the essence of Mixed Martial Arts is all about – which is putting together the best fighters against each other.”
ONE Fighting Championship recently had the honour of being the first ever Asian promotion to be nominated at the annual World MMA Awards. This was a huge step in a new direction for the Asian MMA scene, and Victor Cui agreed:
“Yeah, I mean we were nominated for 2 awards and we were the only Asian promotion to ever be nominated. So, to be recognised this early and to have so many American fans and also to have the MMA global industry recognise what we’re doing here in Asia for the Asian fans, and for fighters, was great. Great experience. “
Last up, the CEO & Founder talked about ONE FC’s future. Apparently, the organization is already looking beyond the horizons, and is in the midst of planning 24 events for 2014:
“We’re done with the planning for 2013. We’ve got 12 events scheduled for this year and 2 Summits, “ he said. “We’re going to schedule 24 events for 2014.”
ONE Fighting Championship’s rise to the top, bears testament to the vision and philosophy that Victor Cui has adopted. The Singapore-based promotion is set to showcase events of biblical proportions, in front of ebullient crowds all over Asia.
ONE FC’s next event, titled ‘Kings & Champions’ will take place on April 5th at the Singapore Indoor Stadium situated in Singapore. The event will be headlined by a Lightweight title showdown between grappling maestro Shinya Aoki and defending champion, Kotetsu Boku.