Victor Cui’s thoughts on ONE FC 8: Kings & Champions fight card

ONE Fighting Championship is set to showcase its second event of 2013. Following ONE FC 7: Return of Warriors which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the promotion is set to make its return to Singapore for the 4th time. ONE FC 8: Kings &amp ; Champions will take place on April 5th at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Moreover, this will be the first time that a ONE FC event will be aired live all over Asia on Star Sports. Fans living outside the continent can catch the action live on www.onefc.livesport.tv/, at only US$9.99. Preliminary/Undercard bouts can be viewed for free on the promotion’s YouTube channel.

Victor Cui, CEO and founder of the Singapore-based promotion, seemed intrigued and happy about the bouts on the fight card, and was kind enough to share his views on some of the match-ups. He also promises fans a night of exciting action:

“What’s really exciting to me, overall, with this fight card is: I think what you are seeing in the world, and what’s emerging right now, is this classic battle of the East vs. West. You’ve seen this theme play out over and over of the biggest in the East vs. the biggest in the west in almost every industry you can think of. Like Apple vs. Samsung, YouTube vs. Youko, Weibo vs. Twitter and Facebook vs. Renren. These are all examples of the biggest in the East vs. the biggest in the West and what you’re seeing now is the biggest in the West, UFC, against the biggest in the East which is ONE FC, “ Cui said. “Everything we’re doing in this fight card shows not only our world champions but all the way down to our local fighters that we’re trying to showcase, and to develop them as national champions as well. The quality of our cards you’re seeing and the quality of the fighters and excitement plus the fact that we continue to sell out stadiums and fans coming out is all really great stuff.”

Fans were caught by surprise when Ronald Low emerged as the Singaporean that ONE FC had slated for April 5th. The likes of Syafiq ‘The Slasher’ and Evolve MMA’s Radeem Rahman were names that were originally tapped upon by the media and fans. But Cui backed his decision as to why Ronald Low was put on the fight card instead:

“Putting guys on the card isn’t just about who is ready, and who is not on our roster. Particularly when it comes to showcasing a Singaporean. We’ve got in our company, you know Matt Hume, who’s probably one of the best match-makers in the world. Matt Hume is not only respected as an official; he’s respected as an athlete, and he has made more champions than any gym in the world, “ the CEO said. “From Demetrious Johnson to Bibiano Fernandes, you’re talking about a guy who knows what he’s doing. I trust him in our match-making and what we build. One of the challenges is finding a good match-up for a fighter, so you want the hometown heroes to have an opportunity to shine and showcase himself. That’s ultimately what fans want to see. They want to see the best – the most exciting match-up that we can deliver and that’s what we try to do with every single one. I would love, of course, to have other Singaporean fighters on the card and I always look at that when we’re here. But it’s about their skill level and who else is available in the world to fight.”

Low will be facing Chen Yun Ting, a member of the esteemed Muayfit fight camp. Both fighters have been tasked to set the tone for the rest of the night. And Victor was confident that Low would get the crowd’s support:

“I think what you’re going to see is the Singaporean audience, as they always have here, completely rally around, and stand-up and cheer for the hometown hero. I mean when you think about it, how often does Singapore get to cheer for its own national hero who’s showcasing himself on a world championship stage?” he said. “We’re broadcasted to over 600 million potential viewers around the world and across Asia, LIVE. I mean on that Friday night, when you turn on the television, and you’re in any bar in Asia, the only LIVE show that they’re going to put on is ONE FC. And that’s an exciting opportunity for any young fighter to be able to showcase himself in and I think you’ll really see the Singapore audience rally around and be really excited about it.”

Bashir Ahmad, a pioneer of Pakistani MMA, will also be making his long-awaited promotional debut at ONE FC 8. Shannon Wiratchai, who’s probably a familiar face amongst Asian fight fans, will be welcoming Ahmad to the organization, and Cui believes that Wiratchai will have his hands full on April 5th:

“Yeah of course. Bashir is a great representation of Pakistani MMA, and that sport is emerging out there. We’ve had our eye on Bashir and we signed him probably a year ago. We took our time in waiting for him to get ready to be on a ONE FC card. I think it’s a very interesting match-up because Bashir might have a little bit of edge and experience definitely on the ground game. Shannon probably has a more superior stand-up game but he also has a reach advantage. Shannon is a little bit taller and lean, while Bashir is a little bit shorter and stockier – there’s a little bit more of muscles to him. Shannon has been working on his BJJ and if he can defend the takedowns and keep the fight standing, he’ll control the fight. If it goes to the ground, I will definitely say that Bashir has an advantage.”

Leandro Issa, just one of five Evolve MMA fighters on the fight card, recently dropped a TKO loss at the hands of reigning ONE FC Bantamweight title-holder, Soo Chul Kim. The Brazilian may have to work his way up the ladder again as he prepares to contest another possible contender in Yusup Saadulaev:

“The challenge we have at Bantamweight is that we have a very, very deep pool of talented fighters right now,” Cui said. “We not only have Leandro Issa and Yusup Saadulaev, but we also have the Bantamweight Tournament that’s going on. And we’ve got Bibiano (Fernandes) in there as well, so it’s a very stacked division. The previous loss for Leandro was unfortunate and we’ll see how the other fights play out and how the Bantamweight tournament works out as well.”

Victor was also quick to comment on Arnaud Lepont’s wacky entrances and charismatic character. The CEO loves it, and believes the match-up between the Frenchman and Eddie Ng will be an explosive one:

“I love it. I think he’s a great entertainer and this sport is much above being a talented fighter as it is being an entertainer and having the fans know and appreciate you. Lepont knows how to get people interested in the sport, and he’s the bad guy – a brash, outspoken French guy that everybody loves to hate. But everybody will come watch him fight. Eddie Ng is well-mannered, very polite, Asian-born that was bullied as a kid. He was probably bullied by someone like Arnaud (laughs). They both have knockout potential in this fight, and they’ve been looking to fight each other. I think it’s going to be really exciting.”

“What also takes time is the fans to get to know these fighters. When Eddie first came on the scene, nobody knew about him, “ he continued. “Nobody knew about his background, and it takes time for people and fans to know about it and for them to learn about Arnaud too. So the thing is these guys are very popular now. Arnaud gets a lot of fan mail, but so does Eddie. And I think those are all part and parcel of the star rising with ONE FC.”

ONE FC 8: Kings & Champions will also play host to the semi-finals of the inaugural Bantamweight Grand Prix, featuring Jens Pulver vs. Masakatsu Ueda & Thanh Vu vs. Kevin Belingon. Victor explains why the promotion decided to have a Grand Prix, and gives his thoughts on the semi-final bouts. He couldn’t make his mind up on who’s the favourite to win the Grand Prix, though:

“It’s an exciting Bantamweight Grand Prix. The thing is what we want to develop across all our weight classes is a Grand Prix so that a storyline continues and fans will be able to follow and understand it. But it also lines up the next title contender.”

“Jens Pulver is always a fan favourite and the fans loved him the last time he was here (Singapore). So I think they’ll be looking forward to having him come back, “ Cui said. “Same thing can be said for guys like Kevin Belingon, Thanh Vu and Ueda.”

“That’s too close for me right now to call. I think they’re all very strong – Pulver has experience but age isn’t on his side. Kevin Belingon has age on his side but not experience. So we’ve got a mix-up of everybody on that tournament so that’s why the Grand Prix is so exciting.”

The co-main event will see former Strikeforce veteran and heavy-hitter Melvin Manhoef, take on Brock Larson, once a member of the UFC roster. Victor believes someone will get knocked out, and talks about having both of these fighters on the fight card:

“Hey man, its got knockout written all over it. These guys are going to be explosive, throwing punches and moving forward. Melvin got a huge standing ovation the last time he was here (Singapore). The fans are following him, they get him and they appreciate him. When he stood in the cage, he said, ‘I love Singapore, I love the food, I love the women and I want to move to Singapore’, you know, he really likes it out here. So we’re really glad to have him back.”

“Yeah I’m happy to have him (Brock Larson) as a ONE FC fighter and to have him on the card. We’ll see how he performs out here in Asia.”

I was curious to know if ONE FC had considered another Lightweight to face Kotetsu Boku for the strap. Cui, however, had his mind made-up following Aoki’s post-fight interview at ONE FC 6: Rise of Kings. Furthermore, it’s no secret that the majority of Boku’s losses have come via submission, but Victor still believes that the Japanese veteran is no slouch by any standards:

“When Zoro (Moreira) lost and Shinya won, and Shinya stood in the cage and said, ‘I want the title shot’, that was the fight I wanted to see right away. And I think it’s a fight the fans wanted to see. Both of these guys are seasoned veterans in MMA. They both know each other’s fighting styles very well, they know what they are stepping into. Aoki has an incredible global fan following, while Boku is the star of ONE FC – he’s the world champion. And it’s going to be an exciting fight.”

“No, no, it’s not going to be a walk-in-the-park for Aoki. People thought it was going to be a walk-in-the-park for Zoro and underestimated Boku. And the one thing you can learn from that guy is don’t underestimate him.”

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Follow Thinesh on Twitter (@ThineshJohnMMA), and keep up with the latest MMA news from MMASucka via Twitter (@MMASucka) and Facebook

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