UFC Fight Night set for an annual date in Singapore

UFC Fight Night set for an annual date in Singapore
UFC senior vice president of international business Joe Carr speaking during a news conference after the UFC Fight Night at Globe arena in Stockholm, Sweden in May. Photo: REUTERS/Philip O'Connor
Published: 11:30 PM, June 15, 2017

SINGAPORE – UFC fans could see an annual fight on the cards here in future, as the American mixed martial arts (MMA) company is looking to make Singapore a regular stop on its fight calendar.

The world’s leading MMA promotion makes a return to Singapore on Saturday (June 17) after a three-year hiatus, and Joe Carr, UFC’s senior vice-president and head of international and content, said fans can expect much more as UFC looks to build its fan base in the region.

“The growth and interest in MMA since the last time we were here in 2014 is really night and day, how much more support we have, how much more media coverage we have, and the talent coming from the region,” he said.

Carr said that the decision was due to the popularity of this weekend’s UFC Fight Night, which has already generated S$1 million in gate receipts to date. The return of the popular promotion here will see American fighter Holly Holm – who upset former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in 2015 – taking on Brazil’s Bethe Correia in the main draw.

He added: “It only continues to grow and I feel like Singapore is almost adopting MMA as its home sport.

“From what I’ve heard, we’ve sold almost twice as many as ONE Championship sold to their show three weeks ago, so we feel pretty good about it.

“Obviously One is based here, and us coming as well and given that we’ve had so much success this week around this event, we’re strongly considering making it a regular stop on an annual basis.”

While Asian promotion One Championship also enjoys a significant following here and in Asia with 24 shows across the region compared to two in Singapore and Japan for the UFC, Carr stressed that there is room for everyone.

“Everywhere else there’s your local leagues and then UFC at the top, (providing) premier highest quality competition. It’s no different from soccer, where you have the Premier League, La Liga and then the small leagues and (basketball where) you have the NBA and then the Euro basketball league.

“One FC in South-east Asia is kind of the dominant local league, you have Road FC in Korea, promotions in Japan, and as MMA and the sport continues to grow, there’s more than enough room for both of us.”

Even as UFC continues to groom and build on the brand of its Asian fighters, including Chinese welterweight Li Jiangliang, who is fighting on Saturday against Frank Camacho, and Filipino Jenel Lausa, the Republic’s fans have yet to see a local talent in the UFC’s roster.

While One FC has been able to bank on popular Canadian fighter Angela Lee, who has Singaporean and Korean parentage, Carr said UFC will take time to unearth’s Singapore’s UFC superstar.

He added: “Our No. 1 priority is always talent development, local talent development.

“Our Asian fighters are coming along, we have a few Koreans ranked in the top 10, we’ve had Japanese talent, there is a Filipino fighter debuting on the card. We’re definitely focused on finding talent from this region.

“Singapore itself is probably a little far behind, but it’s something that we’re focused on at the grassroots level.

“We have a fighter development programme where we bring aspiring talents over to the United States to train, so if we know that we’re going to make Singapore a regular stop, we’re going to amplify those efforts.”