One Fighting Championship will stage “Champion vs. Champion” on Sept. 3 at the 12,000-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The event’s 10-bout card includes multiple UFC veterans, titleholders from some of the Asia-Pacific’s premier fighting organizations and decorated champions from the worlds of muay Thai, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sanda. With a television broadcast reach of 500 million homes and a simultaneous live webcast on Sherdog.com, it has the potential to be the most-watched MMA event in history.
Not bad for a first show.
Of course, it is not really Victor Cui’s maiden voyage. The founder and CEO of One FC has nearly 15 years of experience in the sports media industry and was also the man behind Martial Combat, a promotion which ran two shows per month on the Singapore resort island of Sentosa from May to October in 2010.
Like One FC, Martial Combat aired on ESPN Star Sports -- a Singapore-based network jointly owned by the Walt Disney Company and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation for which Cui formerly served as a consultant -- and featured a host of international talent. However, as Cui explains, that was merely a dress rehearsal.
“Martial Combat was a small test pilot project held in a hotel ballroom without a real capital base. It’s comparing apples and oranges,” Cui tells Sherdog.com. “Just for comparison, I’m spending 15 times more per event with One Fighting Championship than I ever did for Martial Combat. In fact, my budget for the inaugural show is greater than that of all 12 shows of Martial Combat combined.”
The difference in capital, which comes from Cui himself and “a group of foreign investors with deep pockets,” is readily apparent in the lineup for One FC’s Sept. 3 offering. Whereas the most recognizable name to feature in Martial Combat’s run was Japanese veteran Shungo Oyama, the co-main event of “Champion vs. Champion” will be a clash of popular ex-UFC welterweights Phil Baroni and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. The show’s headliner features one of the region’s most touted prospects, Filipino lightweight Eduard Folayang, taking on muay Thai stylist Ole Laursen.
“For lack of a better analogy, One Fighting Championship is the UFC of Asia, but with a focus on the best Asian fighters,” says Cui. “I have a simple philosophy: I just want the best Asian fighters in Asia on our show. I don’t care if it’s a guy or a girl. If you’re a world champion martial artist and you want to let it all hang in the cage, then I want you. If you are the baddest fighter in your country in Asia, then I want you. If you think you’re the best MMA fighter, then I want you. One Fighting Championship is about the best Asian fighters competing on the biggest Asian stage.”
Unlike many Asian organizations, which follow the ringed lead of Pride Fighting Championships, One FC will be one of the region’s few high-profile promotions to take place in a cage. Unlike the UFC, however, the company will not utilize the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.
“The rules are taking the best of Pride FC and the best of UFC,” Cui explains. “For me, I just want to put on exciting fights with the best Asian fighters that MMA fans want to see. I want KOs and submissions. I want real action. I want to see the purity of MMA, with stomps and soccer kicks and elbows.”
While One FC will kick off in its headquarters of Kallang, Singapore, do not expect the company to stay put; Cui is already planning events for Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond.
“In the next 12 months, One Fighting Championship will be in Singapore, Macau, Jakarta, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo,” Cui says, adding that shows in Thailand and the Philippines are also on the radar. “The UFC has been very successful doing shows in all the major cities in North America and some in Europe. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m just going to follow that roadmap, except applying it to Asian cities only.”
Cui’s vision may seem grandiose, but it is also not unrealistic. One FC reportedly remains in negotiations with some of the most prominent fighters in the dissipating Japanese scene and has close ties with Singapore’s fast-rising Evolve MMA team. Additional television deals could place the promotion in upwards of one billion homes throughout Asia by the end of 2011. At the same time, unlike many startups, One FC is in no rush to crown champions, as Cui notes that “all the fighters on this first event have a gazillion title belts already.”
“The landscape in Asia is basically One Fighting Championship and Dream as the two real major players with the best fighters,” Cui says. “[One Fighting Championship] is a world-class event held in one of the largest stadiums in Asia, with world-class event and television production and the best roster of Asian world champions and fighters outside of Japan -- for now.”