Now that the UFC is firmly entrenched in North America, the race to secure the rest of the world has been on for some time. PRIDE used to be the dominant organization in the East, with smaller organizations like K-1 jockeying for position.
But PRIDE was absorbed by the UFC back in 2007. Many organizations have been scrambling to fill the void since then.
Four years later, a Singapore-based MMA organization started turning heads.
That company is ONE FC, and it’s CEO is Canadian Victor Cui. Since 2011, he’s done more than just grow the company into “The UFC of Asia.”
He’s introduced the MMA Summit – an annual meeting of Asia’s MMA industry. This year’s summit included the brother and sister of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
Cui, who is currently focusing on the company’s May 31st Rise to Power pay-per-view event, recently conducted an email interview with MMA Crossfire’s Cassie Wiseman.
It produced some interesting insights.
ONE FC CEO VICTOR CUI
MMA Crossfire: Considering how many events UFC used to produce when they first started, how is it ONE FC produced nine shows since it was founded in 2011?
Victor CUI: The Asian market is growing at such a rapid rate. All our events have been sold out to crowds of more than 10,000 people and the response to ONE FC has been phenomenal. We have so many different markets that we want to go to that we can’t keep up!
MMA Crossfire: Each show has a name, but how do you come up with the themes so to speak for each event?
Victor Cui: The title reflects the cities that we visit. ONE FC: Rise To Power. The Philippines, as a country, is now getting increased influence. The fighters from the Philippines have also quickly risen to the top of the division. We have so many great Filipino fighters it is unbelievable. Honorio Banario is now the ONE FC featherweight world champion, Kevin Belingon is in the final of the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix and Eduard Folayang remains one of the best lightweights in Asia. Their rise to power is reflected in the theme.
MMA Crossfire: There were five shows in 2012. Do you plan for more in 2013?
Victor Cui: We have been getting so many requests from fans all over Asia to go to their cities. We already have twelve events planned for this year, and next year we will be doing 24 shows. There will be a ONE FC event in every major city in Asia in 2014.
MMA Crossfire: When developing ONE FC, what made you decide to allow elbows, soccer kicks and knees on the ground?
Victor Cui: When analysing the rule sets, we decided to combine the best elements from the East with the best elements from the West. When talking to fighters and fans, they mentioned how much they missed the PRIDE rules, so we incorporated elements of that along with elements from the unified rule set.
MMA Crossfire: Being of Chinese/Filipino descent and born in Canada, what was it that made you decide on creating a MMA business in Asia?
Victor Cui: I was working at ESPN Star Sports in Singapore before I created ONE FC, I realised the huge potential for growth here in Asia. Mixed martial arts is already the fastest growing sport in the world, and Asia has a population of 3.9 billion people. This is the birthplace for Wushu, Judo, Taekwondo, Silat and many more traditional martial arts, and ONE FC now provides all the champions of these martial arts an avenue to expand their career.
MMA Crossfire: Have you considered starting something like The Ultimate Fighter to recruit fighters eligible for ONE FC?
Victor Cui: We recently discussed this at the ONE Asia MMA Summit. We have launched a developmental league in every country in Asia and now have every major amateur MMA league in Asia as part of our ONE Network. That gives ONE FC a pipeline of exclusive fighters from the amatuer level to pros and over 90% of the top MMA professional fighters are now signed exclusively to ONE FC or through the network. We will be looking at what works in each individual country and create a system where amateurs fighters can develop their skills and those that impress will be called up to ONE FC. We have multiple projects in the pipeline for new television shows with formats that are suitable for each country.
MMA Crossfire: What is your opinion on the current rise of women in MMA? How do you feel this fits with the direction of ONE FC?
Victor Cui: ONE FC has always been open to having women compete. We had a women’s bout in our third event. We are constantly looking for women fighters that are good enough to enter the ONE FC cage.
MMA Crossfire: Invicta and the UFC have an open relationship in that they allow fighters to fight for either organization. If given the opportunity, would you agree with such a relationship between your fighters and another organization? Why or why not?
Victor Cui: We have already long started and established this through the ONE Network. The very purpose of the network brings together every major promotion of significance in Asia together under an exclusive relationship of fighter exchange. This gives everyone in the network access to more fights than they have ever had access to and allows us to continually develop fighters throughout Asia.