World Lethwei Championship aggressively eyes Asia, U.S., in 2020 global expansion
World Lethwei Championship CEO Gerald Ng can still recall the days when acronyms like MMA and UFC were mysterious to many sports fans.
“Lethwei is where mixed martial arts was twenty years ago,” Ng said in an interview with MMA Crossfire. “I am extremely optimistic that with our current growth trajectory, we can make Lethwei become as internationally recognizable as football, basketball, or Formula 1.”
A Burmese bareknuckle combat sport conceived in Myanmar nearly a millennium ago, Lethwei is considered one of the most aggressive combat sports in the world. Fighters compete only with tape and gauze on their hands, with many different elbow, knee, feet, and even head butt strikes available for combat.
The WLC fortify their shows with cultural recognition, including a traditional ceremonial offering, outfits, orchestra, live music concert atmosphere, and pyrotechnics that help provide a memorable experience for fans.
Ng is familiar to many in the industry as the former PR head for Singapore-based organization ONE Championship. Ng joined the Myanmar-based WLC in 2017, using his experience at ONE to help secure broadcast deals, including international broadcaster Canal+ in 2018, and prominent combat sports streaming service UFC Fight Pass in 2019.
WLC 11: BattleBones was recently held Jan. 31 in Myanmar, broadcast live on Canal+ and live streamed on UFC Fight Pass.
“It allows people anywhere in the world to access our content, which is critical in this day and age of online streaming,” Ng explained.
But the company is not content to stop there.
WLC plans to expand with shows in Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and even the United States in the fourth quarter. It’s the kind of momentum every upstart hopes to generate and ride like a surf board.
“We are now live on UFC Fight Pass, Canal+ and Fox Sports, which was unimaginable three years ago,” Ng said.
Of course, Canadian fans keeping score are aware of the WLC’s current openweight and cruiserweight world champion, Gatineau, Quebec’s own Dave Leduc.
WLC’s next and first event outside of Myanmar, WLC: Khmer Kingdom, is scheduled for April 3, when Phnom, Penh, Cambodia plays host.
Bouts are expected to be finalized and announced shortly.