One FC will dominate the Asian market, and its name will become continentally synonymous with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, as has the UFC in the western world.
There are a plethora of reasons why the title of this article is as close to fact as speculative opinion can possibly be. One FC are riding the crest of a wave, any murmurs of dissent or critique that may have existed within the fightsport media has been skilfully silenced by Victor Cui and his marketing team, and the future looks so bright he’ll have to wear shades.
Here is a five-part breakdown of why One FC will rule the Asian Mixed Martial Arts market – barring absolute disaster – and be the powerhouse to which other organisations aspire:
Reason #1: The Event
One FC I delivered. There were murmurings and rumblings, dissatisfaction with the omission of stomps from the supposed PRIDE rules, and mixed reactions as to the actual quality of the card, but most reasonable people realised that the event – an enjoyable one – was a great start for a burgeoning promotion. A certain amount of events are usually needed to iron out the wrinkles (with Affliction being a noteworthy exception – then again, they discontinued their MMA promotion after the second event) and this was a positive step. One FC II? Bob Sapp’s usual post-2005 first round floundering aside, it delivered in a big way. And the third event? Universally praised. A card that began with five successive submissions, featured Manhoef, Kawajiri, Yodsanan and Laursen, and ended any resistance to the Singaporean onslaught on fan sensibilities, being streamed live for free around the world. And thus, we encroach upon point 2;
Reason #2: The Attitude
One FC cares about its international following. The third event was streamed for free on youtube globally, and millions of people from around the world had the opportunity to watch what is obviously the most ambitious promotion on the planet.
Take Japan. As an unashamed Japanophile, I often feel like a cuckolded husband, forever forgiving my unfaithful, abusive, unreliable wife. Japan is – along with Brazil – the spiritual home of Mixed Martial Arts, and whereas Vale Tudo gave birth to the sport in South America before the Brazilians took it Stateside, in Japan it was the professional wrestling culture and its catch-as-catch-can wrestling traditions that led to MMA’s growth, as well as Shooto, the world’s first MMA promotion and almost a sport in its own right. But look at Japan; PRIDE’s successors Dream & Sengoku have both fallen by the wayside; the former have suffered serious financial difficulties since 2010, the same year in which the latter hosted an event. And frankly speaking, no other promotion in Japan is remotely watchable in 2012, with DEEP, Pancrase, Shooto, ZST, The Outsiders, Cage Force and the newly revived RINGS taking weeks upon weeks to be uploaded to the internet (often not in full) an impossibly long time to avoid spoilers.
One FC, therefore, are cornering the market on caring for their international fans and removing the stigma of Asian xenophobia. Victor recognises the lucrative potential of worldwide support, and as such their events are instantly viewable, not to mention the marketing campaign behind them that ensures fans are left caring about the outcome of the bouts, the media being under pains and readily supplied with the copy to promote the cards well. And thus, we reach point no.3…
Reason #3: The Marketing
Victor is media savvy. This point is somewhat of a crossover from reason no.2, but it deserves to be highlighted; how many Japanese organisations go to great pains to maintain good relations with the media, welcome them to Singapore and liaise with them constantly? Japan does not care sufficiently, its promoters would regard the whole affair as a frightful waste of time and money. But Victor does; with Nadia Daeng, Aaron Kobes and his entire youthful, energetic team, he is keen to maintain a good relationship and it pays in spades with such favourable coverage from the likes of Middle Easy, The Fight Nation, Bloody Elbow and FightSport Asia. As a member of the media present in Singapore last night, I heard no dissenting opinions to the widely held view that the event had been an extremely enjoyable one, an entertaining show and yet another step in the right direction. And Victor’s savvy to cultivate this will surely stand him in good stead for the future, as his previous experience in media and broadcasting enables him to succeed in this field. And speaking of which…
Reason 4: The Sponsorship
Victor has a ten-year ESPN deal. That is enormous; ESPN is one of the biggest sport networks in the world, available to hundreds of millions of households around the globe, and no Mixed Martial Arts event other than One FC is going to be featured on it for the next decade. That means Victor’s One FC is on ESPN for the duration of PRIDE’s entire lifespan.
Want more persuasion? His latest sponsorship deal was with Sony. Please, bear in mind that no huge name brands have really embraced Mixed Martial Arts as a sport yet (Niké sponsor RUFF in China, but with restrictions on non-Chinese visa holders fighting for the promotion, obviously they are concerned with Sino-dominance as opposed to global move-making). No huge global brands have endorsed and sponsored MMA yet in any shape of form. Victor signed a deal with Sony.
The past few weeks, wave after wave of new sponsorship deals have been announced. There seems no end to the money about to flow into Singapore’s rising star, and no lack of ambition with which to spend it. And lastly;
Reason 5: The Ambition
One FC are the most ambitious promotion in the world. In retrospect, we can see that behind the excitement of Affliction, it was really just three stacked cards organised with funds from a successful T-shirt company and outside benefactors wanting to be associated with what must have looked to outsiders as the next trendy fad. Elite XC had ambition; they also had Kimbo Slice as their main marketing tool and main-event. Strikeforce had ambition; they built the world’s second best ever heavyweight roster, signed big name stars to the lightweight, welterweight, middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions, and promptly sold to the UFC once their brand name had gotten worldwide accalim and huge monetary value; to this day they continue to hold a Showtime television deal, but in reality are now literally UFC’s bush league, the second tier to which losing Zuffa fighters can be relegated.
One FC are selling to no one, failing on no counts, and if their answer to Kimbo was Bob Sapp on One FC II, the third event didn’t feature a single fight with any semblance of the freakshow about it. Their roster is slowly building, they are becoming a more worthy alternative to life under Zuffa dominion for fighters worldwide, and they have the platform to reach a genuine worldwide audience via both broadcasting and in the media.
The foundations are in place; all that remains is for continued momentum to push them into the stratosphere. And even when they are, when the promises are fulfilled and the ONE FC organisation are the Asian equivalent to UFC, its moniker synonymous with the sport itself for millions of people, and the world’s elite heading back to Asian shores to compete for genuine world championships, even then will Victor be happy? Time will tell.
I already know the story time will tell on One FC itself. It’s a positive one for fans and supporters of Asian Mixed Martial Arts, a story that would make for good bedtime reading for everybody bored of the somewhat stale UFC product that has been mercilessly dominating the sport from Las Vegas. A shift in the balance of power is needed, and it is coming. Stay tuned.