Delegates from the recently formed Cambodian MMA Association traveled to Singapore over the weekend for the ONE Asia Summit, which took place at the Marina Bay Sands Resort and was attended by 500 of the key players in the mixed martial arts scene.
Amongst the speakers were MMA legends Rich Franklin, Renzo Gracie and Robert Lee, brother of iconic martial arts movie star Bruce Lee.
There were also representatives from all the biggest promotors in the region including URCC, Road FC, Glory and Dream, and renowned fight teams including Evolve MMA, Tiger Muay Thai and Team Lakay.
The sport is just starting to take off in Cambodia, but the message from industry insiders operating in the more established strongholds such as the Philippines and Singapore was that MMA has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar business in Asia over the course of the next 10 years.
No one spoke more enthusiastically about the potential for growth which MMA has in the region than Victor Cui. As the CEO and owner of ONE FC, he has seen his promotion rise rapidly to become the biggest in Asia and the major global competitor to the UFC.
Cui referred to a recent article in the American media, which outlined the burgeoning competition between ONE FC, headquartered in Singapore, and the Las Vegas-based UFC, in order to highlight the explosion of interest in the sport. “In 2011, there was virtually zero mainstream media coverage for MMA in Asia. Now it’s getting attention from the New York Times and we’re only at the beginning,” he said.
It is unusual in any industry to see so many stakeholders working together as promoters, managers and sponsors from all across the region and gathered at the most expensive casino resort in the world for the three-day summit.
Cui formed something called the ONE FC Network, which has brought all the attendees at the summit together, and attributed his understanding of the importance of teamwork and co-operation to the time he spent serving in the Canadian military,
“When I was in the navy I learned the value of putting aside your own skill for the benefit of the group. That’s what we’re doing now, we’re putting aside our differences and setting aside our own skills to build a legacy that we can never build by ourselves.”
MMA is already a multi-billion dollar industry in the US where it has been embraced by the mainstream audience.
Cui concluded his speech by pointing out that the higher population in Asia makes it a potentially even bigger market than the one in the West. “Right now ONE FC has a 90 per cent market share, which means that every time we hold an event, over a billion people can potentially watch us. But there are 3.9 billion people living in Asia and we want them all to have the chance to see their best fighters compete against each other.
“With MMA growing exponentially, don’t be surprised if it ends up bigger than football or cricket,” he added.
Next stop for ONE FC is Manila on May 31 for a card which will be headlined by a featherweight title fight between Honorio Banario and Koiji Oishi. A show in Cambodia is said to be on the agenda for 2014.