Under a new partnership with Las Vegas Sands, the UFC is banking that its global brand of mixed martial arts will take hold across Asia.
At an event dubbed Fight Night Singapore, the UFC sold out its first event in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands with a mix of local and international bouts.
The Singapore event was the first under an expanded partnership with LVS properties Marina Bay Sands and The Venetian Macau, which will host its second UFC event on 1 March.
This comes after a bullish year of growth for the emerging sport in Asia, where several key organisations like One Fighting Championship, China’s RUFF and the Korea-based Road FC are making huge gains with fans and sponsors.
One FC said it will make its first foray into North Asia in 2014 with events planned for Hong Kong and Taiwan. One FC has been among the most active in gaining sponsor approval, striking key deals with AirAsia, Bayer Healthcare, Petronas and Paramount Pictures.
— Victor Cui (@victoronefc) December 19, 2013
In 2014, UFC, along with ONE FC are planning dozens of events across the region. UFC alone said it was considering events in several new markets like Manila, Seoul and Jakarta.
Ed Tracy, president and CEO of Sands China, said the sponsorship of UFC Fight Night Singapore and the reality TV series The Ultimate Fighter China is part of a multi-tiered approach to delivering the best program of sports and entertainment events in Asia.
“We have multiple objectives when we do these events. First of all we’re a business so it has to be commercially successful. Secondly it has to do something for the overall brand. Our first event with the UFC was a wild success. There’s a lot of interest in mixed martial arts and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If Asia does for the UFC what it has done for Las Vegas Sands, it will be spectacular in the next couple of years.
Fight Night Singapore was also the first card on UFC’s new digital network UFC Fight Pass, which airs The Ultimate Fighter, along with a library of past fights and MMA related content.
UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer said the organisation will push aggressively into Asia in 2014.
“Initiatives like The Ultimate Fighter China really help us create a local talent base and introduce the sport and the UFC brand to millions of new fans,” he said, adding that a second series of The Ultimate Fighter China is planned for this year.
UFC recently shifted its Asia headquarters from Beijing to Singapore and said The Ultimate Fighter will also air in markets like Hong Kong and Singapore.