The UFC is making its long-awaited return to Asia, with one show confirmed for Singapore on 17 June and a second event to be held in Tokyo later this year.
The announcement was made in Singapore today by UFC’s senior vice president and head of international Joe Carr, who said the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion was refocusing its efforts in Asia in a big way.
Over the coming year UFC will throw its weight behind building its brand of mixed martial arts in Singapore, Japan, Korea and, in particular China, where developing a pipeline of new talent will be a top priority.
“This year will be representative of how we are looking at things going forward,” Carr told a media scrum in Singapore today.
Carr said UFC will hold five to six events in Asia this year, including two in Australia and one, potentially in New Zealand.
First up is UFC Fight Night, which returns to the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday 17 June and later this year UFC will return to Saitama Super Arena.
The 17 June event will be the second for UFC in Singapore. Tarec Saffiedine defeated Hyun Gyu Lim in the main event of Fight Night Singapore on 4 January 2014.
As a way to build interest in the event, UFC will stage a series of activities and regional tournaments in Singapore in conjunction with the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and Grapple Asia.
“Everyone is very much focused on Korea. The plan is to go back to Korea once the arena is ready. We’re basically waiting on the venue.”
Also on the cards is China, where Carr said the UFC was on the verge of signing China’s “biggest MMA star” and looking at its first Mainland event.
“We are definitely working on holding our first event in China. We were successful in Macau, but our ambitions lie in Mainland China, it’s definitely a priority and a focus for our organisation.”
The UFC held its last Asia event in Seoul on October 2015. The company was due to return to Manila last October, but the event was pulled after headliner BJ Penn suffered an injury.
Still, Carr admits the UFC was happy with its progress in Asia.
“I will admit that we’ve been a little inconsistent in our event calendar, but we are very happy with what we’ve done globally in the past few years, especially in Asia,” he said.
“We have a ton of room to grow once we active in this region,” he said.