SINGAPORE: Leading mixed martial arts promoter UFC is planning to hold three-four events a year in Asia and is scouring the region for fighters, a senior executive told AFP.
Las Vegas-based UFC, which made stars of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, is making a concerted bid to establish a presence in the region, starting with an event in Singapore on Saturday.
UFC will also hold an event in Tokyo in September and is planning a third Asian fight night in November, said Joe Carr, head of international and content.
But he said unearthing home-grown fighters was “the most important piece of our business”.
“You look around the world, any market we’ve had tremendous amounts of success is because we’ve had local talent emerge,” Carr said.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been successful in Korea, Japan and some of the North Asian countries, we’ve been successful there.
“Our challenge is more in Southeast Asia in finding talent from this market.”
Li Jingliang is the sole Chinese fighter on Saturday’s card — compatriot Wang Guan pulled out due to an injury — which is topped by Holly Holm’s fight against Bethe Correia of Brazil.
Carr said it was harder to find top-quality fighters in Southeast Asia, although the Philippines’ Rolando Dy is also on the Singapore card.
“The challenge in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore is that there’s not any fighters that can compete at the highest levels of the UFC,” he said.
“But we’re actively searching for those guys and when we find promising young prospects, we focus on bringing them to the US and fighter development programme and have them train at the best gyms have them hone their skills.
“Particularly if we feel we’re going to make (Singapore) an annual event, we’re gonna be very focused on finding more talent in this region.”