SINGAPORE - The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is returning to Singapore and will pack a big punch when it does.
Come June 12, the Republic will stage UFC 275, making it the first time that a UFC numbered, pay-per-view event is held in South-east Asia, said the United States-based mixed martial arts outfit on Tuesday (March 29).
To be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the event will feature two title bouts.
UFC world light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira takes on second-ranked Jiri Prochazka, while UFC world women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will make the seventh defence of her title against Taila Santos, who earned her first title shot on the back of a four-fight win streak.
Other bouts include former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker facing former title challenger Marvin Vettori, a middleweight division clash between Brendan Allen and Jacob Malkoun, and a bantamweight bout between South Korean veteran Kang Kyung-ho and Saimon Oliveira.
The Republic previously hosted four UFC Fight Nights, which are smaller events that typically feature up-and-coming fighters, from 2014 to 2019.
Choosing Singapore to stage an event of UFC 275's stature was a natural progression, said Kevin Chang, UFC senior vice-president, Asia Pacific, in a Zoom interview with The Straits Times.
He said: "The fan base out there is sophisticated, they want to see the best of the best. Our Fight Night events have been amazing thus far, we've had spectacular moments... now we really wanted to share what this numbered event is like in Singapore, to take that a step further than the Fight Night series.
"We wanted for the first time to bring championship fights to Singapore and that's what we are going to do here. It speaks to the level of growth and fandom that we've had in Singapore in particular over the last couple of years."
Chang noted that the Republic's ability to hold international events safely amid the pandemic was also a key factor in making it the destination for UFC 275.
Since October 2020, Singapore has successfully staged a number of marquee sporting events, including the recently-concluded US$2 million (S$2.71 million) World Table Tennis Grand Smash, golf's HSBC Women's World Championship in March and December's AFF Suzuki Cup, a 10-nation gathering of South-east Asia's footballers.
The prestigious HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and Formula One's Singapore Grand Prix are also set to return to the sporting calendar this year.
Chang said: "For us to have a comfort that this is going to work in these times that we know are challenging because of the pandemic and in an environment that we know will be welcoming, smooth and operationally successful, Singapore just made all the sense in the world."
In a statement, UFC president Dana White added: "I can't wait for our first pay-per-view event in Singapore. The fights have been incredible this year and we're going to deliver an absolutely stacked card for the amazing fans in South-east Asia."
"Its presence highlights Singapore's position as a leading destination for sports in the region," said Ong Ling Lee, director, sports and wellness, Singapore Tourism Board.
"It is also a timely boost to our vibrancy and attractiveness as a lifestyle destination, as more international visitors return to Singapore."
Singapore will be just the third city outside the United States to host a UFC event since the pandemic forced the promotion to cancel scheduled events from late March to early May 2020. The other two are Abu Dhabi and London.
For Chang, this is an important step as the UFC works towards holding more events outside of the US.
He said: "The UFC is a global company, over half of our roster is outside of the US, our fan numbers and exposure outside of the US is massive and we can finally bring real events back in to countries outside of the US and in this instance, Singapore, so for us it's very exciting."
Former professional MMA fighter Syafiq Abdul Samad, 28, who is the operations manager and head muay thai coach at Juggernaut Fight Club, was excited about UFC’s return.
He said: “Personally I think for UFC 275 to be taking place in Singapore is a huge deal. Because UFC is one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world, like the English Premier League of MMA.
“I am looking forward to the Valentina Shevchenko-Taila Santos fight. I love the way Valentina fights, very composed, precise striking and she has a very high fight IQ, she is a master at Muay thai and kickboxing. I will definitely plan to go to the event to catch the fights live.”
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