UFC, One Championship lead the fight to reign supreme in MMA

Singapore’s mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Royston Wee (right) in action against MMA fighter Dave Galera from the Philippines in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 34 held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre on Jan 4, 2013
Singapore’s mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Royston Wee (right) in action against MMA fighter Dave Galera from the Philippines in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 34 held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre on Jan 4, 2013.PHOTO: ST FILE

(AFP) - With the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) making its return to Singapore on June 17 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium after a three-year absence, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are in for a smashing time.

Here is the lowdown on the UFC and the other household name here, One Championship.

UFC

Helped by global stars like Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, Holly Holm and some 500 fighters under contract, UFC has grown to dominate the MMA world, with 40 live events annually and some of the largest pay-per-view events broadcast worldwide. It is also shown in more than 156 countries.

Last July, UFC announced that it was bought for US$4 billion (S$5.6 billion) by a combination of the sports and arts talent group WME-IMG backed by private equity groups.

WME-IMG, which represents and promotes artists, athletes and sports brands, will take over as operating partner, after having represented UFC for several years.

The Fertitta Brothers, casino operators who bought UFC in 2001 for US$2 million, will remain minority partners and UFC president Dana White will keep his position.

One Championship

Singapore-based One Championship is one of UFC's strongest competitors and Asia's largest MMA organisation.

It also landed a knockout deal last July with a consortium led by a unit of Singapore's Temasek Holdings.

The deal - which could help One Championship grow beyond the US$1 billion valuation mark - has been struck with investment firm Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek.

The partnership, worth a "significant eight-figure sum", is believed to be Heliconia's first foray into the sporting world. It will also see Heliconia chief executive Derek Lau join One Championship's board.

One Championship founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong believes that his organisation can become Asia's first multi-billion dollar sport media property, and the deal is a big boost for the global MMA industry and a massive point for the sport in Asia.

It is on the right track, having held live events in 10 Asian territories, including an expansion into cash-rich China. One Championship has lined up 18 events this year and there are two in Singapore - on May 26 and Nov 24.

The organisation has also claimed to have 90 per cent market share in Asia and its past shows in Singapore drew an average sell-out crowd of 12,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

One Championship has grown thanks in part to the popularity of Angela Lee, an American fighter of Singaporean and Korean descent, and stars like Brandon Vera and Ben Askren.

Chatri added that its goal is to penetrate more East Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, in the process creating a "truly Pan-Asian product".