One C'ship banking on its strong foothold in Asia

One Championship chief Victor Cui sees a rosy future for the Singapore-based mix martial arts promotion, despite growing competition from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

The Las Vegas-based UFC announced in February that it would stage a second event in Singapore on June 17, and has also increased its presence in the region, which is pretty much One's backyard.

Last year, it had 41 events in nine countries, with two in Australia. While its total number of events this year has yet to be firmed up - UFC traditionally announces its slate by the quarter - The Straits Times understands that there are five events planned for the Asia-Pacific.

But Cui, in a conference call with media ahead of the May 26 Dynasty of Heroes event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, said: "UFC were in Asia and had an office in Asia long before we even created One Championship.

"For us, we've always just focused on what we know and what represents One - which is telling stories of champions, the values of martial arts, loyalty, hard work, humility, and dedication.

"We are here because we have phenomenal athletes. "

He noted that One was also enjoying healthy growth. Last year, it had 14 events in seven Asian countries. This year, that is set to increase to at least 18 events in 10 countries.

Besides landing an eight-figure investment from Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, some of its stars such as Angela Lee are household names, and its broadcast reaches two billion people.

He added: "Our TV penetration is so big. The sport has grown so fast in the last few years - our champions are recognised in the streets.

"People look at our growth and they think that it happened by accident. It is part of it, we were at the right place at the same time; if we started this 10 years ago it would have been too early and 10 years later would have been too late...

"We are still in the early days - we're scratching the surface. There's so much more for this sport in Asia and so much more that can be done. Right now we will focus on Asia and hopefully down the road we will look at places outside of our core market in Asia."

However, he vowed that One would not rest on its laurels.

"The challenge for us is to make sure that we overdeliver in entertainment and excitement," he said.

"We get approached by governments and tourism bodies from all around the world. We are always looking for opportunities to expand and it will happen in the future."

John Pravin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'One C'ship banking on its strong foothold in Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe