MMA: UFC in talks to make Singapore event an annual affair

Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium (left) and Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore.
Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium (left) and Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore.PHOTO: AFP

Tomorrow's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 111 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is just the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's second event here. But UFC's senior vice-president of international and content Joe Carr has not ruled out the possibility of the Republic being an annual pit stop on their calendar.

UFC's last event here was in 2014, when it held an event at Marina Bay Sands that attracted a 5,000-strong crowd. Carr told The Straits Times that the United States-based promotion had been "cautiously optimistic" about its comeback, but discovered that ticket sales had "exceeded expectations".

He added: "The maximum we would get in Singapore is probably one event a year but based on the success we've had this week, we're having discussions about potentially making it an annual stop.

"That's something that we're thinking about and working towards because we really see Singapore as the hub of MMA for South-east Asia."

Tomorrow's main event features MMA star Holly Holm, popularly known as the fighter who halted Ronda Rousey's unbeaten streak, ending her three-year reign as UFC women's bantamweight champion.

Rival promotion One Championship, based in Singapore, last month staged a fight at the same venue, headlined by home favourite Angela Lee.

Carr, however, is not concerned about One Championship's dominance in the Asian market.

UFC will hold two other events in Asia. The first will be in Tokyo in September and the other in November, with the second venue set to be announced in the next few weeks.

The initial challenge of entering the Asian market, said Carr, was that MMA was a "young" sport and not as well known a few years ago.

"It's just grown so rapidly since, with a lot of it based on what we've done and our TV distribution here," added the 33-year-old, who gave credit to One Championship and Korea-based Road FC for helping to grow the sport at the grassroots level. "Asia has just embraced MMA and combat sports over the last few years...

"The sport's a lot more popular, the business is a lot stronger and we're able to come in here and be successful and I think you're just going to see that continue throughout the rest of the region as the sport continues to grow."

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'UFC in talks to make Singapore event an annual affair'. Print Edition | Subscribe