Cana­dian based fighter, pro­moter play big role on Myan­mar MMA card

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

Mixed mar­tial arts is com­ing to Myan­mar with a Cana­dian-based fighter in the main event and another Cana­dian run­ning the show.

Bib­iano (The Flash) Fer­nan­des, a Brazil­ian who is mar­ried to a Cana­dian and fights out of Van­cou­ver, de­fends his One Cham­pi­onship ban­tamweight ti­tle against Fin­nish chal­lenger Toni Tauru on the “King­dom of War­riors’’ card Satur­day at Thuwanna Sta­dium in Yan­gon.

Fer­nan­des ( 17- 3) has won nine straight. Tauru ( 10- 1- 1) has won 10 in a row.

The Sin­ga­pore- based fight pro­mo­tion is run by Ed­mon­ton-born CEO Vic­tor Cui ( pro­nounced Kwee).

Myan­mar, for­merly Burma, is the ninth coun­try to host a One Cham­pi­onship event, join­ing Cam­bo­dia, China, In­done­sia, Malaysia, Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, Tai­wan and the United Arab Emi­rates.

It means near con­stant travel for Cui, who es­ti­mates he goes through a Cana­dian pass­port ev­ery four to five months.

“It’s pretty crazy,’’ he said by phone as he waited to board a flight to Kaza­khstan.

Cui says Myan­mar has proved to be fer­tile ground for MMA, with a sell­out ex­pected at the 10,000-seat arena.

“Myan­mar just opened up their borders,’’ he said. “For a lot of peo­ple out­side of Asia, they would think ‘ Wow, that’s crazy if they’re go­ing there.’ But when you look at Myan­mar as a coun­try, ev­ery sin­gle busi­ness in the world is try­ing to get in those doors ... be­cause there’s just ex­po­nen­tial growth there.’’

The coun­try also has a rich tra­di­tion of mar­tial arts with its own dis­ci­pline called Leth­wei, a form of Muay Thai.

Cui says he has the sup­port of the gov­ern­ment and has got ter­rific re­sponse from lo­cal media and spon­sors.

Satur­day’s card also in­cludes Myan­mar light­weight and feath­er­weight tour­na­ments, which Cui says it’s a good way of eval­u­at­ing lo­cal tal­ent for fu­ture events.

One Cham­pi­onship held a sim­i­lar tour­na­ment in its de­but in Cam­bo­dia last year, un­earthing ban­tamweight Chan Rothana who went on to win abroad for the pro­mo­tion.

“When he came back, he was a su­per­star,’’ said Cui.

“When a coun­try gets a chance to build an Asian star like we’re do­ing, it’s re­ally some­thing that gal­va­nizes a na­tion,’’ he added. “And what One Cham­pi­onship is do­ing is we are dis­cov­er­ing for the world who the next Bruce Lees are in ev­ery coun­try.’’

Born in Ed­mon­ton, Cui’s fam­ily left for west Africa when he was five. He came back to the Al­berta cap­i­tal when he was 13. His fa­ther, of Chi­nese-Filipino de­scent, was an engi­neer by trade and also worked in the diplo­matic corps. His mother’s roots are in the Philip­pines.

Cui grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Al­berta and, af­ter post- grad­u­ate stud­ies in Van­cou­ver, worked in mar­ket­ing at the 1998 Com­mon­wealth Games in Malaysia and 2000 Olympics in Syd­ney.

He spent five years with the Royal Cana­dian Golf As­so­ci­a­tion and also worked on the world track and field cham­pi­onships in Ed­mon­ton. In Sin­ga­pore, he worked for ESPN Star Sports be­fore strik­ing out into MMA.

AP PHOTO

Van­cou­ver-based ban­tamweight Bib­iano ( The Flash) Fer­nan­des, left, fights in an un­dated hand­out photo. Mixed mar­tial arts is com­ing to Myan­mar with a Cana­dian-based fighter in the main event and another run­ning the show.

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