World’s top MMA or­ga­ni­za­tion ‘ex­cited’ over Novem­ber event

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By YANG XINWEI yangx­in­wei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Get ready to rum­ble, China: The Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship (UFC) is com­ing to the birth­place of mar­tial arts.

UFC, the world’s pre­mier mixed mar­tial arts or­ga­ni­za­tion, on Sun­day an­nounced in Las Ve­gas its in­au­gu­ral live main­land event at Shang­hai’s Mer­cedes-Benz Arena on Nov 25.

Pre­sented by Gen­eral Tire, the show will give Chi­nese fans the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the high­est level of MMA com­pe­ti­tion on a card packed with in­ter­na­tional and home­grown stars.

“We are al­ways asked when the UFC will de­but on the Chi­nese main­land,” said Joe Carr, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent of in­ter­na­tional con­tent.

“We are hon­ored to con­firm that Shang­hai will be the site of our very first live main­land event, and to say we are ex­cited is an un­der­state­ment. The en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion is look­ing for­ward to mak­ing his­tory in China.”

Owned and op­er­ated by par­ent com­pany Zuffa, Las Ve­gas-based UFC is the largest MMA pro­moter in the world, with over 400 global events to its credit. On July 9, 2016, UFC was sold to a group led by WME|IMG for $4.2 bil­lion. At the time, it marked the largest sports ac­qui­si­tion in his­tory.

“We have been wait­ing for the right tim­ing since we en­tered the mar­ket and we feel that the time is now!” said Kevin Chang, UFC vice-pres­i­dent for Asia-Pa­cific.

“When we started tele­vis­ing UFC in China sev­eral years ago, we had a smaller group of avid fans and gen­eral aware­ness and knowl­edge about MMA was still low. Over time our rat­ings and on­line view­er­ship have grown tremen­dously, as has our so­cial fol­low­ing.

“Shang­hai is rec­og­nized not only as the cen­ter of Asia, but also has the at­ten­tion of the en­tire world. We felt it was fit­ting to bring our first event on the Chi­nese main­land to Shang­hai be­cause it is a mile­stone achieve­ment for the com­pany, one that will gar­ner me­dia at­ten­tion from all over the globe.”

UFC es­tab­lished its Asia head­quar­ters in Bei­jing in late 2010 (since moved to Sin­ga­pore), and opened a Shang­hai of­fice last year. Fights are now broad­cast across all me­dia plat­forms in China, in­clud­ing Ter­res­trial TV (SMG, BTV, GDTV and oth­ers), IPTV (BesTV), OTT (PPTV), ma­jor stream­ing video sites (iQiyi, Youku, Alisports and oth­ers) and por­tals (Ten­cent, Sina)

The main event and full lineup for Fight Night Shang­hai will be an­nounced in Septem­ber.

“WME/IMG China is de­lighted to present UFC — the world’s most rec­og­nized MMA brand — to Chi­nese au­di­ences this Novem­ber,” said Michael Ma, WME|IMG China CEO.

“MMA is de­vel­op­ing rapidly in China and amass­ing a large fan base; this is an ex­cit­ing first step to mak­ing the sport a main­stay here.”

Ahead of the show, top UFC ath­letes will be on hand to meet and in­ter­act with fans in Shang­hai and other cities. The first UFC fighter tour, fea­tur­ing feath­er­weight cham­pion Max Hol­loway, will take place Aug 3–4. Fans can also ex­pect a packed sched­ule dur­ing fight week, with ap­pear­ances by guest fight­ers, com­mu­nity events and ex­clu­sive VIP ex­pe­ri­ences.

Thanks to Zhang Tiequan, con­sid­ered China’s first great MMA fighter, and now Li Jingliang, more Chi­nese have come to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate UFC, al­beit its rel­a­tive new­comer sta­tus in China. Li and Wang Guan are cur­rently on the UFC ros­ter.

“We con­stantly fo­cus on am­pli­fy­ing the voice of our fight­ers as they start to see suc­cess in the UFC,” said Chang.

We have been wait­ing for the right tim­ing since we en­tered the mar­ket and we feel that the time is now!” Kevin Chang, UFC vice-pres­i­dent for Asia-Pa­cific

“In Li’s case, he is achiev­ing lev­els of recog­ni­tion like no other Chi­nese fighter ever has, in­clud­ing blue chip spon­sor­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties and crossover ap­pear­ances.

“Li has emerged as a ris­ing star, win­ning two of his last three fights by KO and gar­ner­ing the Fight of the Night per­for­mance bonus in Sin­ga­pore.”

Chang said UFC is con­stantly look­ing to iden­tify the best tal­ent in China through its Fighter De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram. The op­por­tu­nity to train along­side some of the best fight­ers in the world, with top coach­ing and nutri- tion, gives them the head start they need to suc­ceed.

“We are also en­cour­aged to see the ex­pan­sion of do­mes­tic MMA pro­grams, such as Kun­lun Fight and KO5, as they pro­vide the foun­da­tion that hope­fully some­day will help their fight­ers com­pete in the UFC,” added Chang.

“Every fighter needs to gain ex­pe­ri­ence in do­mes­tic and re­gional com­pe­ti­tion be­fore they can at­tempt to en­ter the UFC, so Kun­lun and other pro­mo­tions are out­lets for that.

“We hope to see more and more UFC-cal­iber tal­ent emerg­ing in the near fu­ture,” he added.

BRAN­DON MAG­NUS / ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IM­AGES

China’s Li Jingliang lands a straight right to Frank Ca­ma­cho’s face dur­ing their wel­ter­weight bout at UFC Fight Night in Sin­ga­pore in June. Li, a na­tive of Xin­jiang who fights out of Bei­jing, has a pro MMA record of 13-4.

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