Wow. Seems like everyone is headed toward Asia.
Mixed martial arts and professional boxing all have their eyes fixed on the area known as the “Ring of Fire” this week.
Better get used to it.
ONE Fighting Championship, an MMA organization actually based in Singapore, starts the motion in the ocean with its show this week.
ONE FC’s lightweight champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku (20-7-2; pictured above) makes his first title defense against Shinya “Tobukan Judan” Aoki (32-6) on Friday, April 5 from Singapore. Called “Kings and Champions” the impressive fight card will be televised on web stream at WWW.ONEFC.LIVESPORT.TV.
The following day Top Rank brings boxing to that area. More on that later.
MMA in particular has long looked at Asia as an enriched area for the sport with a history of fight organizations that found success there. Pride FC was one of the major players in the sport until Ultimate Fighting Championship bought it out in 2007.
UFC has looked anxiously at Asia to expand its tentacles, especially into China and Japan where historically MMA and various fighting forms originated.
Now, another Asian MMA organization has surfaced to compete with UFC on equal terms.
Victor Cui, the CEO for ONE FC based in Singapore, said their organization has one major advantage that cannot be overlooked.
“Asia is the world's most populous region with 500 million people. The market penetration was non-existent before we entered the market and we now have a 90% of the market share and have grown the sports by leaps and bounds,” said Cui, a Canadian now living in Singapore.
Cui formerly worked with ESPN Star, the PGA tours, and the Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000 and understands the importance of media exposure, especially for sporting events. His organization has begun gathering the best talent in Asia to garner interest for ONE FC’s fight cards.
Prizefighting depends on its entertainment appeal.
ONE FC’s fight card is headlined by hard-hitting Boku, a Japanese-born Korean who was nearly taken under by Brazil’s Zorobabel Moreira but rallied valiantly to win by a vicious knockout. Fans were delirious over his come-from-behind win and are anxious to see what he can do in the first defense of the title.
Challenging Boku is Japan’s top submission artist Aoki, considered one of the premiere lightweights in the world.
Aoki, 29, is a former Strikeforce and Pride FC MMA fighter specializing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. The Japanese submission expert is also famous for having a cavalier attitude and cares little for winning graciously. He looks to win at any cost. In 2009, he was verbally flogged for intentionally breaking an opponent’s arm and then openly admitting it. He’s a gem.
“It’s amazing that the paths of these two great mixed martial artists have not crossed, until now,” said Cui, who practiced taekwondo and garnered a black belt. “We have the most dangerous submission artist in the world in Shinya Aoki going up against a man who may be the pound-for-pound hardest hitter in all of MMA in Kotetsu Boku.”
Several other compelling bouts include American MMA fighters Jens Pulver and Brock Larson in separate bouts.
ONE FC’s Cui knows that the battle for MMA and prizefighting supremacy in Asia and the world will not be easy.
“The infrastructure in Asia is challenging at times, and we have to manage that for every event,” said Cui. “We will look to hold more events in world-class venues, such as the new 55,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore.”
Cui has ONE FC staunchly situated to grab a major portion of the MMA pie in Asia and the world’s attention.
“Asia is the most populous region in the world,” Cui said, adding that MMA was almost invisible in Asia the past few years due to lack of television. “Our events will be broadcast live to 500 million people.”
Asia is calling.
The ONE FC fight card begins at 4 a.m. but can be seen throughout the day and week. The preliminaries can be viewed for free. The main portion of the fight card can be purchased for $9.99. To watch ONE FC’s fight card go to WWW.ONEFC.LIVESPORT.TV.
Top Rank boxing promotion company has an event on April 6 in Macao featuring WBO and WBA flyweight titleholder Brian Viloria (32-3, 19 Kos) defending against Juan Estrada (22-2, 18 Kos) at the Venetian Casino and Resort in Macao. Also, WBO junior lightweight titlist Roman Martinez (26-1-2, 16 Kos) fights Las Vegas boxer Diego Magdaleno (23-0, 9 Kos). Asia is definitely picking up its game. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming, of China, makes his pro debut on the card.
Top Rank also announced that it is planning a Manny Pacquiao fight in Macao perhaps this summer, said Bob Arum.
The suggested opponents named were either Juan Manuel Marquez, who brutally knocked out Pacquiao this past December, or Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley, who defeated the Filipino superstar by controversial decision.
Fights on television
Fri. pay-per-view, 4 a.m. Kotetsu Boku (20-7-2) vs. Shinya Aoki (32-6).
Fri. ESPN2, 7 p.m., Francisco Santana (15-3-1) vs. Vito Gasparyan (14-3-5).
Sat. HBO, 2 p.m., Brian Viloria (32-3) vs. Juan Estrada (22-2).
Sat. FOX Espanol, 8 p.m., Ricardo Alvarez (19-2-3) vs. Carlos Valdez (12-5).
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?