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ONE Championship's Victor Cui on promotion's staying power in Asia: We're opposite of the West

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Victor Cui

What’s the reason for ONE Championship’s staying power in Asia? A lot of good contacts, and a different philosophy.

“In the West, the brand around the sport is about blood and guts, machismo, disrespecting your opponent, trash talking, throwing water bottles in their face at press conferences, and swearing and insulting their families, and their wife or parents or mother or whatever it might be,” Cui told MMAjunkie during a conference call Monday in support of its “One Championship: Warrior Kingdom” event slated for March 11 in Bangkok, Thailand. “All of that stuff is accepted and encouraged in the sport in the West, whereas in Asia, we’re completely the opposite of that.”

Cui said the reason you don’t see press conference melees, a la Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 or Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, is because ONE Championship fighters don’t bring that spirit to their work.

The promoter points to a “Fight of the Year” candidate between current atomweight champ Angela Lee and Mei Yamaguchi as an example of the sportsmanship he wants to see from ONE Championship fighters.

“What’s the first thing they do after they go to war for five rounds? They come back to each other and hug,” Cui said. “Mei says right after that fight, walks up to Angela, and she says, ‘You are going to be a great champion’ – out of respect. Then they’re posing together for a selfie.

“When I talk about the values of the martial arts, it’s what I hear all the time with our partners and fans, and why partners like Disney and Marvel work with us.”

ONE Championship has touted those blue-chip names along with many others over its five-year history, establishing a foothold in markets the industry-leading UFC hasn’t been able to crack. China, Indonesia and the Philippines are just a few of the countries the promotion visited regularly, and this past year, it held its first event in Thailand, a country known more for its love of kickboxing than MMA.

In the U.S., ONE Championship is a player known mostly to the hardest of hardcore fans. It’s primarily a TV product as opposed to the pay-per-view centric UFC. Not much is known about its business structure, though Cui touted the backing of the Singapore government and said the promotion was on its way to a $1 billion valuation.

In Asia, ONE Championship is very visible. Events air on FOX Sports Asia (previously ESPN Star Sports) as part of a 10-year deal. The events reportedly draw regular crowds of more than 10,000 fans.

According to investor documents, the UFC has identified 37 million fans of the promotion in China and 55 million in Asia-Pacific. The promotion wants to capitalize on the Far East market. Prior to the promotion’s $4.2 billion sale, UFC President Dana White has talked up a major expansion in Asia. But it’s got significant competition for business.

“I can’t speak about another organization or what they’re able to do, but I can talk about what we do and what we’re good at,” Cui said. “But I’ve been in sports media for over 20 years, been living in Asia for the last 11 years, and our team are just world-class professionals (and) the best in the industry across everything they do.

“Our expertise is Asia. In every country or city we go to, I have a close friend that’s in the government, or the sports authority, or the military, or a general in the army in every country that we’ve gone to, because I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve already done business over the last decade in most of these cities or countries across Asia.”

For more on ONE Championship’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.



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