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Lim Say Heng
Thursday, Oct 2, 2014

Sports

MMA: Next stop, National Stadium

The Straits Times | Lim Say Heng | Thursday, Oct 2, 2014

Sunlight peeking through the thin retractable dome of the new National Stadium.

They have held their events at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium since their inception in 2011.

But the ONE Fighting Championship (One FC) will move one of its two bouts here to the 55,000-seater National Stadium next year, its founder and CEO Victor Cui revealed yesterday.

Asked at the sidelines of a media lunch yesterday if the mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation would host more events here, Cui said: "What I really want to focus on is getting it to the National Stadium, and we have already booked a date next year."

He did not want to reveal the date, but added: "All I want to say is that... I believe that with all the plans we have in place for the entire event, not just MMA, we will fill out the entire stadium.

"It's going to be a mega event.

"If you want to go to the National Stadium you have to bring something to a whole new different level. That's what I want to do."

This year, ONE FC's Battle of Lions event on Nov 7 at the Indoor Stadium will feature the inaugural middleweight world championship bout between Brazilian Leandro Ataides and Kazakhstan's Igor Svirid .

NEW DESTINATIONS

Two welterweight bouts - between Bakhtiyar Abbasov (Azerbaijan) and Luis Santos (Brazil), and Dwayne Hinds (Trinidad and Tobago) and Warren de Reuck (South Africa) - will also be on the fight card, along with the middleweight contest between Aung La N Sang (Myanmar) and Tatsuya Mizuno (Japan).

From just one event in 2011, the MMA franchise will stage 11 events this year, including its maiden foray into China - in Beijing - on Oct 31, as well as new destinations like Taiwan and Dubai.

Next year, Cui says they will increase the number of events to 24, including 10 in China.

The Singapore permanent resident said: "I wanted to do 20 events (in China), that was my initial goal, but... the team forced me to trim it down to 10.

"I did not want to enter with a strategy of just doing one event and then coming out because in my mind anyone can do that.

"So it was either we go in there with a significant investment and strong strategy throughout the year, or we don't go in at all."

Beijing and Shanghai will host two events next year, with the rest held in second-tier cities, categorised by the Chinese by its economic activities and populations.

Cui said the foray into mainland China comes after more than two years of groundwork, along with years of personal experience in bringing extreme sports and billiards to the country.

"Our venues are anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000-seaters, (and I am) always confident of filling them (in China)," said Cui. And the ONE FC chief has an even bigger ambition.

"People think we've grown really fast but I am kicking it up another notch," said Cui.

"My goal is to have one event every Friday for the entire year; that way people will be always saying, 'let's catch a fight on Friday'.

"That is where I want to go to in the next stage of (ONE FC's) development."

If you want to go to the National Stadium you have to bring something to a whole new different level. That's what I want to do. - ONE FC CEO Victor Cui


This article was first published on September 30, 2014.
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