SINGAPORE - Singapore will not just be a one-off money spinner for the world's most popular mixed martial arts (MMA) series.
Ahead of its first show in the Republic early next year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will set up an office here next month to serve as a base for its expansion across Asia.
"Singapore is a great hub for business, logistics and, in particular, MMA, plus the government has a strong vision for developing sports," said UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer, who himself is relocating from its China branch in Beijing to Singapore.
As more MMA gyms and followers sprout up around the island, the American-based company plans to fly in its top fighters such as Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre regularly for coaching clinics and visits to schools and charity organisations.
UFC-branded gyms and shops are also in the pipeline - all to show that it has long-term aspirations beyond its full-fledged fight cards, which will be staged annually at Marina Bay Sands from 2014.
According to Fischer, the company's approach will differ from Singapore-based promotional outfit One Fighting Championship (One FC), which has staged several events at the Indoor Stadium, attracting crowds close to 10,000.
He said: "We are the global MMA leader and the best of the best at what we do - outside the ring, we have a great track record in community outreach efforts such as helping obese kids or at-risk youth.
"We put an enormous investment into every show and country we go to. Singapore will be no different."
In 2005, there was just one gym offering MMA classes in Singapore. Now, there are an estimated 12, five of which opened in the last year.
The membership numbers range from 200 in a newer outfit like Top Gym, to the thousands in Evolve.