Too many players in MMA ring in Singapore?

Too many players in MMA ring in Singapore?
Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger (left) will take on Tarec "Sponge" Saffiedine in Ultimate Fighting Championship's first event here. Between them is UFC Asia managing director Mark Fischer.

SINGAPORE - Premier cage-fighting league Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) yesterday unveiled the fight card for its inaugural event in Singapore, slated to take place on Jan 4.

The event, which is also UFC's first in South-east Asia, will see world-class fighters Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger and Tarec "Sponge" Saffiedine square off in a five-round welterweight battle.

And on Monday, the new kid on the block, Rebel Fighting Championship (Rebel FC), will announce details of its own inaugural edition, which takes place next month.

As large-scale mixed martial arts (MMA) events speedily make their way into Singapore - whose market is currently dominated by ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) - it would seem that the major fight-promotion outfits are poised for a three-cornered bout to grab a share of the scene.

But the organisations remain unfazed by the prospects of a saturated market, telling My Paper that they believe the industry will continue to grow, and each of them believing they have what it takes to deliver.

At a media conference yesterday, UFC Asia's managing director, Mr Mark Fischer, told My Paper that he is "not concerned" with the saturated market in Singapore, and that there is "plenty of room, (with) UFC as the global leader".

"In fact, we have the opposite problem - that we have so much work to do to take advantage of the opportunities for growth across the region," he said.

Mr Fischer noted that the rise of fight-promotion companies in Singapore is "testament to the growth of the sport here".

The Singapore Sports Council's chief executive, Mr Lim Teck Yin, was also at the event. "The market would eventually send signals as to whether there is more space or it's getting too crowded - that remains to be seen," he said.

"But we're glad that high-quality players want to play in this market, and it speaks well of Singapore's sports scene and of Singapore as a (sports business) hub."

For Mr Victor Cui, CEO of ONE FC, the organisation's "exponential success" offers a form of assurance against competition.

He pointed out that "with a 90 per cent market share of fighters, promotions and sponsors in Asia", ONE FC is positioned as the market leader in the region. It has hosted 11 events in South-east Asia since 2011, five of them in Singapore.

Mr Cui added: "Smaller shows in other venues will bring more awareness to the sport and help (it) grow in the country."

However, Rebel FC CEO Justin Leong recognised that there is "a limited stable of professional Singaporean fighters...split among the different fight promotions".

To tackle this, Rebel FC has introduced a programme that allows them to "identify and groom promising local fighters into consummate MMA professionals who will go on to feature in future editions of Rebel FC", he said.

According to a report by The Straits Times, about 12 gyms offer MMA classes in Singapore now, compared to just one in 2005.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg


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