MMA trio caught in the firing lane

SINGAPORE -The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and sports apparel giant Nike appear to be grappling with each other over a world tour involving three of mixed martial arts' (MMA) biggest names.

Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre are expected to be part of the Nike-sponsored Fighters World Tour, which will see the three stars showcase their talents in 11 cities, including Singapore, starting next month.

But in a Facebook post yesterday morning, UFC said the event was "false advertising", and advised fans not to buy tickets as none of the three UFC fighters are involved.

The Las Vegas-based company added that it spoke directly to the fighters and "none knew of such a seminar".

The high-profile trio, who are active on social media, have yet to address the matter publicly.

The tour, which is scheduled to start in Paris on May 5 and ends in Manila on June 7, is sponsored by Nike and promoted in Asia by LAMC Productions, Ch'i Life Studio Asia and Rockstar Touring.

Nike's head office in the United States is expected to respond in the coming days to UFC's allegations.

In a brief statement to The Straits Times yesterday, organisers of the Singapore leg said they appreciated the "overwhelming interest" in the event from the public but cannot comment further until Nike's announcement.

The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands is slated to host the three fighters on May 31, with fans having to fork out $888 for a two-hour, hands-on training clinic or $128 for a meet-and-greet session.

The tickets were supposed to go on sale on Wednesday, but it is understood that this has been delayed pending Nike's statement.

Online sales have already commenced for the Hong Kong leg on May 17.

MMA enthusiast Edmund Leong, 36, said: "I hope the truth comes out and fans are not taken for a ride - either by the tour organisers or UFC.

"Such an event can be a game changer to boost the sport's appeal across the world, but it's also a huge letdown if it doesn't pan out."

Nike and UFC have previously been at loggerheads, as the MMA organisation has reportedly insisted on charging a fee to businesses who want to sponsor their fighters.

Brazil's Silva and New York native Jones are both sponsored by Nike, while Canadian St-Pierre is inked to rival brand Under Armour.

I hope the truth comes out and fans are not taken for a ride - either by the tour organisers or UFC.

- MMA enthusiast Edmund Leong

This article was published on April 25 in The Straits Times.

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