MMA: UFC scouring for Asian fighters

SINGAPORE - Leading mixed martial arts promoter UFC is planning to hold three-four events a year in Asia and is scouring the region for fighters, a senior executive told AFP.

Las Vegas-based UFC, which made stars of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, is making a concerted bid to establish a presence in the region, starting with an event in Singapore on Saturday.

UFC will also hold an event in Tokyo in September and is planning a third Asian fight night in November, said Joe Carr, head of international and content.

But he said unearthing home-grown fighters was "the most important piece of our business".

"You look around the world, any market we've had tremendous amounts of success is because we've had local talent emerge," Carr said.

First UFC Fight Night in Singapore

  • Holly Holm of the United States reacts after knocking out Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the United States celebrates with her team after knocking out Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the United States reacts after knocking out Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the United States competes against Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the United States competes against Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • US Holly Holm walks away after knocking out Brazil's Bethe Correia (down) during their Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight match at the UFC Fight Night on June 17, 2017 in Singapore.
  • Medical teams check on Bethe Correia of Brazil after she was knocked out by Holly Holm of the United States during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the United States reacts during an interview after knocking out Bethe Correia of Brazil during their UFC women’s bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • US Holly Holm goes through a body search before her Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight match against Brazil's Bethe Correia at the UFC Fight Night on June 17, 2017 in Singapore.
  • Andrei Arlovski of Belarus competes with Marcin Tybura of Poland (top) during their UFC heavyweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Andrei Arlovski of Belarus competes with Marcin Tybura of Poland (L) during their UFC heavyweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Andrei Arlovski of Belarus competes with Marcin Tybura of Poland.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea competes against Colby Covington of the US during their UFC welterweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea competes against Colby Covington of the United States.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea competes against Colby Covington of the US during their UFC welterweight event.
  • Colby Covington of the United States reacts to the crowd after a fight against Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea in their UFC welterweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Colby Covington of the United States reacts to the crowd after a fight against Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea in their UFC welterweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium competes against Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil during their UFC welterweight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium competes against Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil during their UFC welterweight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil reacts after defeating Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium in their UFC welterweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil hugs a team member after defeating Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium in their UFC welterweight event.
  • Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil celebrates with team members after defeating Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium in their UFC welterweight event.
  • Cyril Asker of France competes against Walt Harris of the US during their UFC heavyweight fight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Cyril Asker of France competes against Walt Harris of the US during their UFC heavyweight fight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Cyril Asker of France lies on the mat after being knocked out by Walt Harris of the US.
  • Walt Harris of the US reacts after knocking out Cyril Asker of France during their UFC heavyweight fight.
  • Walt Harris of the US reacts after knocking out Cyril Asker of France during their UFC heavyweight fight.
  • Walt Harris of the US reacts after knocking out Cyril Asker of France during their UFC heavyweight fight.
  • Justin Scoggins of the US competes against Ulka Sasaki of Japan during their UFC flyweight fight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Justin Scoggins of the US competes against Ulka Sasaki of Japan during their UFC flyweight fight at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Li Jingliang of China competes against Frank Camacho of the Northern Mariana Island in the UFC welterweight event during the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Li Jingliang of China (R) competes against Frank Camacho of the Northern Mariana Island in the UFC welterweight event during the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17, 2017.
  • Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil stands on a weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium stands on a weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium and Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017. They will compete in the UFC welterweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17.
  • Colby Covington of the US stands on a weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea stands on a weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea and Colby Covington of the US face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night official weign-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017. They will compete for the UFC welterweight title at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17.
  • Bethe Correia of Brazil stands on the weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the US stands on the weighing scale during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the US and Bethe Correia of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night official weigh-in in Singapore on June 16, 2017. They are competing against each other in the UFC women's bantamweight event at the UFC Fight Night in Singapore on June 17.
  • Bethe Correia of Brazil speaks to reporters during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Bethe Correia of Brazil speaks to reporters during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the US speaks to reporters during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Holly Holm of the US and Bethe Correia of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea and Colby Covington of the US pose for photographers during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium and Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil face off against each other during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Tarec Saffiedine of Belgium and Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil pose during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Colby Covington of the US speaks to reporters during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Dong Hyun Kim of South Korea attends the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.
  • Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil speaks to reporters during the UFC Fight Night media event in Singapore on June 15, 2017.

"We've been fortunate that we've been successful in Korea, Japan and some of the North Asian countries, we've been successful there.

"Our challenge is more in Southeast Asia in finding talent from this market."

Li Jingliang is the sole Chinese fighter on Saturday's card - compatriot Wang Guan pulled out due to an injury - which is topped by Holly Holm's fight against Bethe Correia of Brazil.

Carr said it was harder to find top-quality fighters in Southeast Asia, although the Philippines' Rolando Dy is also on the Singapore card.

"The challenge in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore is that there's not any fighters that can compete at the highest levels of the UFC," he said.

"But we're actively searching for those guys and when we find promising young prospects, we focus on bringing them to the US and fighter development programme and have them train at the best gyms have them hone their skills.

"Particularly if we feel we're going to make (Singapore) an annual event, we're gonna be very focused on finding more talent in this region."