'A South-east Asian championship contender to emerge soon'

UFC Asia's MD Mark Fischer (left) and UFC legend Forrest Griffin at Thursday's event where Fischer announced that a UFC championship will be held in Singapore on Jan 4 next year.

ASIA - South-eat Asia has the potential to produce a championship contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) within the next three to five years.

Said Mark Fischer, managing director of UFC Asia: "The 'Korean Zombie' (Chan Sung Jung) just fought for the featherweight title two weeks ago and nobody had ever heard of him five years ago.

"People can emerge quickly in this sport... and a three-to-five-year time frame is very conceivable."

Chan challenged UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo for his title in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month but lost the bout in the fourth round.

Speaking at a media luncheon with UFC legend Forrest Griffin on Thursday, Fischer announced that the highly-popular mixed martial arts (MMA) championship will hold its first event in South-east Asia here on Jan 4 next year.

While details will be announced at a press conference in October, the event is likely to be held at the Marina Bay Sands, with UFC inking a multi-year deal with Sands China Ltd last month to bring regular live events to Asia.

Fischer pointed out to the grassroots development of the sport here - the mushrooming of MMA gyms and other championships - as reasons for bringing the combat sport to this region.

Griffin, who visited several gyms here, said Singapore has access to world-class coaches here, but may be lacking in the wrestling aspect of the sport now because of the lack of a tradition in the fight style here.

With the UFC moving its Asia Pacific headquarters here from China earlier this month, it hopes to further develop the sport in this region, through coaching sessions with top fighters and training officials, with Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines its priorities in the region now.

Fischer said: "We have a lot of work ahead and we're only just beginning (in this region) but we're delighted to kick off the whole process in Singapore."

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