ONE FC today announced the signing of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Strikeforce veteran Renato Sobral, whose debut fight will take place on March 31, 2012, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. That show will be a cross promotion with DREAM, which means that the list of potential opponents is extensive.
"Babalu" has fought 10 times for the UFC before being cut for refusing to release an anaconda choke until after his opponent, David Heath, had lost consciousness. He is a former number one UFC light heavyweight title challenger and a former Strikefore light heavyweight champion, although the most impressive achievement of his career was probably winning the IFC light heavyweight grand prix when he defeated Trevor Prangley, Mauricio Rua and Jeremy Horn in the space of a single night back in 2003.
He has won eight out of his last 10 fights, with the only two losses coming at the hands of Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi. His signature represents something of a coup for ONE FC as he was one of Strikeforce's few remaining big name fighters and had also been heavily linked with a return to the UFC.
Babalu has competed as a heavyweight in the past, going the distance with Fedor Emelianenko back when the "Last Emperor" was in his prime, and also fought at 195 pouns as recently as 2010, meaning that he could potentially fight at anything from middleweight to heavyweight for ONE FC.
At present, ONE FC has three shows confirmed for early 2012. On Feb.11, an event is taking place at the Britama Arena in Jakarta in Indonesia, while on March 31, there is the cross promotion with DREAM at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. And on April 27, it is the turn of the enormous Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
Shows in Manila and Seoul are also widely rumored to be in the pipeline with a minimum of eight events promised over the course of the next 12 months. ONE FC has formed alliances with several other promotions besides DREAM, including Road FC in Korea and Cage Fighting Championships in Australia, giving it access to almost all the top fighters in Asia.
However, there are not as many mixed martial artists in Asia at the bigger weights as there are in the west. And ONE FC will probably have to look to places like the United States and Brazil for recruitments to bolster the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions with Babalu and Rolles Gracie (pictured below with Victor Cui and Rodrigo Ribeiro) the first two big fighters to put pen to paper.
After the highly acclaimed debut show in Singapore last September ONE FC CEO / Owner Victor Cui has been working tirelessly to put pen to negotiate deals with a number of partners and, as well as founding the ONE FC Network, he is believed to have signed something in the region of 50 fighters.
Come February it will be back to the business of putting on shows with countries all across Asia set to host ONE FC events. The Jakarta card is close to completion and an announcement is imminent while a number of Japanese MMA stars, including potentially the Singapore based Shinya Aoki, are believed to be in negotiations to fight alongside Babalu in March.