ONE Fighting Championship held its eagerly anticipated press conference in Singapore this morning (Jan. 31, 2012) and the big news was that the March 31 card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium would be headlined by a fight between Renato Sobral and Melvin Manhoef.
The co-main event will see Kevin Belingon put his undefeated record on the line against Japanese veteran Masakazu Imanari. The Filipino is undefeated (9-0) in professional mixed martial arts (MMA), competing against good-level opponents outside of the Philippines, but he has never faced anyone of the caliber or experience of "The Master of Leglocks" who has fought 36 times in his 12-year career.
Also on the card will be Eduard Folayang, Zorobabel Moreira, Eddie Ng and a female Singaporean fighter called Nicole Chua, who will make her MMA debut. Their opponents will be revealed at a later date, but the Singapore card already looks set to be the best yet by ONE FC.
Yesterday it was announced that ONE FC had signed a 10-year partnership with ESPN Star Sports (full story here) and some more details about that deal were revealed today. ONE FC will be shown on ESPN Star Sports, which is available in 24 Asian countries and is home to the English Premier League, NBA and MLB, for the next 10 years on a delayed broadcast to begin with, but eventually live.
It appears ONE FC also has official backing from the Singapore Tourism Board and the Economic Development Board. Singapore is ranked by the International Monetary Fund as the third richest country in the world, which bodes well for the financial future of Asia's most prestigious MMA promotion.
The signing of Sobral was announced late last year and he is also set to fight on ONE FC's Manila card which is likely to take place in around six months time. He has won six out of his last eight fights but will not be in for an easy night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on March 31st.
Manhoef is the current It's Showtime 85 kgs Max World Champion and just went three rounds in a heavyweight K-1 rules fight with Tyrone Spong who is ranked as one of the best stand up fighters in the world. The Dutchman's striking is as good as any MMA fighter in the 205 lbs division (where this fight will presumably take place) and he will be real threat to Babalu.
The last event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium attracted a crowd of 7,000 and the March 31st show should bring in an even bigger attendance because Eduard Folayang is a big draw for Asian fight fans and there will also be a lot of local interest in the Evolve MMA fighters, Eddie Ng and Zorobabel Moreira as well as the female debutant, Nicole Chua.
Putting on a card of this calibre demonstrates CEO / Owner Victor Cui's determination to compete for the signatures of the best fighters in the world as well as continuing to showcase local fighters like Folayang, Belingon and Ng. With a ten year TV deal, support from the Singapore government and a rapidly expanding roster of fighters the future looks bright for both ONE FC and Asian MMA.