It is almost exactly two years to the day since Victor Cui launched ONE Fighting Championship with a press conference in Singapore. Since then, the mixed martial arts (MMA) organization has grown to be universally regarded as the biggest in Asia after putting on sold out shows in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and signing a 10-year broadcast deal with Star Sports.
It has been a roller coaster ride for the Filipino Canadian, who caught up with MMAmania.com to answer 10 questions about the last couple of years and what he thinks the future might hold for ONE FC.
How do you feel about the UFC going to Singapore?
It's fantastic news that the two biggest organization in MMA are finally in Asia. It's really great news for the fans of the sport. As Asia's largest mixed martial arts organization, ONE FC is committed to growing the sport across the region. MMA is still in its infancy in Asia and the market has yet to reach its saturation point. An increase in MMA events in Asia from other organizations like UFC, URCC and Road FC will grow the sport exponentially. Of course, UFC will be doing 2-4 shows a year in Asia and we are going to be doing 24 throughout the region. ONE FC has a proven track record in Singapore and is the world cup of MMA in Asia.
How many more ONE FC events are you expecting to do in 2013 and can you confirm reports that there will be events in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manila before the end of the year?
ONE FC will close out 2013 with a bang with shows every month in different cities across Asia. You can expect to see ONE FC in those cities and more by the end of the year.
What has 2014 got in store for ONE FC?
2014 will be a phenomenal year for ONE FC. We will be doing 24 shows across all the major cities in Asia. There's been a big break between the Manila event and the Jakarta event I have worked non-stop to make sure that beginning with the Jakarta event, that the rest of our calendar year is jam-packed with events. It will be a whirlwind final few months to close out 2013.
There has been a lot of talk about ONE FC going to Hong Kong, any news there?
Hong Kong is an amazing metropolis and the home of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. There is such a strong martial arts following in Hong Kong that everybody know the martial arts stars. We will be hosting an event in Hong Kong in 2014, along with several new cities.
They are the two of the biggest stars in the world right now. Bibiano is the current ONE FC interim bantamweight world champion while Shinya is the ONE FC lightweight world champion. There are still many challenges in their division that they have to overcome first, but it is something to consider in the future.
The last two ONE FC events have both been live on Star Sports. What has the reaction been like since you switched to a live format?
The reaction has been phenomenal and it has been reflected in the ratings.There is no other sport going live in Asia on a Friday night. Sport bars all across Asia are broadcasting live ONE FC programming on the busiest night of the week where millions are in pubs and bars. We are putting up fantastic numbers for the show and I expect it to continue for all our live events.
There seem to be MMA gyms popping up all over the place in Asia now. Are you surprised by how rapidly the sport has grown?
I always knew that MMA would take off, I just never guessed it would have happened so quickly. In less than two years, ONE FC has grown the sport exponentially that there are now MMA gyms opening in every country in Asia. It is great for the sport and we will continue to grow even further this year.
Do you have any plans to put on shows outside of Asia?
We are committed to bringing the best to Asia and the Asian fans have been nothing short of amazing to ONE FC. However, ONE FC has grown so rapidly that we are getting offers to host events in cities all over the world. It is something we are looking at and we look forward to bringing ONE FC to our fans across the world.
What was your favorite ONE FC show so far and why?
Every show is my favorite. ONE FC has consistently delivered great shows that everytime I witness one of our events, I still get goosebumps from the energy coursing through the arena.
What was your favorite ONE FC fight so far and why?
ONE FC consistently puts on great fights at every event. We already have several fight-of-the-year candidates from the war between Vuyisile Colossa and Lowen Tynanes, the brawl between Shannon Wiratchai and Bashir Ahmad and the amazing conclusion to the Bantamweight Grand Prix between Masakatsu Ueda and Kevin Belingon.