Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) continues to grow with ONE Championship leading the way and smaller promotions popping up all over the place. In the last year, Full Metal Dojo has been formed in Thailand, while Kunlun Fight has embraced MMA and MIMMA continues to give Malaysia one of the most thriving amateur scenes in the world.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is still showing a strong interest in the region with shows set for Japan and Korea later in the year and a maiden event in the Philippines already in the books. A couple of promotions have fallen by the wayside with Ruff dormant and Super Fight League (SFL) switching its attention to the United States, but overall, the state of MMA in the region is extremely healthy.
These are the 10 promotions leading the way:
1. ONE Championship
ONE Championship has established itself as one of the biggest players in the MMA world having held shows in 10 different cities all across Asia and signed numerous domestic TV deals across the region as well as a 10-year partnership with FOX Sports Asia.
Victor Cui's promotion has signed up some of the biggest names in the region and beyond including blue chip fighters like Ben Askren, Bibiano Fernandes and Shinya Aoki. The roster also contains numerous recognizable names like Roger Gracie, Roger Huerta, Mark Striegl, Eduard Folayang and Brandon Vera.
ONE Championship is a truly transnational organization that is not restricted to just one territory and has already held successful events in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Dubai, Cambodia, China, and Myanmar with six shows in six different cities booked between now and the end of 2015.
Deep seems like the Japanese promotion most likely to fill the void left by Pride and then Dream. On New Year's Eve the long running organization put on a strong card at the Saitama Super Arena in an attempt to resurrect the glory days of the country's MMA scene.
By September, Deep will have put on 17 events this calendar year and been to six different cities in Japan while the promotion has also been at the forefront of promoting women's MMA with the "Jewels" event. The organization has bene going strong since 2001 and shows typically take place at the 1,300 capacity Differ Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
This year saw Pancrase begin a broadcast deal with TV Tokyo, a terrestrial network in Japan. The promotion has also shown a willingness to work with other organizations across the region and beyond although it's still not entirely clear in what capacity.
Pancrase was established in 1993 which makes it one of the oldest promotions in the world. The regular venue is the Differ Ariake Arena and there have been seven cards so far this year. Interestingly many of the top Pancrase fighters competed on the recent Deep New Year's Eve card.
Shooto's inaugural event was in 1989, making it the longest running MMA promotion in the world. Alumni include Anderson Silva, Shinya Aoki, Takenori Gomi, and Caol Uno and the organization is on schedule to put on 12 events this year, with several taking place in the 2,000 capacity Korakuen Hall.
5. Road FC
Road FC put on 10 events in three different cities last year and while the 2015 schedule isn't quite a packed there is a show booked at the Differ Ariake Arena in Tokyo this weekend. There's a broadcast deal with Korean cable network CJ E&M and a willingness to pull publicity stunts like booking a famous comedian on the card has helped to attract mainstream media interest.
IGF doesn't put on many MMA events, but when Antoni Inoki does a show he does it properly. Last New Year's Eve a big crowd gathered at the Ryougoku Sumo Hall to see the likes of Shinya Aoki, Mirko Filipovic, and Satoshi Ishii in action and Inoki probably has something similar up his sleeve for December 31st, 2015.
7. Top FC
Top FC was formed by Korean Top Team (KTT) in 2013 to give more opportunities to its up and coming fighters but the promotion has proved to be a success in its own right. There have been three cards so far this year featuring a mixture of local fighters and some established names from overseas.
VTJ was resurrected in 2009 and has put on some relatively big fights since although there are only a handful of cards a year. Originally known for one night tournaments starring the likes of Rickson Gracie the promotion now uses a more conventional format with fights taking place inside a cage.
9. Kunlun Fight
Kunlun Fight is predominantly a kickboxing organization and the results of its MMA fights are not always regarded but it did succeed in luring Wang Sai away from the UFC and continues to put on regular events in China, a market where many other promotions has failed.
Malaysian Invasion MMA is predominantly an amateur organization, but it has put on professional fights at Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur as well as on a cruise ship. The format of an annual tournament is already well established and events have been broadcast by ESPN Star Sports and AXN as well as on domestic television in Malaysia.