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Retired NBA star Yao Ming's investment firm acquires significant stake in GLORY kickboxing

Danny La-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of GLORY 33, which took place last weekend (Fri., Sept. 9, 2016), Yao Capital -- the private equity firm of former NBA player Yao Ming -- has acquired a significant and strategic stake in GLORY kickboxing. GLORY announced the news via press release earlier this week. Financials were not disclosed, but it was revealed that Liberty Global has also invested.

"To me, the sport of kickboxing is a synonym for courage, grit and the will to succeed," said Yao Ming, chairman and co-founder, Yao Capital. "As kickboxing is gaining worldwide popularity among the younger generation, Yao Capital is pleased to partner with GLORY, the world's number one league in this field. Today, we join forces to promote the sport of kickboxing and encourage more young people to be involved in this sport to become the hero in their own life."

According to the press release, GLORY plans to expand its live events to 18 in 2017, reaching into into southeast Asia and also Latin America. That is a huge increase for the promotion, which held eight events in 2015 and will finish out 2016 with 10 shows. In addition, GLORY and Yao Capital plan to commit significant capital for a joint venture in China.

"We are delighted that Yao Capital has become a major strategic investor in GLORY," said Pierre Andurand, chairman and co-founder of GLORY. "Yao Capital has a remarkable, successful team with deep experience in growing sports businesses. GLORY will benefit from their expertise and participation as we grow the league globally, and in particular, in China where we see great potential and exciting fighters. Liberty Global adds unmatched knowledge and media resources to the ownership group."

Yao Capital was founded in January of this year by Ming and veteran investor, David Han, the former chief investment officer of Wanda Group and former managing director of The Carlyle Group. Liberty Global is the world's largest international television and broadband company, with operations in more than 30 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Kickboxing has been making excellent strides in China with Kunlun and other promotions, while GLORY has remained mostly in Europe and the United States since launching in 2012. Now in 2017, GLORY will look to carry the momentum of 2016 -- it's first year on ESPN programming -- and enter the Asian market backed by the firm of one of the most popular sports figures in China.

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