Payout Exclusive: One FC’s Victor Cui
June 20, 2012
MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Victor Cui, the CEO of ONE Fighting Championship. Cui talked about the growth potential for Asian MMA, growth opportunities and sponsorships.
Since officially launching the company in 2011, it has become the #1 MMA sports organization in Asia. It recently conducted a summit meeting of major players in eastern MMA with the hopes of setting forth a network of fight partnerships that will bring MMA to Asia.
“On a personal level, I have been preparing to do this my entire life,” Cui said. The CEO of One FC is Chinese Filipino and was born in Canada, but raised in Africa. “I am lucky to do what I love,” Cui added, “I love MMA, I love the sports industry and I love Asia.”
“My whole career background I have been involved in entrepreneurial initiatives and the last 6 and a half years have been in the sports media.” Before launching the company, Cui conducted research on MMA in Asia. “The sport [MMA] exploded all over the world but it is in its infancy in Asia.”
Cui worked for a regional sports company across Asia before establishing One FC. This experience gave him the opportunity to look at all types of sports. “I looked at tennis to golf to table tennis.” He also helped in bringing the X-Games to China.
“There are 3.9 billion people in Asia,” stated Cui. Although there are different socio-economic issues with each country which may prevent the people from following sports, Cui believes that every country has a connection with martial arts. “Every single country at its core has martial arts in its history.”
Based on the martial arts connection, asking people to follow MMA is easy to do. “The cultural leap is easy to follow.” Cui indicated that the media in Asia is embracing MMA.
One FC will have 8 events this year with the prospect of having 18 in 2013. As far as which countries it will go in Asia, Cui stated, “There’s a lot of plotting in place. You have to line up your ducks in a row before getting into each country. One FC is looking at Asia as a whole.” According to Cui, live attendance at OneFC events have been “phenomenal.” After its event Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, it will head to the Philippines and Singapore later this year.
“One FC has regional properties but global fans. We’ve got fans all over.” As for fighters, “International names with international following are helpful for shows.” However, Cui is also looking into developing Asian MMA stars.
One of the ideas coming out of its summit was the One FC Network. “It brought together every single promoter and MMA gym owner (in Asia).” The belief is that the Network would pull together the best fighter from an organization and put them on a One FC card. This would bring better quality fights and a better experience for fans.
“We now have access to every top fighter in every country (in Asia),” Cui explained,”The One FC Network is a fighter network and as fighters develop, they get an opportunity to compete on a One FC card.”
Cui stated that MMA is “still growing at an explosive rate.” Based on the popularity, MMA gyms are continuing to expand. Cui brought up the example of Malaysia where a particular gym has opened up 6 more franchises in the country. “Grassroots growth is very high.” Yet, MMA skills are still behind that in North America. “Outside Japan and Korea the level of skill is nowhere near that of the U.S.” Cui cites wrestling as an attribute that North Americans have that Asian MMA must still cultivate.
Additional questions from the Cui interview:
MP: Does the UFC’s expansion into India and Asia help or hurt your own plans for your company?
Cui: “The UFC is a fantastic organization. I think its great (regarding UFC’s expansion). Its always good when there’s more people contributing to the growth of the sport.”
MP: What is the biggest challenge for your organization?
Cui: “The challenge is the rapid pace of growth (of One FC).”
Cui cited an example that occurred last week in which One FC held a small media event for some of the editors in Malaysia to talk about One FC. Cui indicated that the small event turned into a huge turnout as major tv stations and senior editors from different organizations came out. The media event was on the front page of one of the largely distributed papers in Malaysia.
MP: Are companies willing to sponsor the organization’s product? If so, what companies?
Cui: “We are close with a lot of companies.” Cui noted SONY, Carl’s Jr., Energizer, Schick Razor and Chevrolet (in Malaysia) are all sponsors of One FC.
“We only look for long term deals and sponsors,” said Cui. “We are not interested in “one-offs.”
In addition, the sponsors have collaborated with One FC in brand activation. This includes a Sony promotion in which it gave away $4,000 to the best ring entrance at a One FC event. Also, Carl’s Jr. has One FC promotional material in many of its franchises in Asia.
We normally do not take a look at MMA outside of the UFC (or outside of North America) however Cui’s One FC Network is an interesting organization that has grown substantially in just a year’s time. Its 10 year contract with ESPN Star Sports delivers its fights to over 500 million fight fans throughout Asia. The television deal is astounding as well as the blue chip sponsors it has in its stable. The One FC Network is a unique idea that has brought together multiple organizations in Asia and we will see how the relationship will continue. Its good insight on the global growth of the sport and how MMA is gaining worldwide acceptance.
ONE FC is holding an online PPV this Saturday, June 23rd. It is available on its web site at OneFC.com. The first four fights will be free and the rest of the card will be $9.99. The card starts 5:00am PDT and 8:00am EDT.