MENU
#UFC 217 #UFC Fight Night 120 #GSP #Michael Bisping #Conor McGregor #TJ Dillashaw #Nate Diaz #Cody Garbrandt #Dustin Poirier #Fight One #Anthony Pettis


LAS VEGAS – Moments after the conclusion of the UFC's first foray onto Chinese soil on Nov. 10, analysis of what it all means will commence.

The size of the crowd, its understanding of mixed martial arts, the media's interest and all the various possibilities will be intensely dissected shortly after Rich Franklin and Cung Le wrap up the main event of UFC on Fuel 6 in Macau.

The success, or the lack thereof, of that specific card will mean nothing when viewed against the long-term picture.

The UFC's interest in China and, indeed, the entire Asian market, is a long-term play. Good or bad, the results of the first card won't say much about what will occur in three, five or 10 years.

UFC president Dana White frequently talks of a day when MMA will surpass soccer as the world's most popular sport. He's often mocked for that stance, but it will never occur if Asia, generally, and China, specifically, don't fall in love with MMA.

[Also: Legendary boxing trainer Emanuel Steward dies at 68]

Despite the growth of the sport, it's going to take years to cultivate the market. Without question, Brazil is now the UFC's most fervent market. TV ratings are astronomical, and even fighters who are largely unknown in the American market are stars in Brazil.

Brazil, though, is hardly an overnight success story. UFC 21 was in Brazil and the promotion was founded in part by Brazilians. Yet, only now have years of work mining the Brazilian market begun to pay off.

Expect a similar slow buildup in China. While China has a rich history with the traditional martial arts, it only recently has begun to look at mixed martial arts. There are few quality Chinese fighters, whereas with Brazil, there were and always have been elite Brazilians.

Mark Fischer, the managing director of the UFC's Asian operations, likens the company's position in China to a rocket ship that has yet to launch.

"The rise is happening; it's just not taking off like a rocket ship just yet," Fischer said. "But to use the same analogy, we're a rocket ship but we're very much in a compression mode where things are building. I think with the right combination of factors, you will see that explosion I would say over the next three to five years."

The key, clearly, to setting off the explosion is developing an elite Chinese fighter. Le, an American who was born in Vietnam, is already extraordinarily popular in China.

He has more than 500,000 followers on Weibo, essentially a Chinese version of Twitter. In the UFC, only Anderson Silva with 2.7 million followers and White with 2.27 million on Twitter have more.

Le, though, is as well known in China for his action movies as he is for fighting. He agrees with White's assessment that MMA will eventually overtake soccer worldwide and concedes China will play an integral role in that.

[White: Women fighting in UFC 'absolutely going to happen' due to Ronda Rousey]

"With all the Sanshou and Sanda fighters in China, I believe one will break out [and become an MMA star], and that will create exposure and motivation for other Chinese fighters," Le said.

The UFC has tried to push things along by bringing Chinese fighters to Las Vegas to train with American fighters and coaches.

The UFC has also pushed a strong marketing effort in the country, to a point where Fischer feels the UFC is more advanced at a similar stage than the NBA was when it first made its push into China. Fischer was the senior vice president and managing director of NBA Asia and began culling the Chinese mainland in 1998.

Fischer was hired by the UFC in August 2010 to try to make similar inroads in China.

"We're moving on a bit of a faster path," Fischer said. "In this age of media now, with the Internet and so forth, we have more avenues than when the NBA was at this stage. You have to remember basketball has been played in China for [a long time]. There's been a hoop in every school yard for more than 100 years, whereas, we're just starting. Maybe there were MMA gyms in China five years ago, but for sure not any earlier.

"We're coming off a much more narrow base than even the NBA was at say even 20 years ago. But in terms of building the brand and building the media, we're where the NBA was oh, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. People have to remember that these things take time. You have to put the building blocks in. But I think we can grow faster, and at a higher trajectory, given the investments we're making, and that the sport is very easy to understand."

The Franklin-Le card thus is important as a kickoff to something that could turn out to be very significant for the sport's worldwide development.

But no matter how great the fights are that night and no matter how loudly the fans cheer, there is no escaping the fact that the growth in Asia will be a long, slow, tedious process.

It figures to bear fruit eventually, but Nov. 10 will be but the first awkward steps on a long journey.

Related MMA video from Yahoo! Sports

 

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Beaten Giants fan Bryan Stow attends World Series
David Stern's final task: Promote myth of David Stern
Video: Redskins primed to upset Steelers
Y! Shine: Florida town bans baggy pants

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Comments

Show Comments

Related News

Ovince Saint-Preux Now Faces Corey Anderson at UFC 217 in New York | MMAWeekly.com

  • 29 days ago
  • 11 views

Saint-Preux replaces Patrick Cummins on the upcoming card on Nov. 4. read news >>

Karolina Kowalkiewicz aims to rebound from skid at UFC-Gdansk – and celebrate with a cookie

  • 29 days ago
  • 14 views

Karolina Kowalkiewicz takes on UFC debutant Jodie Esquibel in her native Poland on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 118.Filed under: News, UFC, Videos read news >>

UFC Fight Night 118 official weigh-in video, results (3 a.m. ET)

  • 29 days ago
  • 52 views

MMAjunkie is on scene and reporting live from today’s early and official UFC Fight Night 118 fighter weigh-ins.Filed under: News read news >>

UFC Fight Night 118 official weigh-in photos and video highlights

  • 29 days ago
  • 13 views

Check out the video highlights and photo gallery from today’s official UFC Fight Night 118 fighter weigh-ins in Gdansk, Poland.Filed under: Featured Videos, News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Take A Look Inside Donald Cerrone's BMF Ranch (UFC Gdansk Video) | MMAWeekly.com

  • 29 days ago
  • 29 views

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone takes viewers on his unorthodox ranch in New Mexico, and explains his process for accepting and training for fights. read news >>

Colby Covington undeterred, insists UFC title shot close once he beats Demian Maia

  • 29 days ago
  • 11 views

Ever confident about his future in the UFC welterweight division, Colby Covington believes his title shot is around the corner.Filed under: News, UFC read news >>

Artem Lobov after weighing in: 'Choo choo motherf*ckers! You can't stop The Siberian Express!'

  • 29 days ago
  • 9 views

All aboard The Siberian Express, folks! Artem Lobov is coming to UFC Fight Night 118!Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured, Featured Videos, News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Watch the only man to knock out UFC champ Cody Garbrandt do so in a 2014 amateur fight

  • 29 days ago
  • 88 views

The man who handed UFC champ Cody Garbrandt a highlight-reel KO in an amateur MMA fight returns this weekend at CFFC 68.Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured, Featured Videos, News, Videos read news >>

Watch the UFC Fight Night 118 Weigh-in Live at Noon ET | MMAWeekly.com

  • 29 days ago
  • 19 views

Watch the UFC Fight Night Gdansk official weigh-in streaming live at noon ET from Gdansk, Poland. read news >>

Jan Blachowicz hopes to end ‘bad luck’ streak vs. Devin Clark at UFC-Gdansk

  • 29 days ago
  • 5 views

Jan Blachowicz has lost four of his last five fights heading into his UFC-Gdansk main-card bout vs. Devin Clark.Filed under: News, UFC, Videos read news >>