IT took more than two years for the first staging of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the Philippines to be finally set, but local mixed martial arts fans won’t have to wait that long for the next one if negotiations prosper.
While the historic UFC: Fight Night Manila at the Mall of Asia Arena is still two months away, UFC officials are already in negotiations to have the world’s premier MMA organization hold a fight card once a year.
“As far as the future goes, we’re in discussions to making this an annual event,” UFC Asia executive vice president Ken Berger said.
One factor that could weight on the negotiations is the turnout of fans who will watch the May 16 event bannered by the non-title bout between Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber as well as Filipino fighters Mark Muñoz and Mark Eddiva.
“I think we have to see how this plays out first,” Berger said.
The Japanese-American executive briefly explained how a complicated process it was to make upcoming event a reality.
“There are a lot of issues that go into bringing a fight card of this caliber here, bringing an event of this scale here,” Berger said. “It took time, but we’re glad to be here.”
“The huge popularity of the UFC here is unique,” Berger, a frequent Philippine visitor, added to Spin.ph.
“There are other markets that are stronger in North Asia particularly in Korea in Japan,” he added, referring to nations with martial arts backgrounds. “But within Southeast Asia, the Philippines is by far the strongest market both from a fan awareness as well as the brand.”
The UFC appears committed to the country long-term as the promotion is also planning to conduct a fighter development program for local aspirants.
“Although there’s a strong local fighter base already, we think we can assist in that,” Berger said.