HCM CITY (VNS)— Mark Fischer, executive vice president and managing director of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Asia, spoke with Viet Nam News about mixed martial arts (MMA) and Viet Nam's potential as a hosting venue for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Could you please tell us why the UFC matches are interesting to watch?
Well, first of all, UFC is arguably the most exciting sport of entertainment that you could ever hope to see live. It's an electric atmosphere of furious sports competition. You've just got two fighters in the octagon, going at it one-on-one, mano a mano, and these athletes are in great condition. The UFC has some of the best athletes in the world, so that makes for a very exciting competition.
Why do you think Viet Nam has tremendous potential to host the UFC competition?
Because you have a large population with a growing economy and a fighting-sport tradition, with a fighting mentality.
And MMA is growing here. When you look at the Saigon Sports Club, that's how big it is. It's one example and you have other sports clubs teaching MMA. Yes, of course, you have football, which is very popular, but after football, there are not that many sports, so there's a big opportunity for a new and growing sport like MMA to come in and grow very quickly.
And all it takes is one superstar. We now have Cung Le, who is a great ambassador for Viet Nam and for the MMA.
Viet Nam has a long martial arts tradition. But is it more of a performance sport here than a fighting sport?
It's not all about the big muscles. We have all different weight classes. We have 125 pounds, 135, 145, 155 and so forth. It's more about technique and courage, the will to win. Yes, it's full contact but it's also very much about discipline, sportsmanship and respect. All of these things go into your traditional martial arts, and it's also in the UFC. Fighters' safety is paramount, so we are tremendously cautious about safety.
We've never had a serious injury in more than 2,000 UFC fights. We might get a broken hand, or muscle injury, but no deaths, no serious injuries. There's a lot of commonalities that can cross over to the UFC.
Are you confident that Viet Nam can have its own fighters in the UFC?
I do have that confidence. We do not have anyone specific today, but I think because our sport is such a new sport, and there's room for people after three or four years of training, and if they have the skills and the will to win, maybe coming from your traditional martial arts, we can then develop other skills from MMA. We can develop that potential here.
Most UFC events are organised in big entertainment cities like Macau or Las Vegas. Viet Nam is still a developing country; can Viet Nam host the event?
Yes, I'm told lately that there have been some big concerts here with more than 50,000 people, and people are now starting to get into the culture of paying for sports and entertainment. We have had some meetings here, and people are very interested to bring in the UFC and big sports events like this because the culture is starting to develop. People start to learn that they want to go and see something live. They have more money to spend. So it's coming again. In two or three years, this market would definitely be on our circuit, on our radar.
How are you going to grow the sport in Viet Nam?
Firstly, we start off with Fox Sports, being in the media. Secondly, we have some of our TV programmes on the large free-to-air channels here. We have three or four big national free-to-air channels. We have started to see some content there that gets out our message. We want to get more on digital media here. We want to develop relationships with the press, so we can start introducing our sport.
We want to develop fighters like Cung Le, a great ambassador for Viet Nam and for the MMA, through a fighter development programme, so we can have that national hero. We want to bring in sponsors; for example, Budweiser can help support these efforts. So that's kind of an overall integrated plan to eventually start the merchandising of UFC T-shirts, gears and gloves. We can roll that out like we have all over the world. — VNS