The China Issue: Contending Dragon, Fighting Tiger

The growth of MMA in China is seen as a ‘no brainer’ as MMA promotions around the world line up to compete for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. The landscape is no picnic though. Fight Sport Asia looks at what it will take for the sport to flourish in the home of traditional martial arts.

It would be wrong to frame the debate about MMA as a homecoming, because martial arts and fighting have many different influences. The influence of martial arts in China is wide ranging and is part of the genetic code of the culture and forms of MMA have long existed like Sanda competitions.

In a 2012 interview Joel Resnik of RUFF China said ‘a lot of parents would rather that their kids do MMA than play basketball’. This reflects the view of Mike Haskamp, the former promoter of Legend FC who currently works as Director of Strategy for NBA Asia. In a 2013 interview he stated that although basketball and the NBA are very popular it is not part of Chinese cultural legacy:

‘I don’t think basketball and MMA are comparable in terms of their growth paths in China. Although basketball has a long history in China (the only non-Chinese sport that continued to be played during the Cultural Revolution), it is still regarded as a foreign sport.’

In August the UFC axed Asian Director Mark Fischer, the man who led the NBA’s marketing growth in China and was recruited to do the same with the UFC/MMA product. If the NBA and MMA are not easily comparable as first thought, then this may explain the difficulties faced by the UFC securing a foothold in mainland China.

Despite the news Chinese officals are planning to clear the way for sporting events by reducing red tape and so-called ‘watchdog’ fees, there is still uncertain times as ONE FC were forced to postpone their inaugural mainland event scheduled for late October.

ONE FC have certainly made clear headway in Asia, but Fightland reports how difficult it will be to secure the local talent and navigate the bureaucracy. After gaining a head start on the field and the sanction of the China’s Wushu Association RUFF (Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation) have struggled to find sponsors. Another newcomer, to China, Russian promotion M-1 Global is set to touchdown in Beijing later next month with a fight card on November 25.

Given all this news, bullish sentiments about the future of MMA in China and the success of promoting MMA in Asia could be taking a nosedive, but it’s a matter of whether the Chinese government sees benefit and when “the government wants to create champions in a sport, there is almost no limit to how much they are willing to invest in achieving that goal” said Haskamp.

China is not the sleeping dragon it has been portrayed as, it is rather a solitary Tiger. There is a case for creating an MMA rival to China to foster growth and national interest and the likely contender would be the sub-continent.

A significant rivalry already exists between China and India, both are emerging superpowers and neighbours. Here lies the key, awaken the dragon and you will bring out the Tiger to play. If the UFC with its vast resources can manufacture a Contending Dragon then it will ensure the optimal contitions for a  Fighting Tiger (龍爭虎鬥).

There is evidence that this methodology was used by Fischer and the UFC, when the first Asia The Ultimate Fighter was announced as being scheduled for India in 2012. Ultimately it went on to be a Chinese based show. No doubt the removal of Fischer was related to his inability to crack the Chinese mainland, but the facts remain the Asian MMA scene is still a big gamble and calculated risks will need to be taken.


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Categories: Asian MMA, China, India, MMA, Pakistan, RUFF, UFC

Author:Michael Job

Australasian MMA


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2 Comments on “The China Issue: Contending Dragon, Fighting Tiger”

  1. Michael Job
    October 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on Once Were Wimps.

  2. October 29, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Reblogged this on THE MARTIALXCHANGE.

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