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UFC Singapore interview: Mark Fischer

Executive vice president and managing director of UFC Asia Mark Fischer talks about the first UFC event in Southeast Asia and the MMA scene in this region.

Q: MMA is still considered a new sport and hence it is still an education process. Are people catching on quickly?

A: Yes absolutely. This is a great venue and during the New Year there are so many people around either on holiday or coming down here to shop and eat, giving us the chance to expose ourselves to a bunch of new fans all the great aspects of our sports and fighters. A lot of the core fans have come down as well. 

Q: The amount of nations that are represented on the card is fantastic, do you think that’s an indication of how strong the scene is here?

A: Yes, I think it shows the global nature of the UFC. I believe we have six continents represented in this event if you count the Pacific as a continent. We really got a great event, and we have got a lot of firsts with this event – the first time we’re in Southeast Asia, the first in Singapore, the first kick-off of our strategic partnership with the Sands group and 15 fighters making their UFC debut.

We believe this will create all kinds of new opportunities for fans to see our sport in person in Asia, as fighters from Asia to compete in UFC was not possible before. Hence, we are building local heroes through the series as well.

It is a great way to start the New Year, with a brand new set of fighters entering the UFC. There are a lot of great fighters that have been out there plying their trade getting ready for their debut, their chance to enter the UFC. With just 30 fights a year we frankly haven’t had spots for all. We have bided time and waited for the right moment to launch this Asia series.

With this series we are creating a lot of opportunities for all these fighters to finally come in and that’s what you are seeing here on the first one of the year. We will gradually be adding new fighters to our roster from Asia through this series.

Q: How many times do you think you will come back to Singapore? Do you think you will come back in 2014?

A: Quite possibly. If we do it will be at the very end of 2014, but we do plan to come back to Singapore roughly on an annual basis. We think this is a great hub for our sport. It’s a great hub in general for economics or tourism and we moved our office here so it makes sense to come back at least once a year based on the turnout. We are completely sold out; the reception has been outstanding so far. 

Q: Royston Wee, first Singaporean UFC fighter. What do you make of him?

A: Great guy first of all. We got the opportunity to first meet him through TUF China tryouts because we opened up to people of all Chinese descent and if they can speak Mandarin. So Royston tried out and we were actually quite impressed with his skills. Although he didn’t make the first roster of TUF China, we did bring him up to Shenyang where we produced that show. Through that experience we got to know him better and with more opportunities to see his skills, it came to a point when we decided, “Hey this guy really has the goods to become our first Singaporean in the UFC” and so, we are delighted to have him.

Q: What do you think about the ecosystem of talent in Asia here in Singapore so far?

A: It just keeps on building. Gyms are popping up all over and somebody told me the other day that Jakarta had maybe only 15 or 20 MMA gyms but today it has 300! That is just a small example of how the sport is blossoming.

We also see regular gyms adding MMA to their offerings. It is all happening really steadily and pretty soon it will experience the snowball effect. We hope that our events out here will help to push that along and act as a catalyst.

Q: You have UFC gyms in the US. Any time it will be here?

A: we are in discussions with a few partners out here as we speak for UFC gyms. We are happy to come out here whenever the situation merits. We are also happy to have other gyms pop up teaching the sport because it just grows the entire pie.