ONE Asia MMA Summit 2013: Building on a Promise

ONE Fighting Championship hosts its second MMA Summit on May 2 through 4, 2013.  An attendance of 500 delegates from the ONE FC Network are expected to attend and audit speeches by Renzo Grace, Bruce Lee’s siblings, Matt Hume, and other notable experts.

ONE FC blazed onto the MMA scene in Asia just under two years ago with lofty aspirations and a massive production model. They’ve blasted into massive stadiums, secured international broadcast partnerships, and recruited the highest level of staff. They’ve held just eight events, but those have been in four different countries. They’ve made just eighty matches, but have been able to garner top tier athletes: champions from DREAM, DEEP, Pancrase, Shooto, KOTC, CFC, UFC, and Bellator. They held this hemisphere’s first MMA summit – the first ONE MMA Summit – in the summer of 2012 to bring together the key players in the region to network, educate, and develop the sport.

There is no doubt that ONE FC intended to make an indelible impression on the market. What has effectually done is raise the level of the playing field completely. Japan, once the Mecca of MMA in Asia, has seen the shift to Southeast Asia and has benefitted from a resurgence in interest as its champions have found a home in the new promotion. The Philippines, long a fight-loving nation, have seen their warriors promoted to an international level of exposure. Stellar international free agents have been welcomed with open arms and been able to fight in front of fans who never dreamed of seeing them live.

But above the flash, above the hype and hysteria, above the glamor that surrounds the fight game, ONE FC has made a commitment to grow MMA in Asia from the ground up. It has made a promise to its Network partners to develop the sport by raising the athletes, improving the visibility, linking sponsorships, and educating both participants and fans alike. The second ONE MMA Summit stays true to this promise, and expounds upon it.

The original historic event

Last year’s Summit opened with a cocktail reception that had an electrified – if not surreal – atmosphere to it. One hundred friends, colleagues, and power brokers met in the FUSE Bar at the Marina Bay Sands Resort to toast to the opening of the historic event. Coaches from teams in various countries now met face to face without a cage in between them. True personalities came out as there was no war to wage the following day, no burdens on their shoulders, no proving grounds imminent. It was the first time many got to shake hands with one another and talk freely about the little things that matter.

The following two days were a complete change; it was back to school for the majority of the attendees, and the rest were the professors. Chatri Sityodtong gave an emotionally-charged and content-laden discussion about why MMA is going to be huge in Asia. Paraphrasing that a rising tide lifts all boats, he stressed the need for unity and professionalism across all members of the industry. Matt Hume discussed at length the ONE FC ruleset and how it was made, rather revolutionizing the way MMA is scored and why. His commanding presence imparted more information on safety and development of MMA than could be absorbed without further review. Bubbles Aguilar of URCC, Luke Pezzutti of CFC and Jung MoonHong of ROAD FC also delivered speeches about their experiences in developing MMA in their respective countries.

Alec Lim of Carl’s Jr and Ray Poletti of Tiger Beer imparted knowledge about sponsorships: their workings and how they choose to align their brands. Coach Marc Sangiao of Team Lakay discussed the methods he has taken to produce a world-class fight team with local resources, and discussed the important nature of a coach and the responsibilities that are associated. Heath Sims discussed his role in Team Quest and MMA, from methods of training fighters to become competent athletes, to the development of amateur athletics. Boyd Clarke spoke about the rapid development of Phuket Top Team and how the business works from the standpoint of management and promotion.

Breakout sessions included amateur athletics and how gyms can approach and gain sponsorships. Members from ONE FC Network partners from Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, China, Japan, and Australia attended and participated actively in questions and discussions. Everyone came with an open mind and seemed thoroughly pleased at what had been put on offer. ONE FC’s Founder and CEO Victor Cui was omnipresent and his attitude couldn’t have been more buoyant about the opportunity his promotion was presenting to its Networked affiliates.

ONE MMA Summit 2013

This year’s Summit grows the number of all-expenses-paid guests from 160 to 500. The monumental task of organizing this event at the Marina Bay Sands Resort must be even more extensive than putting on an actual MMA card. The delegates will come from all Asian countries as well as Australia and the US, with possible attendance from European parties as well. The level of speakers and panelists has diversified even further, and pulls in top brass from internationally-recognised companies.

A media-intensive morning greets guests on the first day of the Summit. But first, Victor Cui will deliver the opening speech followed by Renzo Gracie on the “Global Duopoly of MMA”, a grandiose topic that the outspoken legend will be sure to deliver with humor and purpose. Jason Lo of megalith Tune Talk has become Malaysia’s megafan and megasponsor, and he will give insight as to why he’s chosen to align his brand with MMA. Then the media and entertainment big guns come out.

Among the panelists and keynote speakers will be Datuk Razlan Razali of the Sepang International Circuit, Mark Rimaldi of the New York Post, Greg Savage of Sherdog, Peter Hutton of FOX Sports International, and John Vamvakitis of YouTube. The topics covered will be the global sports entertainment industry, the demand for MMA programming, MMA in the mainstream media, and how all of these issues must be considered at even the smallest level of the MMA industry for it to thrive in the digital age.

Afternoon breakout sessions will cover developing amateur MMA and trends in MMA journalism, the latter of which myself, Lee Li of MMA-in-ASIA, have been honored to be invited as a panelist. Evolve University – the ambitious online venture of Chatri Sityodtong and Evolve MMA – will cover the topic of development of MMA in Asia. The afternoon will be rounded off by a special discussion on the proclaimed Founder of MMA, Bruce Lee, by his siblings Robert and Phoebe Lee.

The wrap up

The first day will be chock full of information, and many of the participants will no doubt be unwinding over a few drinks or over the Singapore Skyline at the iconic rooftop infinity pool. Last year, I had the surprising honor of taking dinner with a motley group of people that included Coach Marc Sangiao, PAKMMA’s Bashir Ahmad, and Total Sports Asia’s (Glory) Sasha Atepolikhin. Great conversation and mixing is a recommended must, but will be curtailed at a reasonable hour as the second day starts off at 9am sharp.

The first session of the day will be a panel of leaders from several Asian countries who have developed MMA regionally to huge success. Alvin Aguilar of the URCC, Jung MoonHong of ROAD FC, and Niko Han of Synergy MMA will discuss why Asian MMA is the new global superpower. Victor Cui and Matt Hume will then host a workshop on the “Asian Development League”, an exciting concept which may have evolved from the original Summit’s interest in amateur MMA development and the recent huge success of Malaysian Invasion MMA. Marc Sangaio and Boyd Clarke will close out the talks with a panel session on synergizing MMA in Asia. In conclusion, The Fight Nation will present its Asian MMA Awards for 2013.

The ONE MMA Summit 2013 will also have vendors’ booths with a wide variety of MMA gear and goodies, one of whom will be VENUM Fightwear.  MMA-in-ASIA will be certain to update the goings-on and special moments throughout the entire amazing event.  For more of a preview, check out our article from last summer’s ONE MMA Summit on the first day here, and on the second day here. The full photo album is on Facebook here.

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