By Michael Pasqualy
Reprinted with permission of Universal Combat News
Legend Fighting Championship is one of Asia’s premiere MMA promotions with a strategic interest in the Chinese MMA market. UCN spoke exclusively to Legend FC co-owner Mike Haskamp about the rise of Asian MMA and future shows in China, the birth place of traditional martial arts.
UCN: Will MMA be the household fight sport of this century in Asia?
Mike Haskamp: Yes, I certainly think so. Even in its golden age, boxing never really took hold in Asia, with the one notable exception being the Philippines. The cultural and historical significance of various martial arts throughout the region combined with the interdisciplinary nature of MMA make this a no-brainer. The broader question, I think, is whether MMA can eclipse basketball and soccer as the overall household sport of the century in Asia. I think it has a good shot, provided the growth of the sport is well-managed and that Asian athletes continue to develop into world-class competitors.
UCN: What are the cultural and political factors that will effect the spread of MMA in China, will it be an NBA style conversion?
MH: 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. This is by no means a bad thing, but it means that China does not view basketball as part of its cultural legacy. The NBA – a non-Chinese organization – is also undeniably recognized in China as the world’s leading basketball organization, so there is no sensitivity around the fact that American players like Kobe, Lebron, etc. are the best in the world. Contrast that with MMA and the UFC. While awareness of both is growing, the UFC is not yet universally known in China. Combine that with the fact that China has such a long history of martial arts, and it is a bit of a tough pill to swallow that Americans and Brazilians are arguably the best MMA fighters in the world. I think that the growth of MMA in China will take a more organic path from within, as opposed to having the development of the sport imposed from outside. Local competitions will produce local champions; those local champions will compete and eventually win at a regional level; and ultimately you’ll see them competing at an international level. There are already a handful of Chinese fighters who I would consider to be world-class. And I think that as their profiles grow and they continue to be successful, you will eventually see the Chinese government take a real interest in having their athletes succeed globally, and they will start to throw some resources at the sport. Once that happens, I think the sky is the limit for Chinese fighters.
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