LEGEND FC REEMERGES WITH A NEW MISSION: GROWING MMA IN CHINA
AUTHOR : MADALYN LEE
Legend Fighting Championship held its relaunch event on 15 September in Guangzhou, China. While the original run of the promotion lasted a mere 11 events, it went on to shape Asia’s MMA scene for years and launch the careers of up-and-coming fighters onto the international stage.
The new Legend chairman is Matthew Kwok, of Legend’s original producer Kwokman Productions, which has been involved in the biggest global sporting events and produced world-class media for ESPN, NBA, NFL Network, Fox Sports, HBO Boxing and the CBA in China. Kwok himself is an Olympian sportsman and represented Hong Kong in swimming in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
TFN spoke to Kwok about the relaunch of Legend, specifically about the promotion’s mission, goals and how it intends to position itself in the exploding scene of Asian MMA.
What would you say is the uniqueness of Legend, it’s legacy and substance?
In Asia Pacific, Legend was a pioneer in organising competitive and extremely entertaining bouts and producing fight content that showcased the rich MMA culture of the region. Legend sees MMA as a combination of all forms of martial arts, old, new, foreign, and domestic. It is the development of ancient traditions into modern technique.
Do you expect that the mission has changed or will change with your relaunch?
MMA has come a long way since Legend 11, but there is still a journey ahead. Legend will serve to progress the sport in China and present MMA competition of the highest integrity in events with flawless production to a global audience.
Why did you restart in the first place?
We want Chinese MMA to rise. Promoting MMA competitions in China with a high level of integrity and production value will improve MMA in China and give needed exposure to the wealth of talent in China. Legend wants to be the leader of the success of MMA in China.
Legend’s ring was big, unique and recognisable, why the switch to the cage?
We did a lot of research across the board before we made the decision. Legend will now use a cage for competition because it will provide continuous action for the audience.
With your first event, Legend FC 12, you featured only Chinese fighters. Is China now the focus of Legend?
The original home of Legend and martial arts is China. We are very cognisant of our history. Before anything, we are students of this sport and region. The earliest fighting systems and arts were introduced by the mythical Xia dynasty more than 4,000 years ago. We have all grown up immersing ourselves in it’s legend. We intend to honour this history. Legend always sought to develop the sport here. After analysing the market and promotions in Asia Pacific for Legend’s relaunch, we determined the focus will continue to be China, inclusive of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, with distribution to the global audience.
Chinese MMA has grown a lot since Legend FC 11 in 2013. The UFC has claimed a stake in the market now. How do you plan to mark out your territory?
In following with our plan to elevate Chinese MMA, Legend’s foundation in China and broadcast distribution allows Chinese athletes to compete on a national scale in front of a global audience. Legend by reputation has retained a strong base of loyal MMA fans. Legend champions and veterans such as Li Jingliang, Ning Guangyou and Zhang Tiequan are a part of Legend history and we promise that they will play a part in its future. Legend will reignite the flame of previous competitors and explore the wealth of new talent that has been developing, especially from Legend alumni who are building the next generation.
Legend will capture a new audience by promoting its unique brand of integrity in combat and stellar production. Legend will elevate the thrill of competition for the audience through the use of tournaments, just like the two four-man tournaments on Legend 12 that featured the next wave of Chinese mixed martial artists pursuing their dream to become a future legend. Chen Zhikang presented a brand new welterweight talent to the world, and the bantamweight tournament, which Li Siyi won, showed off the talent of the new generation of Chinese fighters.
Can you share about the people involved in the relaunch of Legend?
Aside from myself, the business partners behind the relaunch of Legend FC events and content have extensive leadership experience in international sports, finance, media, production and business with a strong understanding of China and past involvement with Legend like myself.
Original Legend commentator Vaughn Anderson will lead Fighter Relations. He is a former professional MMA fighter, coach and manager who has contributed to the development in China’s MMA for twenty years, not to mention he was on our original commentary team. His matchmaking on Legend FC 12 was truly remarkable and we are excited to watch how this will elevate the sport.
Legend alumnus Zhang Tiequan, the first Chinese UFC fighter, is on the new commentary team. His analysis and information will expand and deepen the audience’s knowledge and awareness of each Legend athlete. Of course he’s had experience behind the mic before, but it was a real honor to bring him on board and listen to his background information throughout the event.
On our English commentary team, we had Patrick Kinghorn and special analyst Cung Le.
What are the plans for future Legend FC events?
We aim to produce another event in 2018. In 2019, Legend plans to hold a total of eight events.