Ultimate Fighting Championship held its first show in China on Saturday when it put on UFC Macao in front of a capacity crowd of more than 8,000 at the The Venetian’s Cotai Arena. This wasn’t the first time China has hosted mixed martial arts, but the UFC is the top promotion in MMA, so this was a big deal. Among the highlights was a win by Vietnamese middleweight kickboxing champion Cung Le in the main event. Description — and highlights — via ESPN:
A perfectly placed overhand right ended Rich Franklin’s night and gave Le his first finish in the UFC. Referee Marc Goddard stopped the fight immediately at the 2:17 mark.
Unfortunately for the home side, heavily promoted Zhang Tiequan — the only fighter from mainland China on the card, and a favorite — lost to Jon Tuck via a unanimous decision. (Youku video after the jump for those in China.) Zhang, an eight-year veteran, falls to 15-4 overall, 1-3 in the UFC.
UFC vice president Reed Harris told SCMP afterwards:
“This is the first time we are in China but it is a coming home party for us because the man who started it all was Bruce Lee. While this event is mainly an exercise to raise the profile of the sport in this part of the world, it is also a way to honour him,” Harris said.
The crowd apparently loved it.
While the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) is relatively new in China, the UFC’s Asia chief, Mark Fischer, said the event was a sell-out of almost 8,500 and had been a success.
“It was an awesome experience, it surpassed our expectations so absolutely it was a success,” Fischer said. “China is a long-term, big target market for us, it has tremendous potential. We know it’s going to take time to develop, and that’s where we’re headed.”
If that’s the case, it’ll only be a matter of time before the UFC stages another show, this time on the mainland.