ONE Championship CEO Victor Cui doesn’t think UFC star Conor McGregor would connect with the Asian market.
Early on, ONE Championship’s model was similar to most mixed martial arts organizations. Storylines “about good, bad, arrogant, trash-talking fighters” were developed to create intrigue, and were thought to be very important, according to CEO Victor Cui. But in Asia, ONE Championship’s home, that model didn’t work.
“The only sort of model that I could reference of what combat sports could be was what we had here in North America,” Cui told MMAFighting.com.
ONE Championship fans appreciate the beauty of martial arts over the blood and guts aspect of the sport, Cui said.
“A big part of what drives the spirit of ONE Championship is really just the belief that martial arts makes the world a better place,” Cui said. “Of course want it to be successful business, of course we want to continue to grow in a successful business enterprise. That philosophy of we’re making the world a better place permeates throughout the entire organization. I think it’s something our fans really appreciate in Asia.”
Fans did not connect with former ONE Championship fighter Phil Baroni, Cui said, and welterweight champ Ben Askren is only a mild success in the market — two fighters known for their outspoken behavior. This is why UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor would not be not suitable for the Singapore-based organization, according to the CEO.
“(ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong’s recent) comment (on ONE Championship not being interested in McGregor) is not about his skill set or his ability as an athlete,” Cui said. “The comment is about his match with our DNA of what our company is. Could you replace me in Asia with another promoter in America? It wouldn’t work. It’s different.”
Cui said that if ONE Championship signed McGregor, many things could go wrong.
“Let’s say we had a press conference in China and he threw a water bottle,” Cui said. “I would go to jail. They’d put me in jail. I’m not kidding around.”
When ONE Championship hosts shows in China, the government regulates everything and is very strict in certain situations. For example, all walk-out music and lyrics must be green-lighted by government officials before an event. The company has to be very careful, or, again, many things could go wrong.
“At the end of the shows in China, I meet with the government officials and they have a checklist,” Cui said. “Did we play this song, did we play this song? If you played one extra song, they can throw me in jail and they’ve done that to other concert promoters.”
ONE Championship’s next event, Dynasty of Heroes, takes place live from Kallang, Singapore on May 26.