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Countdown to UFC Macao

By Stuart Wiggin (CRI Online)

08:36, November 06, 2012

UFC fighter Cung Le poses in front of the UFC Macao poster at the Ultimate Fighting Championship Asia head office in Beijing. [Photo: Wiggin]

On November 10, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will finally hold an event on Chinese soil when the promotion graces the Cotai Arena in Macao. Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, a Vietnamese born martial artist who excelled in the art of Sanda, Chinese kickboxing, headlines the card against former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin. It's no secret that the promotional push that Le has received in the run-up to the event is designed to foster support among Chinese audiences, or more specifically the Asian community, in the hope that Le is adopted as a hometown hero of sorts.

References to "Cung Fu" and "Asian Power" are plentiful on Le's Sina Weibo microblog and his links to Chinese Sanda have been played up by myself and other media outlets touting Le's abilities in the run-up to UFC Macao. Ultimately, Le vs. Franklin seems to be the perfect main event with which to introduce the Chinese fans to the UFC's brand of mixed martial arts. Le is known for "bringing the storm" as he himself put it during a brief visit to the UFC Asia Head Offices in Beijing in September, and Franklin is remembered for his exciting battles regardless of the result.

As the fighters prepare themselves mentally and adjust to the time difference in the final week before the landmark event, the UFC is getting ready to test the waters for the first time in a new territory. Upon returning to Japan for UFC 144 earlier this year, those in charge had a fair idea of what to expect in terms of crowd reception. UFC Macao might be somewhat different; though it is expected that the crowd will by no means be only made up of Asian faces.

Small adjustments and tweaks are expected, evidenced by the fact that the promotion has chosen to showcase two new guest ring-girls in the form of Kang Ye-Bin from Korea and Jessica Cambensy, a Chinese-Filipino-American model. The card, from top to bottom, is filled with Asian talent and it's clear that the Macao card is serving as a wider platform with which to penetrate the Asian market, most notably that of South Korea.

There has been talk that the event is being overlooked by many fans in the US. The official UFC website itself is placing the majority of its emphasis upon the next pay-per-view event, set to take place between welterweight champion George St-Pierre and the interim chap Carlos Condit, and rightly so, as the Macao event is a card designed to cater to a specific audience. Ultimately, it does not matter if the event is overlooked or not from a US perspective, as UFC Macao has been designed to help the country expand into a new market rather than foster their existing fan base. The fights will certainly be compelling viewing, as the card features a number of exciting prospects and veterans known for creating fireworks, and if everything goes according to plan, this card will be the first of many in a region which is crying out for a world class promotion which can deliver regular content.

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