SHANGHAI: UFC made a major play for the potentially huge Chinese market on Tuesday, saying it will invest $13 million to open the world´s largest MMA training and development base in Shanghai.
Performance Institute Shanghai will open in mid-2019 and help nurture the next generation of Chinese mixed martial arts fighters, the United States-based UFC said.
The announcement was made four days ahead of UFC´s first event in Beijing — last year Shanghai hosted UFC´s maiden fight card in mainland China.
The new centre will be three times the size of UFC´s original performance institute in Las Vegas and boast facilities for fighters and fans over two floors.
It will include two Octagons, a boxing ring and equipment such as underwater treadmills, together with a team of full-time experts.
Top promotions are setting their sights on China, where MMA´s rapid growth and the country´s ancient martial arts traditions are fuelling predictions that it could become the sport´s next frontier.
UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein said that there are 10 Chinese fighters on the UFC roster but he hopes there will be 10 times more in future.
“We wanted to come to China and make an investment in this market,” said Epstein.
“Half of our business is outside the US so international growth is incredibly important to us.
“China has become a top-five market for us in any metric that we look at and has the potential to be larger than the leader right now, which is the United States.”
Kevin Chang, vice-president of UFC in Asia-Pacific, called the Shanghai centre “a defining moment for UFC in Asia” and said it will also serve as the organisation´s headquarters in the region.