HAVING successfully grown its business in Asia throughout the years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is out to enhance its ascent further with the establishment of a performance institute in China.
To rise in Shanghai, the UFC Performance Institute, expected to open in the second half of 2019 and the second of its kind in the world after the original institute in Las Vegas, is designed to bring the UFC to more people in Asia, be they athletes or fans, officials said.
Officially announced by the globally known promotion on Tuesday, the UFC Performance Institute Shanghai will serve as a training hub to develop and support mixed martial arts athletes from mainland China and the greater Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines.
The UFC will also utilize the building as its headquarters in Asia, housing UFC employees and UFC Performance Institute staff, including experts in the fields of MMA, strength and conditioning, sports science, physical therapy, and nutrition.
The facility will also have built-in advanced production capabilities with spectator seating that will allow the UFC to produce and distribute live events and other original programming.
Additional features of the institute will include hospitality suites, dining, retail services, and a fan experience area. When completed, the multimillion-dollar facility will span more than 93,000 square feet, approximately three times the size of the original UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
Speaking to BusinessWorld prior to the announcement of the establishment of the UFC Performance Institute Shanghai, Kevin Chang, UFC Vice-President of Asia-Pacific, said that considering how the UFC brand is being received in this part of the world, the setting up of the facility is a logical next step for them.
“Commercially we have had success here. Our business has grown and we continue to grow as a brand. Our fan base has grown and all indicators such as engagement on social media, viewership level and attendance in our events point upwards. And we believe this is the best time to build something like this. We hope for this to benefit the entire region in establishing a clear path for people to the UFC,” Mr. Chang said.
“The Institute should help MMA athletes bridge the gap for them to go to the next level and progress to their goals of making it to the UFC,” he added.
The UFC official went on to say that Filipinos are among the markets they hope would tap into the establishment of the institute as the Philippines is a place that is important for the UFC.
“The Philippines is one of our important markets in Asia given how passionate the fan base is there for combat sports in general and, recently, mixed martial arts in the UFC. What we really know that will set it on fire is having that transcendent athlete from the Philippines to have a lot of success. That’s not rocket science. It’s just a fact at the end of the day,” Mr. Chang said.
“We do have Filipino athletes competing in the UFC and this institute is for UFC athletes as well, much like that in Las Vegas where UFC athletes can use it. We know that there are still a lot athletes there who can benefit from this,” he added.
Expecting the MMA ecosystem in Asia to grow even further with the UFC figuring in it, Mr. Chang said it is possible that similar institutes could rise in other parts of Asia down the line even as he reaffirmed their commitment to the region with more engaging offering.
“Absolutely. All of those things are possible. We have our original performance institute in Las Vegas. This is only the second such institute and sure there are plans to replicate such as we continue to expand globally,” he said.
The UFC opened the first UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas in 2017 as the world’s first MMA multidisciplinary research, innovation, and training center. Through the first 17 months of operation, over 400 athletes on the UFC roster have utilized the facility and the services provided remotely. In addition, several dozen National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Olympic sports athletes have visited the facility for support during their off-season training. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo