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Former Albertan Victor Cui looks to build mixed martial arts circuit in Asia

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From director of communications of the Royal Canadian Golf Association to Asian mixed martial arts entrepreneur, Canadian Victor Cui has come a long way.

The 40-year-old Cui is CEO of One Fighting Championship, a fledging MMA organization based in Singapore. Its fourth show, "One FC: Destiny of Warriors," is scheduled for Saturday at an 8,000-seat venue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The card includes a bout between former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Renato (Babalu) Sobral of Brazil and Japan's Tatsuya Mizuno. Also on the card of former UFC welterweight Roger (El Matador) Huerta of the U.S.

The promotion, backed by what Cui calls a group of foreign investors, debuted last September in Singapore with subsequent shows in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The plan is to hold eight events across Asia this year and 18 in 2013.

"It is the world's fastest-growing sport and in Asia right now it is set for explosive growth ... In my 16 years of sport, I've never seen a gap this big of an opportunity," Cui said. "There's no sport that can grow like this one."

"When you think martial arts, you think of Asia," he added. "Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li. Its home is here.

"So for an average Asian person to fall in love with mixed martial arts as a sport is a very easy step to take, because martial arts is already in the movies, in the music, in the soap operas, the culture. It's on TV every time you turn it on."

Saturday's card includes fighters from Brazil, France, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Turkmenistan and the U.S.

His last event in Singapore offered a debut to the country's first female pro MMA fighter — an accountant by day, fighter by night.

Cui's goal is to take champions from each country and give them an Asian stage.

Born in Edmonton, Cui's family left for west Africa when he was five. He came back to the Alberta capital when he was 13. His father, of Chinese-Filipino descent, was an engineer by trade and also worked in the diplomatic corps. His mother's roots come from the Philippines.

Cui (pronounced Kwee) graduated from the University of Alberta and, after post-graduate studies in Vancouver, worked in marketing at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia and 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

He spent five years at the RCGA and also worked on the world track and field championships in Edmonton.

Cui says working at the RCGA and running an Asian MMA promotion is not that far apart.

"You want to create a world-class product that is locally relevant, globally applicable and showcase the best athletes in the best environment in what they do," he explained. "And that's what One FC is."

He has spent the last seven years in Singapore and worked for ESPN Star Sports, where his job was to develop sporting events that made sense for Asia and which the network could own.

"I looked at every sport, from poker to golf, to tennis to basketball to line dancing and ballroom dancing, to action sports and X-Games. I was always looking at where are the opportunity gaps in the market and what would make sense to put on television."

He left ESPN Star Sports last year after six years to launch One FC, but the network remains a partner via a 10-year TV deal to show his fights.

Cui started a small fight series called Martial Combat two years ago for a local casino. And that got him on the MMA road.

He saw more gyms popping up as well as more media interest.

"I knew there was an opportunity ... I really feel like everything that I've done in my life has built up to this and the stars have lined up. I feel like I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do."

One FC's fights are available online for a fee.


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