Winning the Battle
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Yessar Rosendar Read : 2654 Date : Thursday, September 05, 2013 - 05:14:05

    Courtesy of One FC

    Victor Cui has had an entrepreneurial instinct since an early age. Just after he graduated from the University of Alberta, he started a company that collected and sold lecture notes to his fellow students. Although common practice today, in 1993 it was groundbreaking. After two years he sold his company to the university. “The value when I sold it was not much, but it felt like a million dollars to me and was enough to pay for graduate school,” Victor says.

    Now he's chief executive of a more lucrative venture, One Fighting Championship (One FC), a mixed martial arts (MMA) sports promotion company he established in 2011 in Singapore. The company manages and promotes mixed martial arts bouts across Asia—these events allow fighters trained in any martial arts or traditional boxing to fight each other. They fight in a circular cage, using punches or kicks, with a few simple rules (no eye gouging, groin strikes or spitting among them). Winners must either knock out their opponent or get them to admit defeat.

    At present, MMA holds about one event a month. One FC's first event this year, in Singapore, sold out the 12,000 capacity indoor stadium—the only event to do so this year, he claims. He has also sold broadcast rights to Fox Sports for 25 countries in Asia, giving him a potential 450 million viewers and a global audience that could reach a billion.

    “Martial arts is a big part of my life,” says Victor, 41, a Canadian from a mixed Filipino-Chinese family. He grew up practicing various forms of martial arts and used to box with his father, who one time had a boxing ring set up in their backyard. His father's diplomatic work meant he grew up mostly in Africa, but also lived briefly in Europe and Asia. He got a BA in international politics in 1993, followed by an MA in Asian business from Capilano University.

    Yet Victor's interest in MMA is as much commercial as it is personal. Victor started organizing sport events when he assisted in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 as the junior sponsorship manager, going on to work on various sport and entertainment events for more than a decade, finally landing a high-powered post as director for event management at Fox Sports (then called ESPN Star Sports) based out of Singapore for more than six years.

    ESPN tasked him to research new sports that could generate money for the company. He researched many, from basketball to volleyball. The highest potential money spinner was martial arts, given that the sport started in Asia and had a huge base of fans and practitioners, but no group managing it and promoting it on a regional and professional level. In the U.S., mixed martial arts under the Ultimate Fighting Championship was a $3 billion dollar business. “The business model was already there,” Victor says.

    In 2010 he launched a series of 12 events for ESPN, sponsored by a casino and held in a ballroom. “I realized that the potential was bigger than that,” he says. He put together a business plan, and found six investors, including a few billionaires, to start up the company Group One Holdings, the holding company for One FC.