As it expands across Asia, ONE FC aims to sign undiscovered talent.
The promotion plans to hold an amateur fight series that will see nine events per year in countries such as Malaysia, where ONE FC returns on Saturday.
"That's allows us to look at and sign top talent before they turn pro," ONE FC CEO Victor Cui told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
The series is part of a new strategy to integrate regional talent into the promotion's major events. "ONE FC 7: Return of Warriors," which takes place at Putra Indoor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, features the first bracket of a four-man featherweight tournament.
But there's a twist: The tournament will crown a Malaysian national champ. The winner will move on to compete with other countries for ONE FC's world title, Cui (pronounced "sway") said.
"ONE FC 7: Return of the Warriors" streams live in the U.S. via online pay-per-view and internationally on ESPN Star Sports, which is available to 500 million people in 28 countries.
By tapping regional loyalties early on with amateur events and national championships, Cui believes the promotion is building loyal audiences for 10 to 12 major events that ONE FC plans to hold in the coming year.
"These guys can eventually move up for contention and the belt," he said.
In most countries the promotion visits, Cui can sell MMA based on interest in existing martial arts. He claimed the Malaysian martial art of silat boasts more than five million 18-and-older practitioners in the country.
There are other exiting stylists, as well. One of Cui's brightest prospects, Malaysian model Peter Davis, is a kung fu practitioner who knocked out his most recent opponent with a spinning back kick.
Finding the next Davis is Cui's current task. But by the promoter's estimate, most of the top-tier Asian talent already has signed multi-year, exclusive deals with ONE FC.
"You couldn't hold an MMA card with top Asians without ONE FC being a part," Cui said.
Thus far, ONE FC has visited Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, along the way signing exclusive promotional deals with several MMA gyms. The promotion could soon be seen in Vietnam and Cambodia, Cui said.
Which one of these new territories produces the next star is the million-dollar question for the international promoter.
For the latest on ONE FC 7, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.