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Mixed Martial Arts Back in Hong Kong

Emily Veach The Wall Street Journal 23.06.2010 12:54
Kenny Yeung of Hong Kong in January’s tournament.

Kenny Yeung of Hong Kong in January’s tournament.

Hong Kong’s only professional mixed martial arts tournament is back for more Thursday night in the form of Legend Fighting Championship 2 in Kowloon Bay. The combination of specialties such as Brazilian jujitsu, muay Thai boxing and wrestling, has a strong following in Asia, where Japan is currently the biggest market.

Legend co-founders Michael Haskamp and Chris Pollack announced their first TV deal this week. They didn’t reveal the terms of the deal, though Haskamp called it “vanilla,” and said it’s pretty standard as far as TV deals go. The two 30-something former finance workers are pumped about MMA’s “explosion all over the world,” Pollack said, pointing out the example of Ultimate Fighting Championship, which has a huge following in the U.S., being purchased by two then-casino executives in 2001 for US$2 million. They sold a 10% stake to Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The value of UFC is unknown, but company front-man Dana White told a newspaper they turned down a $1.2 billion cash offer in 2007.

Meanwhile, Legend’s co-founders are traveling the region, scouting fighters and learning from watching other fighting events. They’re constantly looking for new ways to expand.

“We will try almost everything,” Haskamp said, referring to the types of sponsors he’s seen drawn to the sport. While Legend is a young and flexible business, Haskamp said they have found dealmaking with bigger entities is much more cumbersome. The TV deal with KIX parent Tiger Gate Entertainment involved nine months of discussions, and they’re navigating their way through regional and global corporate bureaucracy with other sponsors such as Harley-Davidson. (Harley is a UFC sponsor in the U.S.)

Read more in The Wall Street Journal...