Famed boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has purchased a substantial stake in One Fighting Championship, easily the largest mixed martial arts promotion in Asia today.
One FC CEO Victor Cui announced the news, which came out Sunday night via Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. One FC subsequently confirmed the news through its Twitter feed:
ONEFCMMA) August 4, 2014
"Manny has been looking for some opportunities outside of boxing, and he and his team have kept an eye on the sport of MMA," Cui said in the report. "It made a lot of sense to him."
Cui did not disclose the number of shares Pacquiao purchased. He also did not detail any role Pacquiao might play in the company's operations or activities, though he did say that the Filipino boxing icon would be "promoting One FC and promoting the sport."
Combat sports are immensely popular across Asia, though Western companies like the UFC have had trouble gaining any significant foothold on the continent. According to Cui, One FC has a 90 percent market share in Asia's MMA market.
Pacquiao has no plans to try professional MMA or put his boxing career on hold, the report noted. He will defend his WBO welterweight title as planned on November 22 in Macau, China against challenger Chris Algieri.
The move is another coup for an increasingly popular promotion. Last year, One FC landed Ben Askren, arguably the best welterweight in MMA, after he departed Bellator and the UFC declined to pursue him. One FC also has famous fighters like Shinya Aoki, Bibiano Fernandes and Roger Huerta on its roster.
But Pacquiao would easily be the company's most famous associate, even if he never sets foot in an MMA cage.
"Obviously, Manny Pacquiao is a global sports icon and having him as a part of our organization as a shareholder and promoting One FC and promoting the sport is huge for the sport in the region," Cui said. "It promotes awareness and growth."