Power Ranking the Top Asian MMA Organizations
Asian MMA took a major hit when Pride was swallowed up by Zuffa in 2007. It seemed like the glory days were over, but in the last couple of years the scene has exploded with new promotions popping up all over the place.
There are slow and steady organizations like Dare in Thailand and Legend FC in China, which put on regular shows in smaller venues, while Road FC in Korea and the SFL in India are already attracting slightly larger crowds.
The URCC in the Philippines has been going strong for an entire decade and acts as a conveyor belt of talented Filipino fighters. Japanese MMA is not what it once was, but Deep and Shooto are both putting on regular events and Dream is just about hanging on.
There is no doubt that the main force in Asian MMA at present is One Fighting Championship, which is preparing to put on a massive card on March 31st. It is the only thing in Asia at present that can rival the UFC and has the perfect combination of strong leadership and a supposedly bottomless budget.
Pride is gone, but there is plenty to get excited about with the existing Asian MMA promotions. Here's a list of the top ones.
1. One Fighting Championship
One Fighting Championship is doing everything right and has a very good card coming up later this month, including Melvin Manhoef, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Zorobabel Moreira, Masakazu Imanari, Eduard Folayang and many more great fighters who wouldn't be out of place on a UFC show.
The only other organization in Asia with this kind of talent on its cards is Dream. But they are beset by financial difficulties and don't have another show scheduled at present, whereas One FC are going to host events in at least five different countries this year.
The first show got a crowd of 7,000 people in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the second show in Jakarta drew 4,500 and the third one should be the best attended yet. It's a very encouraging start, and it also helps that fans can watch the events on ESPN Star Sports, a channel that seems to be shown constantly in bars and hotels all over Asia.
Shinya Aoki has already signed to fight for One FC this year, and so has Renato Sobral. Plus there are some really popular Asian fighters like Eduard Folayang and Eddie Ng who will definitely boost local ticket sales.
With ticket sales much better than anything the UFC managed in its first few years and the biggest broadcast deal in Asian MMA history, there is no doubt that One FC is the biggest promotion around.
Lightweight bout (Main Event): Switzerland Felipe Enomoto vs. Brazil 
Featherweight bout: Japan vs. United States Donald Sanchez 
Lightweight bout: Philippines vs. Denmark Ole Laursen 
Welterweight bout: Japan Yuya Shirai vs. Brazil Fabricio Monteiro 
Middleweight bout: Netherlands Melvin Manhoef vs. Japan Yoshiyuki Nakanishi 
Lightweight bout: Hong Kong Eddie Ng vs. Malaysia Jian Kai Chee 
Bantamweight bout: Japan vs. Philippines Kevin Belingon 
Female bout: India Jeet Toshi vs. Singapore Nicole Chua
Lightweight bout: Singapore Quek Kim Hock vs. Singapore Juan Wen Jie
Bantamweight bout: China Jiang Long Yun vs. Thailand Yodsanan Sityodtong
Lightweight bout: Netherlands Danny van Bergen vs. United States Richie Whitson
Dream doesn't have an event scheduled right now and has been beset by rumours of financial difficulties for a long time. It is still second on the list because of the NYE show, which featured Fedor Emelianenko, Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri and brought in over 20,000 people, and because it has put on over 20 events.
There does seem to be a question mark over whether there will be another Dream event. But that uncertainty has existed for quite a while now, and the show still seems to go on. Dream have some great fighters on their cards and attract big crowds. It would be a shame if it did go out of business.
At least Dream's main stars like Aoki, Kawajiri and Imanari have the opportunity to fight in the interim because Dream signed up to the One FC network.
Hopefully a new show will be announced soon—Dream is the closest thing we have to a replacement for Pride, and the MMA world would be a much less interesting place if it folded.
Deep have been around since 2001 and looks to have much more chance of lasting another decade than Dream does at present. It is best known as a feeder organization for major Japanese MMA organizations—a lot of Pride and Dream fighters came up through Deep.
It's not a promotion that attracts a huge amount of interest outside of Japan, but plenty of famous fighters started out in Deep, including Ryo Chonan, Dong Hyun Kim, Riki Fukuda and Chan Sung Jung.
Deep is another organization that could be set to benefit from a relationship with One FC because two of its champions, Yuya Shirai and Yoshiyuki Nakanishis will be fighting at One FC 3.
If Dream were to go out of business, Deep would be ideally positioned to replace it, and the two already have extremely close ties. In terms of talent and longevity, Deep is well worth a place high up this list.
Shooto has plenty of history having been around since 1985, but its early rules were a little unusual and allowed knocked down fighters to get a boxing style eight count.
Although primarily a Japanese organization Shooto has also taken place in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Nevada, Hawaii, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Famous fighters to have appeared on Shooto shows include Shinya Aoki, Takanori Gomi, Joachim Hansen, Hatsu Hioki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Caol Uno. Shooto have already put on six shows this year and have another two booked for next month.
It might not be seen by many people outside of Japan, but it is one of the longest running MMA promotions in the entire world and should be around for a good deal longer.
MMA is blowing up in the Philippines. All the best fighters such as Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon and Roy Docyogen seem to be signed to the URCC. This year brings the tenth anniversary of this organization that puts on shows all over the Philippines.
Right now, a lot of the stars from the URCC are breaking through and doing well with One FC. If the UFC is serious about doing a TUF series there, they are probably going to have to find a way to work with the URCC, who seem to have all the talent on their roster.
One of the reasons that URCC fighters seem to perform very well overseas could be because they get used to fighting 10-minute rounds, so they have no problem fighting five-minute rounds at a quick pace.
6. Legend FC
Legend FC has started off slow and steady, putting on regular events in Hong Kong and Macau that mainly seem to focus on promoting Chinese and Korean fighters. They do have seem to have found some local talent and are taking a cautious approach, not booking any expensive big name fighters.
Legend FC have only averaged about three shows a year since being formed in 2010. But now, they have a long term deal with a casino in Macau, which allows them to use its ballroom on a regular basis. A show is also scheduled to take place in Indonesia later this month as Legend appear to be attempting to cash in after One FC's successful recent debut there.
The quality of the fights and fighters is good, but a standard PPV price of $29.95, only slightly less than the UFC, seems a bit unrealistic.
7. Road FC
Road FC was only formed in 2010 after a lot of promotions in Korea seem to have failed. It is already six events old and recently moved into a bigger venue due to increased ticket demand.
Korea produces so many great MMA fighters who do well in major organizations like the UFC, Dream and One FC. A country like Korea should have a solid local promotion to give fans the chance to see live MMA and fighters the chance to fight. Right now, Road FC is the only one.
8. Super Fight League
The Super Fight League is only one event old but has a big budget with some famous Indian celebrities behind it. The fights on the first show weren't the best and the combination of Bollywood and MMA is not for everyone but it did get a lot of viewers on youtube.
The SFL have regular shows scheduled and have money to burn. There is no certainty that it will be around forever, but it should be a big part of the Asian MMA scene for at least the next few months and is probably the most unpredictable organization on this list.
Dare is another organization with deep pockets that recently announced that it would be giving out a million dollars in prize money to the winners of its eight tournaments.
It seems to be acting as a feeder organization for One FC, but people who do go to their shows in a nightclub in Bangkok report that the production is excellent and the atmosphere is very good. Dare has come a long way in a short period since being formed last June and looks to have a good long-term chance of success.
Other Asian MMA organizations that deserve a mention are Rings and Zst in Japan and Martial Combat in Singapore, which put on 12 events in 2010 but hasn't been active for over a year.