The Ultimate Fighter China: Can It Move the Needle in This Critical Market?

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  MMA fighter Cung Le attends the NBA 2K14 premiere party at Greystone Manor on September 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for 2K)
Charley Gallay/Getty Images

It's official: The UFC's foray into China looks to come full force.

The UFC is looking to ignite a movement of MMA in China, specifically a UFC movement. It is a market that has over one billion people, which has Dana White and company salivating at the thought of new, high-profit possibilities.

The cast and coaches for The Ultimate Fighter China have been revealed. Cung Le is a mentoring coach to Chinese mixed martial artists Tiequan Zhang and Ao Hailin. This is great, as Le is a martial arts hero in China and could draw big ratings.

But can this long-running reality show move the needle in the critical market of China?

What TUF 1 did for the United States, and the globe for that matter, could hypothetically happen here. The UFC has a deal with a broadcast affiliate in China that reaches 830 million people, which leaves the potential for massive ratings.

However, the big flaw of this season is that the real standout talent in China, of which there is currently not much, will not be participating on the show. Many top names such as Guan Wang and Xian Ji are currently under contract with respectable promotions like RUFF and could not make the show (or would not).

These guys are already making better money than a guy who competes on the reality show. Sure, a couple of these guys could end up being diamonds in the rough, but will there really be staying power for them in the biggest, most talent-filled company in the world?

Obviously, the big thing with this show is just exposing the country to the UFC and getting them to embrace the sport and company. That is smart, and whether or not there is an outstanding star that comes from the show, the prospect of an exploding business in a potential hotbed market is worth the risk.

Of course, being skeptical of the cast is to be expected, but there could be one or two guys who end up getting a decent stay with the company. Though most guys have no pro fights recorded or even a Sherdog file, guys like Wang Sai, Jianping Yang and Lipeng Zhang are experienced and could really benefit from working with a martial arts mind like Cung Le.

It's going to be an interesting experiment. One has to believe this is a low-risk, high-reward situation for the UFC, as even if they get 1 percent of the Chinese viewing capacity of 830 million people, they will still be consistently pulling in over eight million viewers. 

That ain't bad, if you ask me.

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