Why the future is bright for MMA in the Philippines

John Dodson_UFC Manila_Dojo Drifter

Exciting times ahead: MMA in the Philippines is bound to get bigger and bigger.

The Philippines, with its growing economy and a natural liking for combat sports, is a key market in Asia when it comes to MMA. That’s probably why we’re the only Asian country that the UFC is holding an event in for 2017, why Singaporean MMA promotion ONE FC has been holding its year-ender cards in Manila for the past few years, and why WSOF-Global seems eager to tap into our market.

No doubt, MMA is big in the Philippines, and it’s bound to get even bigger. Here’s why.

Influx of new local talent

CJ de Tomas_URCC 27: Rebellion_Dojo Drifter_Mike MiguelIt was around 2013 when most of our best talent was getting picked up by ONE FC and by UFC, leaving a void in the local scene. Luckily, that void has quickly been filled and the local fight scene is now teeming with new talent. URCC champs like CJ de Tomas and Chris Hofmann, PXC contender Rolando Dy, Team Lakay fighter Stephen Loman, and newly signed Pinoy UFC fighter Jenel Lausa are just some of the names that have made headlines in the past couple of years, representing the new breed of elite Pinoy fighters. This proves that the country is very capable of producing new talent as the sport progresses.

Local scene is thriving

The county’s top local promotion, URCC, has also been aggressive as of late with a more consistent presence as compared to recent years. Smaller shows have also sprung up, and local promotions are looking to up their numbers and their production quality. With new fighters, new gyms, and ambitious promotions, we could be looking at a very vibrant local scene in the years to come.

TV Networks are aggressively pursuing MMA

AFC Fight Farm-Dojo Drifter-Don Gaoiran
AFC’s Ronald Catunao and ABS-CBN Sports+Action head Vince Rodriguez (both middle) with the aspiring fighters of Fight Farm.

ABS-CBN airs ONE FC, URCC, and Bellator MMA. They also air the Fight Farm series, which is a reality show about URCC’s amateur league, AFC. Meanwhile, TV5 has exclusive rights to air UFC and PXC action. Additionally, WSOF Global is aired on FOX Sports. This means, first of all, that there’s a demand for these programs and for the sport. It also means more exposure for the sport and its athletes and perhaps a chance to remove the notion that MMA is human cockfighting.

More former fighters setting up business in Manila

Former UFC fighter and current ONE FC champ Brandon Vera has recently moved to Manila. Word is he’s working on a new movie with actress Anne Curtis, looking to set up an Alliance Gym in Manila, and processing his Filipino citizenship. Former UFC contender and current UFC ambassador Mark Munoz has also been in and out of Manila recently, promoting the upcoming UFC Manila card. Munoz also plans to implement a wrestling program in the Philippines.

The fact that more former UFC fighters and foreign fighters are coming to the Philippines shows that the market here is rabid enough for them to set up business. And this could lead to added fighting knowledge for our local athletes.

Increase in number of MMA gyms

fight factory mma gym
Photo by Third Guevara aka The Food Grappler

You’re bound to find MMA gyms in every city in Metro Manila and even in the provinces. To add to that, it was recently announced that UFC GYM is coming to Manila in 2017 with a planned 30 branches within the next 10 years.

Those are big plans that will no doubt change the MMA landscape in the Philippines as MMA training could become more mainstream and more accessible to casual practitioners. It also opens up the job market for our local fighters who often have to travel overseas to make a living as MMA instructors.

More women are getting into it

Before, the sport had few female fans and practitioners. Now, we are just weeks away from the first UFC women’s fight to take place in the Philippines, and months away from the first female title fight in the URCC. Plus, women make up a sizeable portion of clientel in BJJ, boxing, and MMA gyms today, thanks largely to the sport’s practical and health benefits. There are also noticeably more female MMA fans who make it to attend major MMA-related events.

This opens up the sport to a whole new demographic and to potentially exponential growth.

All these factors point to one thing: longterm growth and business for the Philippine MMA community in the years to come. MMA in the Philippines seems to be on a high right now, but at that rate: we’re just getting warmed up.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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