Change Agent

Why Edmonton-born Victor Cui launched a UFC-inspired MMA company in Asia

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One FC CEO Victor Cui

“My grandfather had this saying: ‘by the time you need a business relationship, it’s already too late to build one.’” (CJ Sameer Wadhwa)

Victor Cui was born in Edmonton. He moved to Singapore eight years ago to take a job with ESPN. In July 2011, with the backing of seven entrepreneurs, he launched ONE FC, with the goal of becoming the dominant mixed-martial-arts organization in Asia.

“I was shocked at the business opportunity that was available around mixed martial arts in Asia. Here we were, looking at the world’s fastest-growing sport. And there’s this behemoth of a sports property (the UFC) that is hugely successful in North America, generating tons of revenue, generating tons of fans, and it’s exploding. And this brand, it was at zero in Asia. There’s a brand of ketchup in the Philippines called UFC, and that had more brand recognition than the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Looking at this opportunity, all the revenue and possibilities, it just seemed insane to me how big it was. I actually thought I’d made a mistake. I was like, my numbers must be wrong here. And then I realized that I wasn’t.

“In Asia, doing business is all about building relationships. And it’s hard to really grasp that until you’re out here. But my grandfather had this saying, ‘By the time you need a relationship, it’s already too late to build one.’ So in everything that you do, every day, build relationships, make friends, before you need them. If I had not been living here for years, this wouldn’t have been an opportunity for me. Because I had to know the general in Indonesia. I had to know the minister in Malaysia. I had to know the governing bodies in different countries.”