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UFC announces return to China, debut in Singapore

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC announced that it will hold events in Singapore and Macau during the first quarter of 2014 on Thursday at a press conference in Beijing, China.

Mark Fischer, the head of UFC Asia, announced an event at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore which he targeted for early in the first quarter of next year.

He also announced a March date to return to the Venetian in Macau, which would serve as the finals of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter China, which debuts in November on Liaoning Satellite TV. The station is available to approximately 830 million of the 1,344,000,000 residents of China.

"We'll have well-known fighters on the main card, but we want to fill the card with more Asian fighters," said Fischer to Reuters. "We really want to build a base and ...create more relevance with local audiences."

Sean Shelby, who does the matchmaking for the UFC's 125, 135 and 145 pound weight classes, as well as the women, has gone on previous scouting trips to China and is headed to other countries in Asia with the goal of discovering and developing fighters from the area. The attempt is to create the first generation of local stars through a Chinese version of the reality show, similar to the company's marketing plan in a number of new locations.

Shelby will oversee tryouts on July 21 in Beijing at the Metropark Lido Hotel, July 25 in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands, and August 3 in Macau at the Venetian, looking for featherweights, lightweights and welterweight fighters.

No coaches were announced for the series at the press conference but Fischer strongly hinted one of them would be Tiequan Zhang (15-4), who comes from Inner Mongolia in China. There have been reports the other coach would be Cung Le (9-2).

"We are still at the investment stage but we do see tremendous long-term potential here," said Fischer. "TUF China is a watershed. We believe it's going to do more for growing the brand and the sport of MMA among the Greater China audience than any other program to date."

The March show will be the second at the Venetian in Macau. The debut show on Nov. 10, headlined by Le's first-round knockout of Rich Franklin, drew 8,415 fans and a $1.3 million gate But it was an audience very new to mixed martial arts, not really having an emotional involvement or understanding of the sport and its fighters.