REBELS WITH A CAUSE
Homegrown Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) outfit, Rebel Fighting Championship is on track to becoming Asia’s first sports company to take MMA to a NASDAQ listing.
From the ancient Olympic Games of 648 BCE to the broadcast revolution it is today, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has long held an indelible place in the arena of sports and entertainment. But while international names like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have made their way onto television screens across the world, Asia’s MMA competitors are still battling it out for the top spot.
Making its way up the rankings is Rebel Fighting Championship (Rebel FC), a Singapore-based MMA entertainment and talent development company led by MMA buff and dynamic CEO, Justin Leong.
Championing The Cause
Justin’s passion for the sport goes back to his childhood, when his interest was first piqued while watching UFC on TV with his mother – eventually leading him to take up MMA classes at the neighborhood gym. He went on to study accountancy and later worked with his father, K K Leong to manage a cruise ship for Macau tycoon Stanley Ho. But despite the paths that lay ahead of him, Justin’s dream remained to work with MMA. Inspired by the UFC’s story of going from a US$2 million business to US$4.2 billion empire, he eventually convinced his father to invest into their own MMA dream – Rebel FC.
Founded in May 2013, Rebel FC combines the storytelling of live entertainment with the non-stop action of MMA through international events headlined by legends like Miguel Torres of the United States and Takeshi “Lion” Inoue of Japan. What sets the company apart is its drive to deliver a viewing experience that supersedes all others within the industry today. To achieve this, every event features vivid entertainment elements such as live bands, martial arts demonstrations and pyrotechnics, combined with compelling and immersive storylines.
Rebel FC events typically feature vivid entertainment elements such as live performances and pyrotechnics.
Taking MMA Home
Alongside its commitment to entertainment, Rebel FC’s primary motive is to bring the martial arts back to its country of birth – China. The company wants to elevate Chinese MMA fighters by giving them the chance to compete against celebrated international talent on the global MMA stage.
2018 has already shown promise for Rebel FC in this regard with two immensely successful shows in China: Rebel FC 7 – Fight for Honour in Shanghai and Rebel FC 8 – A Warrior’s Return in Guangzhou. Surpassing this, the company’s most recent event, Rebel FC 9 – The Battle for the Kingdom, was its biggest so far. Held in September 2018 in Beijing, the event saw some of the best MMA fighters from China – Liu Wenbo, Wang Sai, Ning Guangyou and Wang Yayong – pitted against UFC veterans Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Adriano ‘The Rock’ Balby, Takeya Mizugaki and Shuhei Sakano.
While such shows give local talent the opportunity of exponential growth, they also promote MMA at large to a Chinese audience – the biggest sports market in the world today.
This was cemented when Rebel FC signed a deal with Guangdong Sports Channel, a major sports channel in southern China that owns most of the exclusive copyright rights for domestic and international sports events in the province. By getting on to a platform such as this, the company hopes to not only encourage broader viewership but also inspire local talent to consider MMA seriously and broaden the scope of the sport.
Justin Leong (centre), CEO of Rebel FC, with fighters Wang Sai ‘The Fire Kylin’ Wang (left) and Adriano 'The Rock' Balby (right).
Delving into the Chinese market is a feat no other MMA promotion has undertaken to date. In a pioneering move, Rebel FC has also entered into an agreement with Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group, a large-scale, state-owned cultural institution in Beijing that focuses on preserving, promoting and developing Chinese culture including arts and sports. The agreement will help facilitate the acquiring of permits for Rebel FC events in China and open doors for it to develop Chinese MMA talent – the most crucial aspect in the long run for the sport to establish itself on Chinese soil.
With no plans of slowing down, Rebel FC is now gearing up to up-list from the Over-the-Counter (OTC) markets to the Nasdaq Capital Market by early 2019, drawing emphasis on its approach towards the Chinese market, and eventually, the global arena. By listing, the company would become the first MMA and only sports property from Asia to be listed on NASDAQ – a move that would make them the undefeated kings of the Asian MMA arena. In the meantime, audiences across Asia can sit back and be entertained as they watch Rebel FC take the title home.
This article was first published in MillionaireAsia Issue 49 - Sep 2018