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UFC Macau another step in the promotion’s global expansion plans

Cung Le, Dong Hyun Kim honored to fight on the UFC’s first Chinese card

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former UFC middleweight champion Rich “Ace” Franklin, left, of the United States, and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, a vietnamese-American, pose for photographers during the pre-fight press conference to promote the Ultimate Fighting Championship UFC in Hong Kong Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. The Ultimate Fighting Championship will take place in the Venetian Macao in Macau Saturday, Nov. 10.

UFC on FUEL TV 6 complete card

  • Middleweight bout: Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le
  • Light heavyweight bout: Thiago Silva vs. Stanislav Nedkov
  • Welterweight bout: Dong Hyun Kim vs. Paulo Thiago
  • Lightweight bout: Takanori Gomi vs. Mac Danzig
  • Lightweight bout: Tiequan Zhang vs. John Tuck
  • Bantamweight bout: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Jeff Hougland
  • Bantamweight bout: Alex Caceres vs. Motonobu Tezuka
  • Flyweight bout: Yasuhiro Urushitani vs. John Lineker
  • Middleweight bout: Riki Fukuda vs. Tom DeBlass
Click to enlarge photo

Welterweight fighter Dong Hyun Kim shows off his shoes during the UFC 141 weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.

There’s nothing like waking up to several hundred punches in the face from some of the world’s elite fighters.

The UFC holds its first event in a month bright and early Saturday, as UFC on FUEL TV 6 airs at 6 in the morning local time. A preliminary card begins streaming on the UFC’s facebook page at 4:30.

The action comes live from Macau, where the promotion tries to break into the Chinese market for the first time — an objective officials find every bit as important as the UFC’s rapid growth in Brazil or its reintroduction to Japan.

“I think people in China are already getting used to MMA and what it’s about,” UFC lightweight Tiequan Zhang said through a translator at a press conference in Macau Wednesday. “At this point, they already accept it and it’s growing very fast.”

Zhang, who fights former “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” hopeful Jon Tuck on the main card, is currently the only Chinese fighter on the UFC’s roster. The UFC, however, also loaded the rest of the card with its recognizable Asian fighters.

Vietnamese-born Cung Le, who doubles as a martial arts movie star, challenges former middleweight champion Rich Franklin in the co-main event. Korean judoka Dong Hyun Kim faces fellow welterweight veteran Paulo Thiago in one of the featured bouts.

“He’s going to have an uphill battle fighting in Asia for the first time,” Kim said of his opponent. “For him to overcome the jet lag and the time difference, I’m really prepared to put on a great show.”

Kim feels like he knows what Thiago is going through in trying to adjust to the foreign surroundings. “Stun Gun” has done it for the last eight years, traveling from his home in Busan, South Korea to Las Vegas to fight in the UFC.

He’s found a fair amount of success, going 6-2 in the octagon, but usually feels groggy and thrown off in the days before the fight. At the press conference in Macau, however, Kim was all smiles while discussing his refreshed state.

“I have added incentive to really do well,” Kim said. “I’m really looking forward to this particular match.”

Kim hopes he can help the UFC make its way into South Korea by the end of next year. The Asian fighters, as a whole, seem to take fighting on the inaugural China card as an honor.

Le thought he broke his foot in his last fight, a unanimous decision victory over Patrick Cote at UFC 148, but rushed back to headline in Macau.

“It was a deep bone bruise,” Le said of his injury. “The doctor said I would be down for six or eight weeks, but obviously I’m here so I’ll be ready to go.”

It’s a big week for Le in more ways than one. His new movie “The Man with the Iron Fists”, also starring Russell Crow and Lucy Liu, hit theatres days before the fight.

Le was supposed to fight Franklin, whom he considers a friend, months ago and guaranteed they’d deliver an action-packed bout. They want to leave an impression on China.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the air about this,” Franklin said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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