• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 6th September

Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week. In this edition, my From the Top interview is with Zhang Weili. Her performance at last weekend’s UFC event in Shenzhen crowned her the first-ever Chinese champion in the competition. We talk about her thoughts after this momentous occasion as well as what this could do for the future of the sport in China.


Zhang Weili Becomes First Chinese UFC Champion Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) athlete Zhang Weili became the first ever Chinese champion in the history of the competition, defeating Brazilian Jessica Andrade through a technical knockout in a fight lasting just 42 seconds. The strawweight made history in front of a home crowd at the Universiade Sports Centre Arena in Shenzhen. Read more on UFC English and Chinese


Mailman Take: Yao Ming in the NBA, Li Na at Roland Garros - this is the same phenomenon. Her TKO victory sent shockwaves through China and the rest of the world as she became the first Chinese UFC Champion. Not only is she technically gifted but her personality and style is a marketeers dream. The UFC will be able to leverage this to challenge the mainstream sports landscape.


FIBA and Wanda Extend Sponsorship Deal to 2031 ForThe International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has extended a long-term strategic partnership with Chinese multinational conglomerate Wanda through to 2031. Wanda attains global marketing rights to the next three FIBA Basketball World Cups and World Cup Qualifiers, the Women’s Basketball World Cups and other competitions. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Xinhua (Chinese)


Mailman Take: Wanda can now claim top-level and long-term partnerships with powerful sports organisations FIBA and FIFA, to name a few. Let’s hope Wanda uses its deep pockets to work together with these governing bodies to invest money into grassroots, where it’s required the most, and that it’s not just a power play to gain favour with key decision-makers. 


China State Council to Decentralise Sports Industries The Chinese government are set to place greater emphasis on strengthening the sports industry and enhancing sport and fitness activity as part of an effort to raise living standards. They are also looking to decentralise China’s sports industry, with sporting events that are currently hosted by national sports associations, to be run by private-sector organisations instead. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Gov.cn (Chinese). EURO 2020 Opens Weibo Account UEFA unveiled its new EURO 2020 channel on Weibo, marking UEFA’s second channel on the platform after the relaunch of their UEFA Champions League channel last November. The account will aim to bring the international competition closer to Chinese fans ahead of the tournament next summer. Read more on Weibo (Chinese).


CBA and Deloitte Release Commercial Report ‘The Industry Report’ was jointly-released by CBA League and Deloitte, and includes in-depth insights into the wider basketball industry in China. It studies the current situation of the league, its commercial performance and has a focus on what the CBA League holds in store for the future. Read more on Deloitte English and Chinese.


WCF Looks to Connect Chinese Fans The World Curling Federation (WCF) has launched on Weibo to enhance communications with the Asian market.  Ahead of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2022, the WCF plans to broaden the reach and increase awareness of the game by utilising the platform, as well as through a new website. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


In Other News


Weibo Develops Own Version of Instagram In a bid to broaden market share, Weibo has developed and put into testing a new photo-sharing app called "Oasis". Set to target a younger generation, Oasis allows users to upload and edit both photos and videos, with the ability to tag friends and locations. Read more on Nikkei Asian Review (English) or Sina (Chinese)


China Men's National Basketball Team Miss Out on Final 16 Venezuela and China battled it out earlier this week for a chance to progress to the final 16 of the Basketball World Cup. Dubbed the “life and death battle”, both teams had one win and one loss between them, meaning the winner took it all. China were defeated 72-59, meaning the tournament hosts will not progress to the second round. Read more on FIBA (English) and Sina (Chinese)

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From the Top

This week I spoke to Zhang Weili. Her performance at the recent UFC event in Shenzhen crowned her the first-ever Chinese champion in the competition. We talk about her thoughts after this momentous occasion as well as what this could do for the future of the sport in China.


1. How does it feel to be the first-ever Chinese UFC champion? The moment when I took down Jessica, I was so excited. And then I calmed down and thought - ‘All those efforts I have put in have now paid off.’


2. What can your victory do for the sport of UFC in China? How big can it get? I think that winning the championship in Shenzhen is not only big for UFC but also for MMA as a project in China. It should have some impact in encouraging more people to recognise this sport and in getting involved in it.


3. The Performance Institute is sensational. What effect has it had on the grassroots level in China and how soon will it be until it starts creating more champions like yourself? China has a lot of athletes with great potential and I think the establishment of the Performance Institute (PI) has a great impact on them. Before, we didn't have such amazing conditions, the goal seemed so far away from you. But now, it seems like the goal is right in front of you. As long as you work hard, you can achieve anything. It is the best possible time for the new generation. They will rise up so fast. There will certainly be more and more outstanding Chinese athletes coming up in the next few years.


4. What's your message to your fans after becoming champion? I want to say to my fans, thank you all for your support and encouragement. A lot of them have witnessed me growing. Everything they say matters to me. With their support, Chinese MMA will continue to get better and better. China is a nation of martial arts, we worship the strong, we worship martial arts, and we worship heroes. This is not a groundless statement. I could feel the love at Shenzhen Fight Night. 


5. What's next for you: Take a break, keep training, any new fights on the horizon? I will work with the media a lot. The media have started to report more and more on MMA and UFC. I believe it is a very good thing because that means MMA in China can begin to generate more attention.


6. What's your advice to youngsters & parents looking to get involved in UFC? Do you worry parents are afraid of their children taking part because it's so physical? In fact, the injuries are not that bad, I would say MMA is actually relatively safe. You can get injured in any sport - for example cycling, running and others. It is impossible to completely avoid the risk of injuries if you practise sports. Even if you're sitting still, you can still develop back ache. So I want to tell the parents that if your child takes a liking to this sport, I think they must be a very strong and tough person with a good personality. So if they like it, you should support them. When I just started doing MMA, my parents worried a lot. They did not know what career I could have out of this sport. But there are actually now a lot of possibilities and opportunities. I would say do not worry about this aspect too much. Especially nowadays, China's MMA will become better, parents should encourage their children to participate. It is not only a sport, but also a life skill. Even though they might not become top athletes, they could coach or contribute to the sport in another way. 


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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here.

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