In January the new M-1 Arena is scheduled to open in Saint Petersburg
SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia (December 29, 2017) -- The grand opening of the state-of-the-art M-1 Arena in Saint Petersburgh, in addition to the celebration of M-1 Challenge 100 later in 2018, will highlight M-1 Global's 21st season.
Plans in 2018 also include more events, expansion into new countries and, as the No. 2 MMA organization in the world, to keep giving its fans world-class competition, entertaining match-ups, innovative developments and even a few surprises.
M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein discussed a few of these subjects (see below) prior to the holidays.
Can you tell us about the new M-1 Arena?
VF: "M-1 Arena is an absolutely unique structure seating a maximum of 3000. It is built in the form of the Colosseum, stone and wood, with an incredible dome made of glulam, which gives the place perfect acoustics. Not only can we promote sporting events, but also music concerts. M-1 Arena allows us to have even more events and realize new ideas like, for example, a reality show. M-1 Arena will be multifunctional but martial arts will be the main form of entertainment held there."
M-1 Challenge was more international last year in terms of showcasing more fighters from different countries like USA, Portugal, UK, Canada, South Korea, China, etc. Do you plan to expand your fighter base even more this year and, if so, what countries are you targeting for fighters?
VF: "Usually, we hire fighters from countries where our events are being broadcasted. If we have new contracts with the countries from where we don't have representative fighters, or only have a few of them, we are going to increase their number. The same for countries where we've held events because fans desire to see the local athletes fighting in the Rage. We give them an opportunity to see that.".
With the success of female MMA stars around the world do you plan to add a female division in 2018?
VF: "One day we will probably create a female division in M-1 Global. Right now, though, we don't have enough strong female fighters to do it, yet. As soon as we are ready to make this happen, it will be done, but we don't want to open a new division just to check the box. We want the best fighters to compete at the highest level."
M-1 Global is closing in on your 100th M-1 Challenge event. Do you plan to promote your 100th event in 2018? If so can you provide any additional information about when, where, special plans, etc.
VF: M-1 Global has already promoted more than 200 events, including 85 M-1 Challenges, which was created in 2008. I think that this event will happen either in Saint-Petersburg or in Moscow, but we still have a lot of time left and a dozen other events before it. We are going to take care of it a bit later."
M-1 has developed fighters who've moved on to the UFC and other organizations. How do you feel about that trend? Does it frustrate you that you to spend time building a fighter and then have him move on, or do you look at it as a compliment that M-1 Global develops fighters who can compete in the UFC and any other organization?
VF: "We can consider this situation from different perspectives. I'm not happy to let my best fighters go, of course, but it is what it is, and we are not ready to compete with UFC yet. Sometimes our fighters leave us. From another perspective, we are happy that our fighters who leave keep winning fights and become the top competitors in other promotions. It proves that the level of M-1 Global fighters is equal to the level of UFC fighters. The top athletes who left M-1 Global for UFC are in top positions there and other promotions don't have such results. Other organization may make their fighters popular but, as soon as they move to UFC, they start losing and get released
"Our company is probably the second MMA promotion in the world and when some fighters move to the strongest league on the planet, they take a step forward, which I like much better than when they move to weaker promotions than M-1 Global just to make more money."
Any plans to do anything different this year than in the past, outside of the grand opening of the M-1 arena and possible 100th event?
VF: "The main difference will be that we are going to have our own home, M-1 Arena, which means we will be able to hold even more events. We'd like to have two events each month, 24 events a year. We opened our own TV channel (M1global.tv) and next year, MMA fans from former Soviet Republics will have an opportunity to watch all the fights. Using our iOS and Android App, viewers from all over the world can watch old and new fights right now, and next year we are going to make it even better. We are also going to create our own studio to produce different content, probably a new reality show with fighters from different countries."
Will you have showcase M-1 Medieval fights this coming year?
VF: "Apparently, we will have some medieval fights in 2018, but the only issue is that we have a lot of fighters under contract, so it is not easy to find a place for M-1 Medieval fights on our cards. We make knight fights in regions where they are popular, like in Ingushetia and Finland in 2017, because fans demonstrated to us that they want to see them. I hope one day we'll have more resources for them."