The Pacman is getting into MMA.
Manny Pacquiao won't be stepping into the cage any time soon, but he now has a connection to mixed martial arts after purchasing an undisclosed number of shares in the Asian-based One Fighting Championship, CEO Victor Cui confirmed to Yahoo Sports.
"I'm pretty pumped," Cui said. "There are a ton of reasons why I'm pretty excited about this. Obviously, Manny Pacquiao is a global sports icon and having him as a part of our organization as a shareholder and promoting One FC and promoting the sport is huge for the sport in the region. It promotes awareness and growth."
Cui described Pacquiao as a "relatively new MMA fan." Pacquiao has a series of gyms he owns in Asia and all of them offer MMA classes and MMA training areas.
Cui said when Pacquiao pulled on a pair of One FC MMA gloves, a devilish smile crossed his face. Pacquiao, the WBO welterweight champion, wears eight-ounce gloves when he boxes and is still one of the sport's hardest puncher. The MMA gloves are four ounces.
"You could see him calculating the difference from the boxing gloves to the MMA gloves," Cui said. "He said to me, 'Man, someone could get hurt with the power of my punches if I could wear these.' "
Cui said One FC is already highly popular in the Philippines, where Pacquiao is the country's most revered sports hero. Fighting sports are hugely popular there, as they are throughout Asia, and MMA is quickly becoming very popular.
One FC will have the opportunity to leverage Pacquiao's popularity. The UFC has long wanted to put an event in the Philippines. The UFC in 2008 sent former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell to the Philippines on a promotional tour and he drew 4,000 fans to a workout.
Awareness in MMA in the Philippines has been steadily increasing, aided by the recent signings of ex-UFC contender Brandon Vera and women's boxing star Ana Julaton, both Filipino-Americans, to One FC contracts.
"There are a lot of common fans and common ties with MMA and boxing [in the Philippines] and MMA awareness is much stronger than it is in other parts of Asia," Cui said. "Manny has been looking for some opportunities outside of boxing, and he and his team have kept an eye on the sport of MMA. It made a lot of sense to him.
"He knows we have a 90 percent market share [in Asia] and how strong our brand is in Asia. He knows the global reach of our organization and there was a comfort level there."
Cui said One FC would schedule a news conference in Manila surrounding one of its events there if Pacquiao's schedule permits. Pacquiao has a Nov. 22 defense of his WBO welterweight title in Macau, China, set against Chris Algieri that will be distributed in the U.S. by HBO Pay-Per-View. The next One FC show in the Philippines is Dec. 5.