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By Peter Rutherford
SINGAPORE, March 11 (Reuters) - ONE Fighting Championship, Asia's biggest mixed martial arts promotion, will return to the Philippines in May with local fighter Honorio Banario slated to defend his featherweight title against South Korean Bae Young-kwon.
A ONE FC official told Reuters on Monday that the event would take place at Manila's 20,000-seater Mall of Asia Arena on May 31. Bae was expected to sign off on the bout this week, the official added.
Also on the cards are Brazilian Bibiano Fernandes, who headlined ONE FC's first event in the Philippines last August, as well as Filipino lightweight Eduard Folayang, and the final of the promotion's bantamweight grand prix.
The event will be sponsored by Casino Filipino, who will promote it in a nationwide campaign in all of its branches.
ONE FC CEO Victor Cui said coming back to Manila was a no-brainer given the massive MMA fan base in the Philippines and its successful partnership with local promotion URCC.
"Our first ONE FC event in Manila was amazing and a real eye-opener to how many ONE FC fans we have in the Philippines," he told Reuters. "We worked with some of the biggest sponsors and companies in the country, had hundreds of media turn up at every press conference, and ONE FC brought the biggest MMA event ever to the country.
"We also have a great partnership with URCC and together we've been able to showcase and sign the very best Filipino fighters to ONE FC.
"We have now moved to an even bigger venue with sponsors that are creating marketing national campaigns and introducing even more fans to the sport and ONE FC."
ONE FC debuted in Manila last August with its "Pride of a Nation" event at the Araneta Coliseum, where 16,500 fans watched Fernandes beat Australian Gustavo Falciroli in the main event.
That card also featured a heavyweight clash between former UFC heavyweight champions Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, while Jens Pulver, who won the UFC's first lightweight world champion in 2001, also fought on the card.
ONE FC will hold its next event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on April 5, with Shinya Aoki taking on lightweight champion Kotetsu Boku.
It will be the first ONE FC event broadcast live throughout the region. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)