Sports

After beating UFC in Asia, ONE Championship chief says he’s just getting started

After beating UFC in Asia, ONE Championship chief says he’s just getting started
ONE Championship chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong has lined up a whopping 24 shows across Asia this year, which averages out to a show in an Asian city almost every fortnight. Photo: ONE Championship
Published: 12:17 PM, May 17, 2017
Updated: 12:00 AM, May 18, 2017

SINGAPORE – Fresh off an overwhelmingly successful show in Philippines, where it enjoyed record-busting TV viewership numbers, ONE Championship chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong said his Mixed-Martial Arts (MMA) promotion is just getting started.

With American-based UFC – widely regarded as the biggest MMA promotion in the world – still trying to regain a foothold in the Asian market following several years of missteps, Singapore-based ONE Championship has stormed forward decisively and left its rival out cold on the mat.

UFC has tried to muscle its way back into Asia with plans to host three events in Asia this year, although it could only confirm two shows so far in Singapore on June 17, and Saitama, Japan on September 23. In contrast, ONE Championship has lined up a whopping 24 shows across Asia this year, which averages out to a show in an Asian city almost every fortnight.

“The last few years have been like a rocketship ride for ONE Championship – particularly the last 12 months where our TV ratings just keep bringing new records,” said Chatri.

The recent ONE: Kings of Destiny card in Manila is a case in point, he said. According to Philippines broadcasters ABS-CBN, the event last month was watched on television by more people than any other MMA event in the country’s history.

“Our peak ratings share was 26 per cent, as per Nielsen,” added Chatri. “To put that into perspective, UFC 205, which was the UFC’s biggest show last year, only captured a 6 to 7 per cent ratings share in the Philippines.

“There are around 10 million to 30 million people tuning in to our every show and numbers are still growing.”

That’s not all. Away from traditional TV broadcasts, the Thai entrepreneur said ONE is also enjoying massive growth on social media.

“For example, our social media video views have grown from around 300,000 for 2014 to more than 300 million in the first quarter of 2017. We are growing every month. We are on track to see 500 million video views for the full year in 2017,” Chatri said.

“It underlined ONE Championship as the largest sports media property in Asia as no other is enjoying such reach in Asia. Even around the world, you will not find another sports media property with our trajectory of growth across key metrics like ratings, broadcast hours, social media engagement, broadcast footprint, and broadcast reach.”

Dismissing suggestions that the MMA market in Asia may be nearing saturation, Chatri said there is still so much potential to tap in the massive Asian market of 4 billion people.

“The coming years we want to bring more fights across Asia, with ambition to host one event every weekend,” he said. “We are looking at all the major cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai, Beijing and Shanghai.

“There is so much to be done. It’s still so early in the game. But the challenge now is in managing our growth. We are expanding like crazy and hiring more and more people.”

The challenge, too, for ONE Championship is to keep coming up with shows that are better than the last.

Next up on its calendar is ONE: Dynasty of Heroes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 26, where local favourite Angela Lee will defend her women’s atomweight title against Brazil’s Istela Nunes in the five-round main event. So what does Chatri have in store for the Singapore fans?

“Bigger, better, bolder, crazier than ever before,” promised Chatri, who will have Singapore’s Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling joining Lee’s entourage when she enters the cage.

“It’ll be a lot of fun. So, don’t miss the show.”

*For ticketing information of ONE: Dynasty of Heroes, go to www.onefc.com