‘People are going to be blown away’: ONE Championship chief promises exciting news for fans in the coming weeks

‘People are going to be blown away’: ONE Championship chief promises exciting news for fans in the coming weeks
ONE Championship founder Chatri Sityodtong. Photo: ONE Championship
Published: 8:45 PM, September 14, 2017
Updated: 8:58 PM, September 14, 2017

SINGAPORE — Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans in Asia can expect some “major” news from locally-based promoter ONE Championship in the coming weeks, says chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong.

“I think people are going to be blown away by some of the news that is going to be coming out in the next few weeks. We have some major major news,” said Chatri, while speaking to the international media in a conference call on Thursday (Sept 14) to promote the upcoming ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Nov 24.

The November event will be the promotion’s second in Singapore this year. Two major fights on the card have already been announced: a title bout between local favourite Angela Lee and Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi, and a showdown between MMA veterans Ben Askren of the United States and Japan’s Shinya Aoki.

The Lee-Yamaguchi will be a repeat of the 2016 ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship bout, which Lee won to become the youngest ever MMA champion. Meanwhile, Askren will seek to end his 17-0 career with an unbeaten record during his fight against Japanese DREAM Lightweight champion Aoki.

There might be at least two more “major” fights set to be on the card in Singapore, said Chatri who declined to give any more details.

“(It’s) going to be a big surprise for everybody if I can get it done,” the 46-year-old said.

“I rather not discuss it today, but I’ll just say that we have a couple of other big fights for the Singapore card in the works right now as we speak.

“We’ll probably make an announcement in the next couple of weeks or so.”

One fighter who could be present at the Indoor Stadium in November is Singapore’s own May Ooi.

The former national swimmer stunned Malaysian MMA fans last month when she defeated home favourite Ann Osman to win in her debut at ONE Championship’s Quest For Greatness event in Kuala Lumpur.

“May Ooi really impressed a lot,” said Chatri on Thursday.

“I had never seen her fight before, I had no idea what to expect, and she went into hostile territory in Malaysia against Malaysia’s biggest name.

“Ann cracked her with a big straight right that dropped May and I thought that the fight would be over very soon after that, but May is such a warrior, she’s such a fighter and she came back and she displayed a very slick ground game, which surprised me.

“I expect to see May on the card on Nov 24 in Singapore for sure.”

Besides upcoming fights, Chatri also spoke about plans for his company heading into 2018.

“We’ll announce next week our calendar for 2018, which will be the biggest calendar we’ve ever had by far – naming the cities, the dates, the venues across the region.

“You will (also) see us enter Japan with a major partnership. We’ll announce that in a later date, probably next couple of weeks,” he promised.

As it stands, the past year has been a record-breaking one for ONE Championship. The promotion has scheduled more events than ever before, while drawing larger audiences both online, in ticket sales and on television. One Championship events are now televised in 128 countries, up from 60 in 2014. Social media video views have also soared to 600 million from 312,000 in 2014.

However, one competitor is seeking to take away some of its pie.

Just a day after ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, America’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), widely regarded as the biggest MMA promotion in the world, will be holding an event in Shanghai - its first ever in China.

Chatri told the media that the UFC event had no bearing on his decision to have two major fights on his Singapore card.

“We really don’t build our business around our competitors and what they’re doing,” he said.

“We build our business for our fans, for our advertisers and sponsors, for our broadcasters, for our athletes, for our staff, for everyone’s who directly involved in the ONE Championship ecosystem.

“It just so happens that we have an event on Nov 24 and UFC has an event a couple of days later or whatever it is, but it is in a different country.”

Taking a veiled dig at UFC, he added: “Some organisations just want to make money, they don’t care if their most high-profile athletes are disrespectful human beings or, in some cases, have run-ins with the law. That’s something I don’t espouse, I take my job seriously, this is not just a sports entertainment platform. Through our actions, through our behaviour, we will influence millions of children all throughout Asia on how to be great human beings.”

Chatri told Bloomberg last month that his aim is to eventually hold an event every week in Asia.

“I want to make the first multi-billion-dollar sports media property on a pan-Asia basis,” he said then.

“I think UFC has done an amazing job in the western hempishere with their formula, and I think we have done an amazing job in the eastern hemisphere with our formula.

“There is a global duopoly just like any industry, like Apple and Samsung, or General Motors and Toyota, or Amazon and Alibaba, there is UFC and ONE Championship which control their respective hemisphere and I think that’s going to be for a long time coming.”