- One Championship holds its 12th event of the pandemic era on Friday.
- With four championship belts on the line at the behind-closed-doors Singapore event, this is the Asian MMA firm’s most ambitious event of 2020.
- If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, One Championship would have made its American debut by now, the CEO Chatri Sityodtong recently told Insider.
- And the One founder said at an October press conference that his company’s end-of-year schedule and 2021 plans will soon be confirmed, which could include fights for two former UFC champions.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
One Championship would have debuted in the US if it weren’t for “strange” times around the world, its boss told Insider ahead of its biggest and most exciting pandemic-era event, which takes place in Singapore on Friday.
Like many of the major sports leagues and organisations, One Championship was affected by the worsening coronavirus pandemic from March, and cancelled all events in that month, April, and May.
One Championship, led by founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, restarted operations in June with two events in Shanghai, before a four-event residency in Bangkok, a standalone show in Tokyo, a two-event run back in Bangkok, and now an October series in Singapore.
Sityodtong told Insider recently that if it were not for the coronavirus, his MMA firm would likely have made its US debut already.
At a press conference earlier this month, he added that the political situation and modern day race relations in America mean the country is going through an extraordinary period.
Regardless, a future date on American soil remains “definitely in our plans,” Sityodtong said.
One Championship is on the cusp of its greatest show of the year
Sityodtong told Insider that he misses the atmosphere generated by fight fans at live shows, having now held 11 events in the coronavirus era of combat sports.
“Obviously the biggest difference for us is doing empty stadium, audience-free events,” he said.
“Fighters fighting in quiet environments is a different feeling. Of course, they’re giving it their all, chasing their dreams [but] when you have 10,000 or 20,000 screaming fans it really does change the environment in the arena, on the broadcast, and it inspires the athletes. I do miss that.
“But, at the same time, I’m grateful we’re back,” he told us. “We were down in March, April, May, and came back in June. Now we are gaining momentum and coming back with our big global stars and our international events.”
Sityodtong said one of the more challenging things has been getting athletes into territories where borders had closed to stop the spread of COVID-19 by restricting travel. This was particularly true in much of Asia, where many of One’s fighters come from.
However, he said he has been working with governments to hold events and said his firm has been the first sports league to hold a show in Singapore since lockdown.
Friday’s event, imaginatively termed “Inside the Matrix,” is the third such event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang.
But what makes this event different is the championship quality on offer, with four title fights on the card.
Here they are:
- Aung La Nsang (c) vs. Reinier de Ridder â€” One middleweight championship
- Christian Lee (c) vs. Iuri Lapicus â€” One lightweight championship
- Martin Nguyen (c) vs. Thanh Le â€” One featherweight championship
- Xiong Jingnan (c) vs. Tiffany Teo â€” One women’s strawweight championship
It is One Championship’s most ambitious event in the pandemic to date, and the first of 2020 to have four titles on the line.
Aung La Nsang is on a seven-fight win streak and was last seen in a One ring knocking out Brandon Vera for the light heavyweight title, becoming a two-weight champion in the process.
Elsewhere on the bill is Christian Lee, a fighter Sityodtong has great confidence.
Sityodong believes the 170-pounder could beat any other fighter in any other MMA organisation, and even told us earlier this year he’d have tipped the 21-year-old to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov retired Saturday from the UFC with a flawless 29-0 record.
Martin Nguyen, meanwhile, has held the One featherweight title since August, 2017, and has three championship defences to date. His fourth arrives Friday.
Finally, Xiong Jingnan moves on from a two-fight rivalry (one knockout win and one submission loss) to Angela Lee, by taking on Tiffany Teo for the strawweight title.
Sityodtong will announce his end-of-year schedule, and will soon give his US fighters competition
One Championship attracted worldwide headlines in recent years when it signed a number of US-based athletes like Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez, and Sage Northcutt.
At October’s press conference, Sityodtong said athletes such as Johnson and Alvarez, both formerly champions in the UFC, will soon have fight dates in One.
“You know, we are solving those issues as we speak. And again â€¦ we are working with multiple governments internationally to be able to create the same situation that we have in Singapore.
“So knock on wood that things come to fruition. But yes, I’m eager to get DJ and Eddie back in action ASAP,” he said.
Sityodtong subsequently told Insider that holding an event in the US remains a priority for his company.
“It’s still in our plans,” he said. “We were anticipating our debut in the US before the pandemic hit, so obviously that put things on hold.
“[But] I’m hoping to revisit that, and see when’s the right time. The United States is going through its own difficult times right now with COVID, but also the riots and protests which have been violent.
“It’s a very tricky time in US history. We have an eye on that. It’s not just the COVID thing, but I would love to have an event in the US.”
At the press conference, he noted: “I don’t want to commit to a date of when we will go to the United States, but it’s definitely on our plans. The US is in a very strange place right now as well.”
As for the end-of-year schedule and plans for 2021, Sityodtong said: “We hopefully will be able to announce the initial calendar for 2021 in the near future as we also plan out for the rest of the year.”