Mixed martial arts: One Championship to stage record 24 events across Asia in 2018

Canadian Angela Lee, who has roots in South Korea and Singapore, is one of the 450 fighters under One Championship.
Canadian Angela Lee, who has roots in South Korea and Singapore, is one of the 450 fighters under One Championship.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - One Championship announced on Thursday (Sep 21) it will stage a record 24 live events across Asia in 2018 and will enter new markets in South Korea and Japan.

The Singapore-based mixed martial arts (MMA) promoter, founded in 2011, has scheduled 18 events for this year, which is the most in a single season.

One Championship chief executive and chairman Chatri Sityodtong said: "We are thrilled to announce our incredible 2018 calendar of events for ONE Championship.

"We have 24 massive shows planned for all sports fans in Asia and will continue to showcase the absolute best in martial arts, delivered by our homegrown martial arts superheroes. 2018 is going to be an epic year of action and I can't wait to get things started."

One Championship has enjoyed a strong performance outside the cage in 2017. Earlier this year, it raised total capital of US$100 million (S$135 million) following new deals with two major investors.

It secured equity investment from Sequoia Capital India and Mission Holdings following its latest funding round. Both have acquired minority stakes in One Championship.

This comes after the MMA firm signed a "significant eight-figure" deal with investment firm Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, in 2016.

Data released by Nielsen, Facebook and Repucom earlier this year showed that One Championship has experienced impressive growth in its television viewership and social media numbers since 2014.

Video viewership numbers were at 312,000 in 2014 but have jumped to 314 million, based on the first quarter of this year, said One Championship. It added that it has doubled the number of countries it reaches - from 60 to more than 128 - in the same period.

One Championship's main competitor is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the US-based organisation that was sold for US$4 billion last year and whose new owner - sports and arts talent group WME-IMG - is keen to make inroads into Asia.

UFC held a live event in Singapore in June, its first in the Republic since 2014. It will hold two other events in Asia, in Saitama, Japan on Sept 23 and Shanghai on Nov 25.

One Championship has about 450 fighters, mostly Asian, in its stable. Among its biggest stars are Myanmar's Aung La N Sang, Japan's Shinya Aoki, Eduard Folayang of the Philippines and Canadian Angela Lee, who has roots in South Korea and Singapore.

Lee will face Japan's Mei Yamaguchi on Nov 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in a rematch of their championship bout from 2016.