Mixed martial arts: One Championship raises $137m in total capital after new deals

Mr Chatri Sityodtong, One Championship chairman and CEO, called the Sequoia and Mission deals the biggest moment in the MMA firm's history. The extra funds will help it lock down prized fighters like Ben Askren, seen here fending off a kick from Braz
Mr Chatri Sityodtong, One Championship chairman and CEO, called the Sequoia and Mission deals the biggest moment in the MMA firm's history. The extra funds will help it lock down prized fighters like Ben Askren, seen here fending off a kick from Brazil's Luis Santos during a bout.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP
Mr Chatri Sityodtong, One Championship chairman and CEO, called the Sequoia and Mission deals the biggest moment in the MMA firm's history. The extra funds will help it lock down prized fighters like Ben Askren, seen here fending off a kick from Braz
Mr Chatri Sityodtong, One Championship chairman and CEO, called the Sequoia and Mission deals the biggest moment in the MMA firm's history. The extra funds will help it lock down prized fighters like Ben Askren, seen here fending off a kick from Brazil's Luis Santos during a bout.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Singapore-based mixed martial arts (MMA) promoter One Championship has raised total capital of US$100 million (S$137 million) following new deals with two major investors.

The Straits Times understands that One Championship, Asia's largest MMA organisation, has 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 about a year after the MMA firm signed a "significant eight-figure" deal with investment firm Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.

Mr Chatri Sityodtong, chairman and chief executive of One Championship, called the Sequoia and Mission deals the biggest moment in the company's history.

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He told ST yesterday that the presence of venture capital firm Sequoia - founded in the United States and famous for its backing of companies like Apple, Google and WhatsApp - and Mission Holdings - started by Indian billionaire Saurabh Mittal - will allow One Championship to continue expanding aggressively in the region.

Mr Chatri said: "We are on an even stronger footing now, in terms of our balance sheet, and I still predict we will cross US$1 billion in valuation in the next 12 months."

He declined to provide details of One Championship's annual revenue, but said it was "eight figures in revenue", and "we anticipate it will grow to nine figures in the future".

Part of his confidence stems from the company's performance in several areas.

One Championship was founded in 2011. Data released by Nielsen, Facebook and Repucom earlier this year showed that it 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.

Sequoia Capital India's managing director Shailendra Singh said: "We are excited about the potential for live martial arts content at a time when mobile video viewership is exploding across emerging markets."

Singapore is no different.

A Media Development Authority survey last year noted that more than half - or 54 per cent - of the 2,585 Singaporeans and permanent residents surveyed used over-the-top content video services.

Among adults, millennials - those aged 15 to 34 - watch sports the most, and 60 per cent of adults aged 15 and above watch videos on their mobile devices.

Given these trends, it is unsurprising that such deals involving companies like One Championship have been signed, said Vickers Venture Partners vice-chairman Jeffrey Chi.

He added: "Things are moving more towards the digital medium and there are new players on the market who pose new threats to the incumbent like broadcasters and television stations."

One Championship held 14 live events last year and has 20 scheduled for this year.

Next year, said Mr Chatri, a former hedge fund manager, it hopes to stage 30 live shows and enter new markets such as Japan, South Korea and eventually India.

He also intends to double the company's current headcount of about 200 staff, while increasing its stable of about 450 fighters.

The additional funds will help One Championship lock down its prized fighters like Ben Askren, Shinya Aoki and Angela Lee, who has become one of the company's most marketable stars.

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.

Mr Chatri said: "I am not worried about UFC. They have been in Asia for nine years, but I believe they don't have the right formula for Asia. We have been growing every year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'One Championship raises $137m in total capital after new deals'. Print Edition | Subscribe