SINGAPORE - After getting its feet wet with a series of events in April 2021, One Championship is now diving head first into its long-term American expansion, which its chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong believes will "open doors" for mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation.
Talk of an American expansion for One has swirled for years. The big plunge will begin with the One on Prime Video 1 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday (Aug 27).
While One's events are typically held in the evening, the upcoming event will begin from 8am in order to be broadcast at prime time in the United States, in what will be its debut on Amazon Prime Video.
In April, One had announced a five-year agreement with Prime Video for the platform to broadcast 12 events annually. Then, market researchers reported that the platform reaches about 45 per cent, or about 55 million, of US Internet households.
Reach was a big factor for One in deciding to partner Prime Video, Chatri told The Straits Times. He said that he held meetings with major broadcasters in the US to explore potential tie-ups and eventually received three "serious offers".
He said: "We ended up choosing Amazon because, No. 1, they have 200 million subscribers (globally) and have done very well (in the United States) with NFL (gridiron football) and Champions League... Many experts in the media industry predict that in the next three to five years Amazon will be the No. 1 sports broadcaster in the US and so it made a lot of sense for us to partner them."
The value of the deal was not disclosed and Chatri would only describe it as "significant". It will pave the way for One to finally stage its first event in the US in early 2023.
"We are 100 per cent going to throw events on US soil in the first half of next year," said Chatri.
"We've booked several venues around the country and... we're looking at different dates. We have state athletic commissions' support to come in in various states... (and) we'll choose the right time for our big announcement."
He added he was encouraged by One's viewership for the three-fight One on TNT series in April 2021. It averaged just over 274,000 viewers per show, higher than what US-based organisations Professional Fighting League and Bellator achieved in shows that month.
Only the market-leading Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) scored more viewers, with an average of just over 900,000 for each of its events broadcast on networks ABC and ESPN. A pay-per-view event that month also drew 700,000 viewers.
The regularity with which One will be exposed to the North American public, however, will "open the doors for us in a way that has never been opened", said Chatri.
Asked if the long-term goal was to usurp the UFC, he replied: "Definitely."
In the meantime, he believes MMA in Asia can only benefit from One's newest partnership.
"A rising tide lifts all boats," he said. "One is leading Asia (MMA) and... it will mean more opportunities for fighters, managers, gyms, and even working professionals who want to join the industry... the entire eco-system."