MMA: Return of fans for One's Singapore fight a 'curveball' challenge

All 250 tickets have been snapped up and fans attending the event will have to undergo an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) on the day of the fight

Into the Matrix comes three weeks after One's previous closed-door fight at the Indoor Stadium on Oct 9, 2020.
Into the Matrix comes three weeks after One's previous closed-door fight at the Indoor Stadium on Oct 9, 2020.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Singapore - Earlier this month, One chief executive Chatri Sityodtong was relishing the success of his mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation's Oct 9 event - the first to herald the return of live sport here amid the Covid-19 pandemic -when the Ministry of Health (MOH) came calling.

In a phone call, the ministry said that it wanted One to pilot the return of fans into arenas here, with the plan to have 250 spectators for its upcoming Into the Matrix event at the Indoor Stadium on Friday (Oct 30).

Chatri told The Straits Times: "It was a curveball because we had not anticipated or planned it.

"It was just two weeks ago we were asked if we could do this. But after a discussion with my senior leadership team, we thought we could pull it off, and, knock on wood, everything will go smoothly and safely."

The first local sports event to feature fans in attendance during the pandemic, Into the Matrix comes three weeks after One's previous closed-door fight at the Indoor Stadium on Oct 9.

The events are part of a pilot project the Government hopes will help identify a model that can be widely implemented so that more large-scale events can safely resume in Singapore. Attendees for the One event will be required to undergo an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) at a designated clinic on the day of the fight and produce a valid negative ART certificate before they are allowed into the venue.

ARTs return results in about half an hour, compared to the gold-standard polymerase chain reaction test which take a few hours.

All 250 tickets - priced at $148 each including cost of the ARTs - were snapped up within hours of going on sale, said Chatri.

He added that the same stringent measures put in place for the earlier event will be adhered to for the hundreds involved - athletes, cornermen and One staff - who are flying into Singapore for the event.

Previously, overseas-based fighters were tested four times - before they flew to Singapore, upon arrival, before and after the fight - while others were tested twice.

Travelling was limited to the event "bubble" and athletes were not allowed to leave their rooms even when they tested negative.

Liaison officers accompanied athletes at all times, with training allowed only at private designated areas within the hotel, and fighters had to follow strict schedules through an online booking system.

At the arena on event night, One had to ensure a maximum of 30 people were in designated zones at any one time.

"The night of Oct 9 was obviously stressful - no one had ever done (something similar) here in Singapore - and we did it flawlessly... the Government wanted to make sure we were doing everything to the highest standards, and so we were constantly spot-checked and monitored every step of the way" said Chatri.

Despite the stringent measures, Chatri said he and his team were grateful for the opportunity to stage events here again.

"The overwhelming feeling from both our athletes and my team is gratitude," he said.

"We understand how precious this is, and how much faith and trust the Singapore Government has put in One Championship and our athletes.

"So we all understand and we're working hard as a team, and ultimately hope to throw a phenomenal show on Oct 30."

Into the Matrix is One's biggest event of the year, and will feature six fights, four of which are world title bouts.

Tha main event will see One middleweight and light heavyweight world champion Aung La N Sang of Myanmar defend his middleweight belt against undefeated top contender Reinier de Ridder of the Netherlands.

The event will also be televised live on the official One Super App, Mediacorp's Channel 5 and meWatch App and across One's international broadcast and digital media partner's properties.

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