MMA: One Championship could return to Singapore in October after eight-month hiatus

Tiffany Teo (left) throwing an elbow at Ayaka Miura during the strawweight bout in the One Championship King of the Jungle event in Singapore on Feb 28, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Live sports events could make a return to Singapore soon, as The Straits Times understands that mixed martial arts organisation One Championship is looking at staging a show here next month.

With sports and physical activities restarting in phase two of Singapore's reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore Premier League clubs were permitted to resume full-contact training without restrictions from Sept 1. The Football Association of Singapore is looking at a tentative restart of the league before the end of September.

One Championship, which last featured at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Feb 28 behind closed doors, could return soon after.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post on Wednesday (Sept 9), One chairman and chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong was asked about rumours on social media about a Singapore show on Oct 30.

In response, Chatri said there would be "some major events" taking place in October which One is planning to announce "in the coming weeks".

He also said that Myanmarese fighter and One middleweight champion Aung La N Sang, who is based in the United States, will defend his title against Dutch challenger Reinier de Ridder, although he declined to reveal more details.

In response to queries, a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) spokesman said: "The resumption of all leisure events including sporting or large-scale events, will have to be carried out in a careful and calibrated manner, to prevent new clusters from forming and reduce transmission risks. Our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of locals and visitors."

The spokesman added STB is working closely with relevant government agencies and industry stakeholders on the required safe management measures for leisure events, and that it welcomes feedback from event organisers on how their events can proceed safely.

The pandemic has forced One Championship to pivot its strategy on live events, which typically draw between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators at the Indoor Stadium and up to 18,000 in other South-east Asian nations.

In March, it suspended scheduled shows in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur and announced it would move to closed-door events and broadcast them globally.

Four closed-door shows were slated to take place in Singapore between April and May, but circuit breaker measures announced by the Government in April scuppered these plans. Fights were eventually staged in Bangkok on July 31 and Aug 28 but they featured only Thailand-based athletes.

Local MMA coach Arvind Lalwani, who trains One athlete Rahul Raju, said it was "about time" for One's return. "This year has been almost a write-off, and the whole (fraternity) has been waiting for fights and events for eight or nine months already," said the former national amateur boxer.

"The pandemic has really demotivated us all, and One coming back and doing shows again will definitely help lift spirits again."

On Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing announced that organisers of meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) events would be allowed to apply to hold such events with up to 250 participants from October 1, up from the current maximum of 50 attendees, following a successful pilot event last month.

Singapore's sports calendar has been decimated by the pandemic, with golf's HSBC Women's World Championship, the Sundown Marathon, football's International Champions Cup, Formula One's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, swimming's Fina World Cup, and the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens all cancelled in the last seven months.

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