MMA: One Championship aims to break into India next year

Chatri Sityodtong, the One Championship chairman, presents a souvenir to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two men met on Tuesday and discussed the possibility of holding live events in India.
Chatri Sityodtong, the One Championship chairman, presents a souvenir to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two men met on Tuesday and discussed the possibility of holding live events in India.PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Singapore-based mixed martial arts organisation One Championship is aiming to break into the Indian market next year, seeking to hold its first event on the subcontinent in the second half of the year.

One's chairman and chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong told The Straits Times in a phone call from India yesterday that the time is "ripe" to enter India.

"Six years ago (when One was founded) I didn't feel that India was ready yet, but now I see the country as being pro-entrepreneurial and having support for sports at the highest levels.

"I am astounded by how massive the market is in India and the time is ripe right now to enter India."

On Tuesday, Chatri had a private meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which ends today.

He was invited to speak on sports entrepreneurship at the summit, alongside India's national badminton coach and former All England winner P. Gopichand, Indian tennis player Sania Mirza and India's women's cricket captain Mithali Dorai Raj.

In his discussion with Mr Modi, Chatri discussed topics such as martial arts history in India and the possibility of holding live events in India.

Indian lightweight exponent Rajinder Singh Meena is "excited" at the prospect of having One Championship on his home turf.

He said: "As we all know, Indian MMA is growing, we have many talents in India and they always look for an opportunity to fight abroad.

"If One comes to India, it will be a big opportunity for Indian MMA athletes because One is Asia's largest global sports media property and showcases a lot of talent on an international level."

If One debuts in India next year, it would again steal a march on US-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in one of the world's biggest markets.

While One was founded only in 2011 with just one event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the Asia-focused promotion successfully entered the Chinese market in 2014 with one event.

One has held at least one event in mainland China since then, with four slated for next year.

By contrast, while UFC has held three events in Macau since 2014, it held its first event on the mainland - in Shanghai - only last Saturday.

Chatri said One will be striving to expand into Japan and South Korea next year, with one event in each country on its 2018 calendar.

He said: "I want to eventually have 52 events a year, one for every week, in all the major iconic cities in Asia."

Lim Say Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'One Championship aims to break into India next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe