The race to dominate the lucrative martial arts scene in China has heated up after ONE Championship announced its inaugural event in Shanghai, which is set to take place at the 14,000-capacity Shanghai Oriental Sports Center on Sept. 2. Described as the showpiece of the booming economy of mainland China, the city will play host to “ONE Championship: Shanghai,” featuring the absolute best in world-class martial arts talent.
“There is always a tremendous atmosphere and excitement when ONE Championship visits China, and it is a delight to finally announce our maiden event in the beautiful city of Shanghai,” ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong stated. “We are coming at you live and ready to showcase the world’s most authentic display of martial arts.”
With the supreme proving ground of martial arts making its foray to Shanghai for the very first time, ONE Championship prepared a high-profile headliner as Ben “Funky” Askren, 33, of the United States will put his ONE Welterweight World Championship on the line against Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam, 26, of Sweden.
Universally, Askren is recognized as one of the best welterweight today and one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound. The native Phoenix, Arizona holds an unblemished professional record of 16-0 with five submission wins and four knockout victories.
Askren is highly regarded for his outstanding wrestling background that earned him two NCAA Division I national championship trophies and the privilege to represent the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He made an impact in his first two assignments in ONE Championship, submitting Bakhtiyar Abbasov with an arm-triangle choke in his May 2014 promotional debut before thwarting Nobutatsu Suzuki in the first round to claim the organization’s coveted welterweight crown three months later.
In May, Askren is coming off a spectacular first-round submission triumph over Malaysia’s Agilan “The Alligator” Thani, keeping his immaculate standing intact and the ONE Welterweight World Championship belt around his waist. However, a young lion aims to prove the old fighting adage of “Nobody makes it out of this game unscathed” by handing Askren his first-ever career defeat.
Kadestam holds an outstanding professional record of 9-3 and is a tremendous competitor with a wide array of striking and grappling technique. Moreover, seven of his nine career victories have come by way of knockout.
The ferocious striker from Stockholm, Sweden made a successful ONE Championship debut last May when he defeated Luis “Sapo” Santos, upsetting the top welterweight contender via a come-from-behind third-round knockout. Kadestam’s resounding victory quickly earned him a title opportunity as he is now booked to face the toughest opponent of his prizefighting stint in Askren.
“We have an exhilarating main event prepared for our fans in Shanghai as Ben Askren makes another defense of his ONE Welterweight World Championship against Swedish standout Zebaztian Kadestam,” Sityodtong said about the five-round welterweight championship clash. “The interesting clash of styles should provide fans a solid matchup.”
Other competitors announced for ONE Championship’s maiden card in Shanghai include former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa, who takes on Japanese veteran Tatsuya Yamada. Furthermore, Singaporean lightweight prospect Amir Khan, 22, shares the ONE Championship cage with Prague-based martial arts star Jaroslav Jartim of Czech Republic.
The card also sees the return of multiple-time Muay Thai champion Saketdao Pephayathai, who goes up against experienced Egyptian Mahmoud Mohamed. Making their highly-anticipated ONE Championship debut, “The Sweeping Monk” Chen Geng Min will take on opponent Peng Xue Wen of Guangdong in a three-round strawweight contest.
Chinese bantamweight contender Miao Litao is set to make his ONE Championship debut against Inner Mongolia native Liu Deli, 23, while Beijing-based former professional boxer Xu Chunyan faces Khun Khmer specialist Eh Ya Nut. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s flyweight competitor Miao Jie, 30, will showcase her skills against Mona Samir of Egypt. There will also be a three-round battle between two Shanghai-based competitors, Zhang Zehao, a Wushu-Sanda and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, and Li Chengchao, who has a boxing background.
Kicking off the action at “ONE Championship: Shanghai” are two promising young bantamweight prospects as Malaysian warrior Marc Marcellinus is set to return to the ONE Championship cage opposite Vietnam’s Tran Quang Loc. With the sport growing at a considerable rate in China, multiple promotions are trying to break into the market to tap the Chinese market’s estimated potential earnings of up to US$724 billion by 2025.
ONE Championship made its first venture to China in 2014. Since its first trip into the country known as “The Red Dragon,” the organization has held seven blockbuster events in total with five taking place on the mainland.
Sityodtong guarantees that ONE Championship’s inaugural event in Shanghai, the promotion’s eighth card in China, will be a night to remember. He assured, “China is one of our biggest markets, and the focus has been to really bring the rich cultural history of martial arts in China to the forefront.”