Launched on July 14, 2011 by Chatri Sityodtong and Victor Cui, ONE Championship has become the largest global sports media property in Asian history. Currently, the organization has 10 champions in 11 divisions, six of which are Asians.
The only reigning ONE Championship champions who are not Asian are Ben “Funky” Askren, Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes, Adriano Moraes and Alex Silva, the titleholders of the promotion’s welterweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight divisions, respectively. Askren is American while Fernandes, Moraes and Silva are all Brazilian.
Two of the promotion’s champions are simultaneously holding two titles. “Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang of Myanmar is reigning in the lightweight and middleweight divisions while Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen of Vietnam and Australia is reigning in the featherweight and lightweight divisions.
The promotion has two female champions namely Angela “Unstoppable” Lee of Singapore and Xiong Jing Nan of China, the respective titleholders of the women’s atomweight and women’s strawweight divisions. The other champions are ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera and Interim ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, who are both from the Philippines.
The predominance of Asians in the lineup of champions of ONE Championship appears to mirror the statistics of the promotion’s fighters in terms of ethnicity. During the press conference for “ONE: Global Superheroes” on January 22, 2018 at the City of Dreams Manila in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, I asked Sityodtong if the promotion is intentionally keeping the roster predominantly Asian.
“No, we just try to find the best martial artists in the world,” the ONE Championship chairman and CEO replied. “It’s just so happened right now that about 70 percent of our athletes are from Asia. But, you know, let’s not forget Asia is the home of martial arts. It’s (been so) for 5,000 years. We have the best martial artists in the world in Asia.”
Sityodtong emphasized that Asia has many talents in terms of martial arts as the region is the origin of several schools and styles of martial arts including Karate and Judo from Japan, Taekwondo from South Korea, Kung Fu from China, Muay Thai from Thailand and Southeast Asia’s Silat, among others. He stated, “There’s so much richness here, and I wanna showcase the best martial arts in the world.”
“We will always have an international, global roster,” Sityodtong concluded. “But Asia is the best in martial arts.”
Watch my interview with Sityodtong here: