SINGAPORE — Chatri Sityodtong started a mixed martial arts organization to fulfill his passion. Little did he know, in a short period of time, “ONE” would become the largest martial arts company in the world. It doesn’t hurt that they also possess a 70% stoppage rate on their fights which supersedes both the UFC and Bellator.
On Friday, May 5th, the Asian based organization will make its U.S. debut in Denver, Colorado for “ONE Fight Night 10.” The event will play host of 3 title fights in 3 separates disciplines of martial arts, MMA, Muay Thai, and submission grappling. At the top of the bill, all-time great flyweight, Demetrious Johnson will close out his trilogy against Adriano Moraes. Johnson and Moraes both hold knockout wins over the other. On Friday night, flyweight supremacy will be established in what could be the final fight of Johnson’s career. “ONE” is on the cusp of a historic year and making their U.S. debut was high priority following a delay due to COVID.
Zenger News spoke with “ONE” CEO, Chatri Sityodtong to discuss the organization’s debut in the United States, Amazon Prime deal, and much more.
Zenger: “ONE” has finally arrived to America. Was this a, strike while the iron is hot type of deal, or was the plan always to come over here?
Sityodtong: Actually, we were planning this as far back as 2018-2019. We wanted to come in the U.S. on the back half of 2020, and then COVID hit. That threw our plans off. So, it’s 2 ½ years delayed, but here we are, super fired up. Percy, the overwhelming feeling I’m getting the last couple of days being here in the states and knowing our event is next Friday [May 5th], it’s a deep sense of gratitude. I lived in the states for over 18 years, even though I grew up in Thailand, and eventually moved to Asia to start “ONE.” It’s completely surreal that I am coming back to the states to introduce America to this entire world of martial arts for the first time. It wasn’t too long ago when I had a single suitcase with all my life’s belongings here in America. The reason why I’m so grateful is, America, one of the greatest countries gave me the opportunity to work hard, make something of myself from scratch… it’s the American Dream, to work hard, do right, and do good. I’m grateful to America for giving me a chance to escape poverty and now to come back with a massive event on Amazon Prime, next Friday, May 5th, 8:00 pm EST, live and free if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber. It doesn’t get any more magical than that for me. It has been a wild ride.
Zenger: One thing American’s love just as much or equal to the word, fight, is the word, free. How did this Amazon Prime deal come together?
Sityodtong: The deal took about 18 months to get done with Amazon. Amazon is an extremely data intensive company. They really scoured all the data, did all the analytics before deciding to buy the rights for “ONE.” They would love more on the ground events here in the United States. This is the first of many to come. This is the very beginning of the U.S. expansion for “ONE.”
Zenger: What made Denver, Colorado your landing spot?
Sityodtong: The Colorado State Athletic Commission was the most aggressive and welcoming in getting “ONE” here. But also, Colorado holds a special place in American history in mixed martial arts. The sport of mixed martial arts actually originated in Asia in Japan, with Shooto holding the very first mixed martial arts event. American history wise, the first American event happened about a decade later in 1993 in Colorado. Colorado is a special place in terms of the American birthplace of mixed martial arts.
Zenger: Cinco De Mayo is an important date in the states revolved around fighting. Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, and now Canelo Alvarez all use the date to draw in the Hispanic crowd.
Sityodtong: Yes! That’s why we have Edgar Tabares from Mexico on the card. He is the current WBC Muay Thai world champion. He will be featured in the co- main event to celebrate Mexican American’s and Mexico. He’s fighting Rodtang [Jitmuangnon] the Thai superstar world champion of “ONE.” It’s going to be a massive Muay Thai fight with a lot of firepower. We definitely thought about Cinco De Mayo and drawing the Latin crowd.
Zenger: “ONE” had a historic card back in January in Thailand, coming to the states for the first time obviously is historic, this year seems to be on pace with setting a ton of landmarks.
Sityodtong: Yeah, we’re on pace to the have the most events we have ever thrown in history. We’re probably going to do around 60 to 65 events, minimum of 60 events. One every Friday that we broadcast around the world. A new entry into the U.S. A lot of big news coming. We’ve been very lucky. I started “ONE” 11 years ago and I could have never imagined we would be where we are. According to Neilson, we’re top five largest global media property in the world in terms of viewership and engagement numbers across TV and social and digital views. That’s mind blowing to me. I knew we were growing fast but I had no idea we were ranked so highly. I think #4 was the NBA. Neilson came out with the 20 largest sports properties a year ago, and that was eye opening. I’m just doing what I love. As a lifelong martial artists, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I do what I love every day and somehow it’s grown into this billion dollar global giant.
Zenger: Have you had the opportunity to sit back and smell the roses, or is that something for a later date?
Sitydotong: I’m very good with the concept of gratitude and happiness, Percy. I think it comes from my days of poverty. When I was very poor, whenever I caught myself complaining, whenever I moved to America, I lived on $4 a day. I could only afford one meal a day. Couldn’t ride of the subway or get a taxi, it was too expensive. Every time I wanted to complain about $4 a day or eating the frozen microwave dinners, I would think to myself, “Imagine having $2 a day.” When I thought of my life at $@ a day, I was so lucky and grateful to have $4. If you’re able to train your mind on gratitude and focus on your blessings in life, no matter what. There is no guarantee how long we’re going to be here and there are no guarantees in life. We can just do our best and be grateful for incredible blessings. And some of us are luckier than others. I truly believe, Percy, a lot of my success is luck. I was at the right place at the right time. I work hard and I love what I do, but if you spoke to that kid who was living off of $4 a day, and you said, one day, you’re going to be doing what you’re doing, there is no way in hell that kid would have believed it. In life, you go for your dream, you might fall, you might fail, but if you truly love what you do, you work hard, and you get a little bit of luck along the way, and you’re grateful for all of the blessings in your life, good things happen.
Zenger: “ONE Fight Night 10” has the makings of a special night. We’re getting, mixed martial arts, Muay Thai, submission grappling. The main event, the legend, Demetrious Johnson finalizing his trilogy with Adriano Moraes. What a treat.
Sityodtong: I think it’s going to end in a KO again. These are the two best flyweights. The twist is, Demetrious Johnson, the greatest of all-time, this is his retirement fight. A few days ago, he called and said that this was probably going to be the last fight of his career. So, U.S. fight fans, you want to catch it live on Amazon Prime because this is a rare moment in history. You want to be a part of history; you want to witness history. Be sure to watch it live and free! You get to watch Demetrious Johnson go against the most dangerous opponent he has ever faced in his career. The only man to ever knock “DJ” out. That will be an incredible MMA fight for the ages.
Zenger: You don’t have to be a fan of Muay Thai, if you watch 2 minutes of “The Iron Man” Rodtang Jitmuangnon, only 25 years old, yet has over 300 fights and 250-plus wins, you won’t change the channel.
Sityodtong: (Laughing). You’re absolutely right, Percy. That’s the thing about “ONE,” we bring together the very best world champion martial artists from around the world and cross disciplines, so it’s like the Olympics of martial arts. If you love fighting, it doesn’t matter which one you love, you’re going to stay because you’re going to see unbelievable action and unbelievable finishes. We have a 70% finish rate. Out of the 3 organizations, UFC, Bellator, and ONE, I think the UFC and Bellator are about 35-40%. You’re going to see knockouts, submissions, and high-level action. The world’s best go at it.
Zenger: For anyone watching your organization for the first time, what can they expect on Friday night?
Sityodtong: You’re going to see the very best martial artists across the disciplines coming in with a huge 70% finish rate. You’re going to see knockouts and finishes at the highest level in the world. And you’re going to possibly watch the greatest of all-time, Demetrious Johnson’s last fight. The trilogy where both guys knocked each other out. You’re going to have 3-world titles on the line, one in mixed martial arts, one in Muay Thai, and one in submission grappling. All of them I guarantee are going to end in finishes. It’s going to be an unbelievable night. Something American fans never seen before because it does not exist on American soil. That’s what makes it so intriguing for fight fans. They will truly get the Olympics of martial arts.
Edited by Virginia Van Zandt
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