There has been a lot of debate about whether mixed martial arts (MMA) should be introduced to the Olympics in recent months although there is no sign that this is any closer to actually happening. However it is clear that fans have an appetite for tournaments and like the idea of having fighters representing their country and this is something which ONE FC has seemingly taken on board.
According to sources in Singapore, the promotion is going to introduce International Grand Prix Tournaments which will feature fighters of eight different nationalities in an elimination competition which will take place over the course of a number of cards.
The tournaments will be an opportunity for fighters to represent their countries as well as their styles of fighting and are a throwback to the days when a Judoka from Japan would go up against a Taekwondo practitioner from Korea or a Muay Thai fighter from Thailand would go toe to toe with a Sanda specialist from China.First up will be the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix with the countries represented expected to include China, Korea, Japan, the US, the Philippines and Russia and the fighters involved rumoured to be veterans of promotions such as the UFC, DREAM and Bellator as well as ONE FC.
The tournaments are expected to be run as one off competitions with no guarantee of a title shot at the end, although winning three straight ONE FC fights would presumably put a fighter in pole position for a shot at the belt.
Although fighters already in line for title shots might be reluctant to jeapordize their chances of fighting for a belt by entering such a high risk competition the response has reportedly been overwhelmingly positive with most of the mixed martial artists on the ONE FC roster keen to represent their countries and to have the chance to win an eight man Grand Prix.
ONE FC's Bibiano Fernandes established himself as one of the most sought after fighters in the world by winning first the DREAM Featherweight Grand Prix and then the DREAM Bantamweight Grand Prix and tournaments of this nature guarantee that one fighter is going to emerge with three wins and their reputation massively enhanced.
Throw in the mixture of eight completely different nationalities, which is something that to the best of my knowledge has never been done before and is very much in the Olympic spirit, and the tournaments should provide plenty of intrigue without adversely affecting the ability of fighters not involved to get fights in the way that the Bellator format does.
The problem for Bellator has been that the tournament format makes it difficult for its champions to make more than one title defence a year. It appears ONE FC tournaments are going to be optional, meaning that if fighters think they are good enough and get offered the opportunity to represent their country in a tournament they can do so, but if they don't it is still possible to work towards a title shot in the conventional way by putting together a series of wins.
Entering these ONE FC tournaments might not make sense at the moment for fighters like Eric Kelly, Honorio Banario, Leandro Issa, Zorobabel Moreira and Eduard Folayang who are already on the verge of title shots. For anyone looking to make a name for themselves and potentially win a lot of new fans by representing their country though a tournament could be the ultimate proving ground.
Two of the fighters who lost at the last ONE FC event, Kevin Belingon and Jens Pulver, immediately asked if they could enter the ONE FC Bantamweight Grand Prix and they will be joined by a mixture of up and coming fighters looking to make a name for themselves and established veterans from promotions such as Bellator and DREAM.
The Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter Finals are all booked for October 6th and the matchups should be announced any day now. ONE FC is also now available to view on PPV television in the US through IN DEMAND, Avail-TVN, DIRECTV and DISH but the price of the online stream will remain 10 USD.