The largest sports media property in Asian history, ONE Championship will soon be leaving their mark in “The Land of the Rising Sun” as the world’s premier martial arts organization will soon be breaking into one of the biggest martial arts markets in all of Asia: Japan.
After seven years of dominating the biggest markets in Asia, ONE Championship will finally be making its highly-anticipated debut in Japan with what’s sure to be a stacked card in Tokyo this coming March of 2019. Kicking the excitement off will be a massive ONE Championship Press Conference on Thursday, 23 August at the Ballroom of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, expected to be graced by the biggest stars in martial arts.
“I am thrilled to announce that some of the greatest martial artists, world champions, and legends on the planet such as Angela Lee, Bibiano Fernandes, Shinya Aoki, Garry Tonon, Renzo Gracie, Giorgio Petrosyan, Brandon Vera, Nong-o Gaiyanghadao, Ralph Gracie, Mei Yamaguchi, Ken Hasegawa, and many other ONE superstars will join me in Tokyo, Japan this Thursday, August 23rd for a star-studded ONE Championship Press Conference at the Park Hyatt Hotel,” ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong stated.
Known as “The Home of Martial Arts,” ONE Championship has put a premium on celebrating the pure beauty and essence of martial arts, which is believed to be Asia’s greatest cultural treasure. Japan is the birthplace of a number of martial arts including Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate and Aikido, just to name a few. Going hand-in-hand with celebrating martial arts is shining the spotlight on Asia’s biggest and best heroes and champions, and obviously, Japan has produced more than their fair share of legends in the world of mixed martial arts.
“Japan has the right history of martial arts of Aikido, Kendo, Judo and Karate, so we want to showcase the best martial arts in Japan,” Sityodtong said. “We want to do it in the bushido way, with honor, with respect, with humility. Not the way our Western counterparts do it. We want to show real Asian values, real Japanese values.”
The ONE Championship roster alone is home to some of the very best martial arts heroes to come out of Japan. One of the best mixed martial artists to come from Japan is none other than former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, who is currently making his way back to the top of the division.
Considered by many as one of the best submission specialists in Asia, Aoki is a former WAMMA, DREAM, and Shooto titleholder with 41 career victories under his belt, 25 of them coming via submission. On the ONE stage, Aoki quickly showed why he was a legend, capturing the ONE Lightweight World Title in just his second match with the promotion and successfully defending it twice. Before becoming two-time ONE Strawweight World Champion, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito dominated the ranks of Shooto, which included a run as the promotion’s featherweight king. Naito made an immediate impact in his ONE Championship debut back in 2016, submitting former champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in four rounds. Naito is set to defend his championship against Filipino rival Joshua Pacio at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES on 22 September in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The distinction of being the most-experienced Japanese athlete on the ONE Championship roster easily goes to mixed martial arts legend Yuki Kondo, who has a staggering 104 professional bouts under his belt. A veteran of multiple mixed martial arts promotions including the very popular PRIDE, Kondo made a name for himself during his time in Pancrase, where he became the light heavyweight champion, middleweight champion, and two-time openweight champion.The Nagaoka City native made his ONE Championship debut in a losing effort to fellow legend Renzo Gracie at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila back in July.
Another multi-promotion veteran, Kotetsu “No Face” Boku was a fixture in Shooto before making his ONE Championship debut in 2012, when he captured the ONE Lightweight World title in his first match in the promotion. Boku has since competed ten more times one the ONE stage, facing a who’s-who of ONE Championship stars including former champions Shinya Aoki, Eduard Folayang and Narantungalag Jadambaa. Among those also representing Japan under the ONE Championship umbrella are former two-time ONE Women’s Atomweight Title challenger Mei Yamaguchi, submission grappling legend Masakazu Imanari, featherweight contenders Tetsuya Yamada and Kazunori Yokota, as well as strawweight contender Hayato Suzuki. Other Japanese stars like Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Takanori Gomi and Tatsuya Kawajiri have all helped raise the banner of Japanese mixed martial arts all over the world as well.
Of course, when talking about Japanese mixed martial arts stars, there is no brighter star than that of Kazushi Sakuraba. A veteran of PRIDE, K-1 and DREAM, Sakuraba faced the best of the best throughout his 46-bout career, including legendary matches with Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. While promotions like PRIDE and DREAM have laid down the groundwork for the mixed martial arts scene in Japan, Sityodtong and ONE Championship aim to take it to new heights.
“We have the right Japanese partners in Japan to succeed and make it even bigger than PRIDE was, and take martial arts back to the mainstream, where it belongs in Japan,” Sityodtong proclaimed.
As ONE Championship takes their first step into Japan in 2019, the future definitely looks bright as the promotion gives martial artists the perfect platform to showcase their skills on the global stage. The world could see the next Shinya Aoki or the next Kazushi Sakuraba on the ONE Championship stage very soon.