ONE Championship no longer feels that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the worldwide leader in mixed martial arts (MMA).
The promotion announced today (Mon., Dec. 5, 2022) that after a decade of building itself as a top global entity in Asia, ONE makes its U.S. debut on May 5, 2023, with ONE on Prime Video 10. ONE wrapped its 2022 schedule this past weekend with a big doubleheader night of action, showcasing fights across ONE on Prime Video 5 and ONE 164. At the end of the night, Founder and President, Chatri Sityodtong, felt it was time he could confidently say UFC is no longer the top MMA organization.
“First of all we’re bigger,” Sityodtong said at ONE 164’s post-fight press conference (h/t South China Morning Post). “Nielsen came out with the industry report eight or nine months ago, on the TV metrics and social and digital. We are bigger — there’s no question — in terms of viewership and engagement around the world.
“I’d love to see a UFC versus ONE, champion versus champion,” he continued. “I believe we would win our fair share. They would win some, too. But I do believe we’re the better organization.”
Sityodtong’s claims come soon after recently scoffing at the idea of Bellator being a competitor. Unlike the two major North American-based MMA promotions, ONE hosts more than just MMA fights, displaying grappling matches, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and the occasional special rules bout. Therefore, giving them a big edge over the others, believes Sityodtong.
“If you look at roster quality, what is an average athlete in ONE?” Sityodtong asked. “He or she is a world champion in one discipline or more prior to joining, at the highest levels. The pedigree of these guys is just different level.
“The average athlete who gets signed by UFC is 8-0 in LFA, or 10-0, or did collegiate wrestling for four years and maybe does Muay Thai for three years,” he added. “Here you’ve got the best of the best of every discipline.
While a cross-promotional event or set of fights seems unlikely between UFC and ONE, the two have done business together in the past. In 2019, the two MMA giants pulled off the first and only MMA trade, swapping Ben Askren for Demetrious Johnson — the latter of which headlines ONE’s aforementioned U.S. debut.
Several fighters have gone to and from each promotion since ONE was created in 2011. The most recent to find the highest form of success was the winner of the ONE 164 main event, Jarred Brooks, who claimed ONE Strawweight gold. In his post-fight speech, “The Monkey God” proclaimed that he was now competing in the best MMA promotion in the world.
“But lastly ask your athletes who’s happier? Which roster has a great relationship with their boss?” Sityodtong said. “I understand them. On one side the other boss has never stepped in the ring or a martial arts school.
“I understand martial arts at the highest levels, I have empathy and compassion,” he concluded. “I love our athletes, and all that comes out. That’s what Jarred is talking about. He’s not the first guy to say ONE Championship treats its athletes so well. So yes, I feel Jarred is right.”