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‘You can’t believe everything you read:’ Chatri Sityodtong denies ‘clickbait B.S.’ Qatar investment report

MMA: MAY 05 ONE Fight Night 10 Photo by Christopher Colon/Pximages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ONE Championship is doing just fine, according to its Founder, Chatri “Sityodtong” Trisiripisal.

2023 has been a unique year for the Cayman Islands-based promotion. ONE made its United States debut in April, has been putting on shows as part of its Prime Video deal, emphasized striking arts like Muay Thai and kickboxing over mixed martial arts (MMA), and has seen one of its biggest stars, Angela Lee, retire.

Unfortunately for ONE, reports surfaced late last month (Nov. 20, 2023), claiming that the promotion has sought out another round of funding from one of its biggest investors in Qatar. ONE reportedly only contributed $50 million of a $150 million round of funding in 2021 and as a result, Qatar has been left feeling “embarrassed” by the partnership. Catching wind of the report, the aforementioned ONE frontman, Sityodtong, recently fired back when asked about the subject.

“No, absolutely not,” Sityodtong told South China Morning Post when asked if Qatar is “embarrassed” by the partnership. “We have a fantastic relationship with the Qatar government. They are a big shareholder in the company. We talk to all our shareholders and board members on a regular basis all the time. I’ve taken many trips out to Qatar and it’s always been very positive on both sides. We have tremendous love and respect for Qatar, and it’s reciprocal. It’s become one of my favorite places in the world.

“You can’t believe everything you read,” he continued. “We have very strong relationships with our shareholders and board, they fully support the company. When we announce our 60-plus event schedule [for 2024], it will lay a lot of the ‘B.S.’ to rest.”

ONE will have held just under 60 events with 59 by the end of 2023, proving that 60 or more should be easily attainable in 2024. Nearly all of ONE’s events in 2023 took place in Bangkok, Thailand, hosting 54 of the 59 in the city, typically in the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. The promotion announced this past week (Nov. 30, 2023) that it will return to Tokyo, Japan with ONE 165 on Jan. 28, 2024. It will be the third ONE event held in the country. The first two events both took place in 2019.

The arguably biggest talking point to come out of the report on ONE’s financials is how the company has yet to turn over a profit in its 12 years of existence. Per the previous report, ONE’s filed financials through Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority show $67.7 million for 2021 and a reported $80 million estimate for 2022. However, these figures were reported by Deal Street Asia to include “non-cash components,” and “ONE’s true cash revenue in FY2022 is likely to be just $5-8 million.”

“How many times has there been misinformation of these clickbait articles in the last five years for ONE and what happened?” Sityodtong said. “We went on to have record-breaking years in terms of event viewership and revenue.

“This time it’s no different,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate people thrive on clickbait to drive their own readership, but it’s part of the territory when you’re the world’s largest martial arts organization, people are going to try to take pot shots, it’s just par for the course.

“We have very good visibility that our revenues will be north of $100 million (USD) this year,” Sityodtong concluded. “We have very high visibility for 2024 because of all these different deals we are doing and right now we are on track for $200 million in revenue in 2024.”

In terms of ONE’s profitability, Sityodtong has been optimistic about the turnover for several years now, dating back to 2017 when he claimed the company was “very close to profitability” (h/t South East Asia Globe). In 2019, Sityodtong said ONE “will be profitable within 18 to 24 months,” per Nikkei Asia. By 2022, ONE was claimed to be “profitable within 12 months” by Sityodtong (h/t Deal Street Asia).

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