The world of MMA has shifted on its axis, and everyone is now noticing One Championship
- The Asia-based organisation has made massive gains on UFC in recent weeks
When Conor MgGregor squeaks on social media, his words always manage to wing their way around the world and the Irish star always chooses those words for maximum impact.
So when McGregor took to the airwaves on Friday to lay in to One Championship’s chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong you had to wonder “Why?”.
McGregor tweeted his concerns about Sityodtong’s “greed” for apparently influencing a not-yet-made decision by the UFC to close down its flyweight division.
You must now take all the 125lbers that have been let go, Chatri.
You talk all of this Martial Art and respect talk, yet your greed has directly cost more than half a fighting division it’s chance to earn income for their family.
Have respect @YODCHATRI.
Sign the division.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 8, 2018
But does he really care that much about the fortunes of his fellow fighters, and was he really rushing to their defence? Or was one of sporting history’s great self-promoters simply desperate to join a party to which his has hitherto not been invited?
The smart money is on the latter.
The past week saw the world of mixed martial arts shift on its axis.
In signing former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (27-3-1), pound-for-pound arguably the best we’ve ever seen, and former lightweight title-holder Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez (29-6-1), the Singapore-based One organisation finally turned heads and received the international attention it deserves.
That McGregor wanted to weigh-in on the conversation simply shows that the everyone is now watching, and that includes the Irish fighter’s tens of millions of social media followers, as well as the very far reaches of international mainstream media which might not honestly give two clicks about the actual sport of MMA, but still hangs on McGregor’s every move and his every word.
So there was Johnson and there was Alvarez this past week at One’s Heart of the Lion card in Singapore. But there was more.
Excited to meet the fans in Singapore, and to attend my first @onechampionship event!! Looking forward to watching @bibianofernandes defends his belt!! #weareone #HeartOfTheLion pic.twitter.com/QavSNLGwMa
— Demetrious Johnson (@MightyMouse) November 5, 2018
The announcement of a e-sports championship series – drawing on the expertise of the likes of Singapore billionaire and Razer gaming king Min-Liang Tan – has the potential to formerly unite the worlds of the e-sports geek and the MMA freak.
Rising welterweight star Sage “Super” Northcutt (11-2) was bouncing around the event’s periphery, having run out his UFC contract, making no secret of the fact that he was in town to talk business with One, and telling anyone who’d listen that he thought many of the world’s top international fighters now want to do the same.
Johnson and Alvarez were preaching from the very same pulpit, and then arrived former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha “Cupcake” Tate to announce she was taking on the role of One’s new vice-president.
“I think the world didn’t really know that One was making so many waves in Asia until they signed Demetrious Johnson,” said Tate. “Now we’re seeing a flush of information coming out.
“I’m a purist and One appeals to the true martial artists and the true martial arts fan. It’s not about who has the biggest mouth, who can talk the biggest trash. It’s about who can get in there and fight the best. The speaks to my heart.”
At the One FC MMA awards banquet in Singapore with Chatri Sityodtong.. what an awesome event pic.twitter.com/c8y0l5522J
— Sage Northcutt (@sagenorthcutt) November 9, 2018
On paper (and from people on the payroll) at least, the future looks very bright indeed. Now the onus will be on performances.
That One also revealed Johnson and Alvarez will be thrown quickly into the fray was a promising start. In the new year the two stars will find themselves battling eight of the best Asia has to offer in their respectively divisions in grand prix tournaments that will line them up for title shots, potentially, but will also ensure at the same time that fans across Asia get to see them fight, and fight frequently.
More signings, from within Asia and beyond, are in the offing but the need now will be for region’s finest to stand up.
Any promotion lives – and sometimes even dies – on what happens within its arenas and if the best international fighters want in on Asia, then the region’s best will have to make them work hard for their money.
There was evidence again on Friday night that Asia can give just as good as it gets. If not better.
Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon (20-5) of the Philippines won a bout for the ages against Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes (22-4), taking the Brazilian super star’s One bantamweight belt and ending his five-year reign.
The 20-year-old featherweight Christian “The Warrior” Lee (10-3) continued to grow from boy to beast, needing less than a round to pummel veteran Japanese lightweight Kazuki Tokudom (18-10-1), picking up another win from their catch-weight bout.
That One cards these days offer stand up bouts as well as MMA had the organisation’s new international signings buzzing – and, they said, was adding to the attraction, for fighters and fans, internationally.
On Friday night, Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan put on a masterclass against Thai fighter Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy, confirming once again why he’s the best kick-boxer on the planet. A thrilling Muay Thai bout further down on the card featured Thailand’s Muangthai P.K.Saenchaimuaythaigym against Panicos Yusuf , who hails from Cyprus – and it showcased the global reach martial arts enjoys just as much as it did the sport
Johnson surprised by revealing he quite fancies himself in a future Muay Thai bout – a great way, he said, to finish off his career.
“One really does mix up its martial arts and if you love martial arts like I do, that is special and it is something you want to be a part of and tell people about,” said Johnson.
The world now seems to be listening.