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One Championship

Martial arts guru Chatri Sityodtong wields more power than Yao Ming in Asia top 10 leaders list

Fifa president Gianni Infantino tops the field of the region’s most powerful officials compiled by Fox Sports Asia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 December, 2017, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 1:38pm

Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, MMA impresario Chatri Sityodtong and the head of China’s soccer federation are among three personalities including in Asia’s 10 most influential sports leaders of 2017, compiled by global broadcaster Fox Sports Asia.

Yao, the former Houston Rockets star who now heads the Chinese Basketball Association came eighth in the rankings, one place ahead of Chinese Football Association chief Cai Zhenhua.

The biggest surprise was Chatri being placed number three by the broadcaster – which has a variety of sports channels that are seen by billions throughout Asia, including Hong Kong.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was number one ahead of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, with Uefa president leksander Ceferin at No 4. Others on the list are Horacio Muratore (5) head of amateur basketball world body FIBA, Formula One’s new American boss John Malone (6), Indian Premier League cricket chief Hemang Amin (7) and Ricky Vargas (10), of the Philippine Basketball Association.

Thai entrepreneur Chatri founded Asia’s ONE Championship MMA circuit in 2011 and it is now the main rival to UFC globally. ONE fights are broadcast to more than 1 billion people in almost 130 countries and is said to be Asia’s biggest-ever media property with a value of US$1 billion.

“When billionaire Chatri Sityodtong came up with the idea for ONE Championship, he envisioned the entire Asia comprised of over 4-billion people united under a single sport,” said Fox. “The inspirational chairman and CEO of ONE has led an amazing group of professionals in harnessing the power of martial arts.

“ONE Championship has achieved tremendous success since its establishment in 2011. Martial arts is considered a Pan-Asian sport and for the first time in Asian history, it is a sport that has transcended regional and cultural boundaries.”

Yao, 37, was the most popular Chinese player to play in the NBA in the United States and now brings his knowledge of world-class basketball to his homeland.

“The Chinese Basketball Association is the top men’s league in China,” Fox said. “Some Chinese players who competed in the CBA have transitioned over to the NBA throughout history, names such as Wang Zhizhi, Mengke Bateer, Yi Jianlian, Sun Yue, and Yao Ming himself.”

Cai’s influence as a sports leader has been strengthened with backing from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is a keen football fan and is determined to see China one day host and win the World Cup.

“China has a burgeoning football obsession, with support from Chinese President Xi Jinping himself who is helping to develop the sport,” it said.