ONE Championship fights could return next month

FILE – A bloodied Aung La N Sang celebrates after stopping Brandon Vera in the second round of their world title fight in the main event of ONE: Century Sunday, October 13, 2019, at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. Aung, who is also the current middleweight champion, retained his light heavyweight belt. Photo from ONE Championship

Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion, ONE Championship, could resume putting on fights as early as next month, its CEO told AFP on Monday, as he warned of rocky operating conditions ahead after the coronavirus.

Chatri Sityodtong was speaking as the Singapore-based company slashed 20 percent of its workforce but also announced a $70 million funding boost from institutional investors.

He said ONE, which promotes cards across Asia in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing, was planning fight nights next month in China, Thailand and Singapore, depending on lockdown measures.

With coronavirus laying waste to professional sports worldwide, ONE’s last event was in Singapore in late February, and it had to cancel a series of events in April and May.

“Of course, this environment has made it trickier to operate but I’m always an optimist, and I believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Chatri said by phone from Singapore.

“We are looking at next month already. Nothing has been announced formally, but I can tell you that we are working very hard to come back,” he added.

Chatri did not disclose the size of ONE’s now-reduced global workforce, but the company’s LinkedIn profile put the headcount at between 201-500 employees.

He said the job cuts in “non-essential” areas were necessary to insulate the company against an expected economic downturn, despite the $70 million cash injection.

“Extraordinary times require very unusual prudence to protect the company and the longevity of many

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ONE Championship adds $70M to its war chest

ONE Championship founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. Photo from ONE Championship

Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion, ONE Championship, said Monday it was cutting 20 percent of its staff worldwide after being unable to stage fight cards for almost four months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Singapore-based organisation, which promotes cards across Asia in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing, has between 201-500 employees, according to its LinkedIn profile.

ONE Championship said in a statement it had raised an additional $70 million to its “war chest”, bringing its total capital to $346 million but added it had also “streamlined operations, including a 20 percent reduction of total worldwide headcount”.

Social distancing and other measures to contain the virus have forced the closure of sporting events worldwide and ONE Championship’s last event was held behind closed doors in Singapore on February 28, said a spokesman.

Four events were planned to be held without fans in Singapore during April and May, but they had to be shelved because of the city’s tough anti-virus rules.

Another event on May 29 in Manila was also cancelled because the Philippines remained under lockdown.

ONE Championship chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong has said it is unclear when fights can resume, because of the travel restrictions, quarantine and distancing rules imposed by governments across Asia.

Apart from fighters, the company also has to bring in referees, ring girls, coaches, training partners and its own staff into any country hosting an event.

Infrastructure such as the fighting cage has to be shipped and constructed at each venue, and although local staff are used for installations the company needs to provide its own supervisors, the spokesperson said.

The US-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on May 10 became one of the first sports to restart post-coronavirus.


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