ONE Championship Looks To Pin Down U.S. Fight Fans

Asia-based martial arts media company ONE Championship will look to introduce its unique fight brand to U.S. viewers via an live Oct. 12 telecast on TNT, part of a three-year distribution deal between the two companies signed in January. 

As one of the largest martial arts organizations in the world, ONE Championship offers bouts across all martial arts disciplines such as Muay Thai, kickboxing, submission grappling and mixed martial arts.

“Our partnership with ONE Championship is off to a terrific start and we’re thrilled to showcase their historic 100th event with fans in the U.S,” said Tina Shah, executive vice president and general manager of Turner Sports, which offers ONE Championship content on its B/R Live streaming service. “As ONE Championship continues to expand its domestic reach, we’ll continue to work closely with them as we identify new opportunities to share this compelling content with a passionate, growing fan base.”

Heading up ONE Championship is founder, chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. I recently spoke with Sityodtong about the ONE Championship brand and its move into the U.S., as well as his thoughts on the current combat sports marketplace.

Define the ONE Championship brand.

Chatri Sityodtong

Chatri Sityodtong

ONE Championship is Asia's largest global sports media property. In the Western Hemisphere the largest sports property is the NFL and is cherished by all Americans -- in the same way in the East, Martial arts is cherished by all of Asia. We have 550 world class martial artists on our roster, of which 140 are world champions across various disciplines. So whether it's mixed martial arts, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, karate etc., we have the largest roster of world champion martial artists on the planet of any organization. The formula for our success has been values, heroes, and story. We want to celebrate the values of integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, discipline, and compassion, which are the bedrock values of martial arts but also the bedrock values of the best of humanityOur genre might be martial arts but our platform is humanity, and anyone can watch our show and take away from our heroes.

Has the organization had a lot of exposure here in the U.S.?

We just started broadcasting on TNT and B/R Live. We have events every 10 days of the week on B/R Live across the continent of Asia and broadcast all over 140 countries. Our 100th show will be on Oct. 12th and broadcast live [at 11 p.m. (ET)] on TNT.

How many future One Championship live events will Turner Sports look to to televise?

I think I think it's going to start a big, big trend in which there will be more and more events televised live on TNT.

How do you expect to compete in a growing mixed martial arts genre in the US dominated by the UFC?

Actually there are tons of mixed martial arts organizations in the U.S., but I think there isn't one that has our formula. So we're 180 degrees opposite of whatever is in the Western world in terms of what MMA promotions are. I would say the vast majority of western promotions focus on the blood sports angle that includes controversy, anger and hatred -- anything you can do to create controversy and stoke the fires. That's a very different approach from us -- we don't have any of that. Our heroes are genuine role models for society, so it's a very different approach.

The UFC, however you define it, is very popular in the U.S. Do you feel that your approach to fighting and mixed martial arts will translate well for the U.S. viewer?

Yes -- I think it's going to be refreshing, very new and eye-opening. Watching the world's best martial arts compete, but yet at the same time watching them behave in such a respectable, honorable way will appeal to viewers. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.