ONE Championship emerging victorious in fight with UFC for China market

ONE Championship has established itself as an industry leader in Asia's MMA scene, and the promotion is now poised to lead a revolution into mainland China with shows in Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen.

Widely recognised as the largest sports media property in Asian history, ONE Championship has a proven track record of selling out iconic thousand-seater stadiums in multiple Asian capitals. Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Yangon are just some examples of successful markets for ONE Championship.

Building on their success, plans to maximise the huge potential in a relatively untapped Chinese market has begun.

On Sep 2, ONE Championship held its inaugural fight night in Shanghai. The MMA extravaganza featured reigning ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren of the United States defending his title against challenger Zebaztian Kadestam of Sweden in the main event.

With shows also scheduled for Beijing and Shenzhen at the end of 2017, ONE Championship is poised to close out their calendar year in China.

ONE Championship has also established two satellite offices in Beijing and Shanghai respectively. The promotion's CEO (International) Victor Cui made the move from the company headquarters in Singapore to Shanghai to personally oversee operations.

From securing the best partnerships to focusing on local, homegrown martial arts talent, ONE Championship is winning the fight for market dominance against its global counterpart, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), in the Chinese market.

UFC, which is based primarily in North America, has made efforts to hold events in Asia. However, success hasn't come easy as compared to ONE Championship.

The latter has accumulated a wealth of experience after seven years of operating in Asian markets, making them a tough opponent to beat.

One of the most important factors of ONE Championship's  success is its focus on developing local martial arts heroes.

“ONE focuses on creating Asian martial arts heroes and developing local talent. Because of this, over the last few years, ONE Championship has emerged with the largest selection of elite Asian martial artists and world champions, who practice various martial arts that have originated in Asia such as Silat, Muay Thai, Lethwei, to name a few,” said Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship’s Chairman and CEO.

“In terms of big names in the MMA industry, we have local Asian stars such as Angela Lee, Eduard Folayang, Aung La N Sang, and Shinya Aoki.”

ONE Championship has also developed a solid understanding of how best to engage the Asian fanbase, particularly on social media and television.

Over the last year, ONE Championship has shown a 58% increase in total fans as compared to 2016, nearly five times more video views at 299 million, and over three times more social media shares at 746,000. 

Data released by Nielsen, Facebook and Repucom earlier this year revealed that ONE Championship has shown exponential growth from 2014 to 2017.

The data shows that ONE Championship has come from 352 million social media impressions to a projected 4.8 billion, marking an increase of over 11 times the previous tally at the end of the year.

With the rise of digital and online video, ONE Championship has also catapulted their numbers from 312,000 to 600 million video views by the end of the year.

Annual TV broadcast per country and peak TV ratings share numbers have increased dramatically based on the data. From an average of 12-18 hours of TV broadcast in 2014, the figures have increased to that of 100-1800 hours. 

ONE Championship holds at least one live event each month across cities all over Asia. Their plans for 2018 are even more ambitious with around 24 to 30 shows scheduled. 

One of the most important factors for success is the promotion’s focus on embodying the true values of martial arts -- values which Sityodtong says he has lived his life by.

Before he became a self-made millionaire, Sityodtong came from extremely humble beginnings. During the Asian financial crisis, his parents and younger brother became homeless and had to survive on one meal a day. His father went bankrupt and abandoned the family, leaving Sityodtong to pick up the responsibility and provide for everyone.

But Sityodtong never gave up, and years later, he is now at the helm of the hugely successful ONE Championship that is poised to take China, and potentially other parts of Asia, by storm.