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One Championship raises U.S. profile

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

One Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong expects the company’s recently-announced deal with U.S. broadcaster Turner Sports will go a long way toward raising the martial arts organization’s profile in the U.S.

He just doesn’t think it stops there.

“I think the Turner Sports deal is a major, major inflection point for, not just One Championship, but for Asia,” Sityodtong told The Japan Times over the phone. “This is the first time that a major U.S. broadcaster has bought significant media rights for an Asian sports property. Historically, Asia always imported sports, meaning that all the Asian broadcasters would buy NBA or F1 or Champions League etc.

“It’s a huge opportunity for One Championship, but also a huge opportunity for Asian brands in general. It’s definitely a historic moment.”

Under the deal, which was announced Dec. 14, One Championship events, including its first event in Japan in the spring, will be broadcast live on Turner’s streaming service B/R Live. The broadcaster will also air taped repeats of events on cable channel TNT.

“Turner Sports obviously believes in One Championship’s ability and potential in the U.S. market,” Sityodtong said.

While the Singapore-based company is beginning to spread its influence outside Asia, carving out space in the Japanese market remains a sought-after goal. The Japanese space isn’t as crowded as it once was, but is still home to Rizin Fighting Federation, DEEP and Pancrase, among others.

One Championship will hold its first Japanese event on March 31 in Tokyo and already boasts a number of Japanese fighters on its roster, including star Shinya Aoki, nicknamed Tobikan Judan or Grand Master of Flying Submissions and Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi.

The company also recently added veteran Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama. His signing was one of a flurry of notable additions that grabbed the attention of MMA observers this year.

The organization has also recently added Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, who has been called one of the greatest MMA fighters ever, 22-year-old rising star Sage Northcutt and former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Former UFC great Meisha Tate has also been brought in as vice president.

Sityodtong, half-Japanese himself, is aware a possible offshoot of raising the company’s profile in the U.S., which he called “the most sophisticated, most advanced sports market in the world,” could be more recognition among Japanese fans.

“This really is a huge statement,” he said. “If you think about Turner Sports, they are the home of NBA, of Major League Baseball, of PGA, of Champions League, all the most iconic sports properties in the world. We are the only representative from Asia in their portfolio.”

While the North American deal is set, there has yet to be an announcement about a Japanese broadcast partner for the company’s introduction to the country in March.

“We will be announcing our Japanese TV broadcaster, also one of the major TV stations in Japan, we’ll be announcing that in the next couple of weeks,” Sityodtong said.