ONE Impressive Debut

ONE Championship hopes the power of Amazon can help capture a North American MMA Audience


Mirko Zax

Photo courtesy of Maza Fight Gallery/Flickr


Is the North American mixed martial arts audience ready for an international takeover from the East?

Most combat sports fans are familiar with promotional organizations like UFC, Bellator MMA, even at one point WEC before being bought out by the UFC. Eastern Asia’s most viewed sport is mixed martial arts. Allow us to introduce ONE Championship.

Singapore-based combat sports promoter ONE Championship has full confidence in their ability to gain attention as a top MMA organization and has signed a partnership with Amazon — announced in April 2022 — in hopes of capturing this new audience.

This Amazon partnership will mark the start of a five year distribution deal focused on targeting North America. Amazon Prime Video will now host 12 events annually with no extra charge. All events scheduled are to be broadcast live during prime time in North America.

In April 2021, ONE Championship partnered with TNT but that distribution deal was not successful at capturing the market. During that time, Singapore was under lockdown restrictions making events and logistics in general very difficult. The popularity of streaming services didn’t help, since TNT is mostly associated with cable TV. The debut flop on TNT during the NBA playoffs yielded lackluster results and viewership.

While promoters like the UFC are the dominant conglomerate in the Western Hemisphere, ONE Championship has been an equally powerful force for combat sports in Asia. Formed under the name ONE FC in 2011, the organization has grown tremendously in the last decade. With over 150 live events , ONE Championship claims to be “Asia’s largest global sports media platform with a broadcast to 150+ countries around the world”

With some of the best international strikers in the world calling ONE  Championship their home and a frequent interest of the promoter to sign prominent North American fighters, ONE Championship looks to prove that its fighters are on par or higher caliber than their Western counterparts.

A distinguishable facet of ONE Championship is their connection to martial art’s traditional practices and competition. ONE Championship does not just focus solely on MMA and instead holds bouts in Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Submission Grappling.

Their counterparts in the west tend to showcase only mixed martial arts, typically in cage fighting, and a combination of grappling, striking, and limits some of the strikes allowed in the octagon. Blows that are considered illegal are sometimes staple moves for some fighters in ONE Championship (for example, kneeing someone to the head while they are considered down is legal in ONE Championship but not in any Western fighting promotions).

“We connect deeply culturally, historically, traditionally… as opposed to glorifying the fight. So I think UFC is a fight, UFC is a sport. ONE Championship is martial arts,” CEO Chatri Sityodtong stated in an interview with CNN in reference to the respect involved in these various martial arts.

North American fans will also need to adjust to different weight classes. ONE Championship discourages unhealthy weight cuts by its athletes, using a combination of hydration tests and weigh-ins to encourage their athletes to weigh in closer to walk around weight. In other words, weight divisions in ONE Championship are about ten pounds heavier than they are in their North American counterparts.

During the fights, fans will notice the changes as ONE Championship follows a Global Martial Arts Rule Set. This rule set allows fighters to throw knees to the head of downed opponents which would be ruled a disqualification in North American promotions like the UFC. If fighters are not engaging or avoiding combat, referees also have the power to pull yellow cards penalizing ten percent of both fighters’ purses. The yellow card encourages action in the fight and entertainment for the fans.

“The level of striking coming out of Asia is the highest in the world. With a 70% finish rate, ONE hosts the highest finish rate of any global organization.” Sityodtong said before the main event.

Following suit, this inaugural event contained two Muay Thai bouts and three MMA bouts ending at a 100% finish rate.

“ONE On Prime Video 1: Moraes vs Johnson II” marked the first event in the Amazon Distribution deal on Friday, August 26.

Leading up to Saturday’s main event, former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrius “Mighty Mouse” Johnson avenged his only KO loss against Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes with a powerful flying knee. Johnson holds multiple records in the UFC, notably most Flyweight title defense’s, Longest Flyweight win streak. Experiencing one of only a handful of losses in his illustrious career in a league stacked with international talent only highlights the depth and caliber of fighters in ONE Championship.

With a successful debut, ONE Championship appears to now be a mainstay and threat to combat sports promotion and highlights some of the glaring areas of improvement on the part of organizations like the UFC.

Johnson will take time off and recuperate while other contenders like Gary Tonon and Kim Jae Woong look to settle who gets the next shot at the champ.

ONE Championship’s next fight card on Prime Video will include a jam-packed trilogy on “ONE On Prime Video 2: Xiong vs Lee III.” This event will host three world title fights, in three different martial arts: MMA, Kickboxing and Submission Grappling. The main event is a trilogy fight between Xiong Jing Nan and Angela Lee for the Women’s Strawweight World Championship. With both fighters holding one finish over each other it is sure to be competitive, don’t miss it live on Prime Video on Sept. 30 at 8 p.m.