ONE FC is the largest MMA organization in Asia and often draws comparisons to the much beloved PRIDE events—but what is ONE FC really?
Launched just two years ago on July 14, 2011, ONE Fighting Championship is now the most widely recognized MMA promotion in Asia and is gaining global steam. Holding sold-out events in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, and Singapore, ONE FC has expanded rapidly in popularity and has even landed a 10-year contract with ESPN/Star Sports to broadcast their events.
Now, I am as cynical as the rest of the MMA community when it comes to a new organization being hailed as “The Next Big Thing.” The canyon of MMA organization doom is wide, deep, and filled with millions of dollars in wasted funds, broken promises, and unrealized hype. We have seen the mighty fall. Is ONE FC really any different?
In my humble opinion, yes—and for a few key reasons.
1) The Rules for ONE FC create a slightly different product.
ONE FC has augmented the standard MMA Global Rule Set by utilizing both the PRIDE and Nevada Rules that allow for soccer kicks, as well as permitting the use of stomp kicks to the body and legs, and the use of elbows. The knees can be used at any time during the fight, but stomp kicks can never be used against the head.
PRIDE rules can be utilized at any point during the fight—a recent change made to ONE FC rules, which used to call for the referee to signal “Open Attack” before PRIDE rules would apply. The confusion in the application of PRIDE rules led to some controversy during the early ONE FC events, an issue that has now been rectified.
2) The people involved are tremendously knowledgeable.
Victor Cui, the CEO and owner of ONE FC, was also the man behind Martial Combat—another ESPN Star Sports fight promotion. In 2010, Martial Combat delivered 12 events on ESPN Star Sports, in what was described as a “small pilot test project” for what would become ONE FC, after effectively working out some of the kinks.
Another man at the ONE FC helm is MMA pioneer Matt Hume. Matt is the Executive VP of ONE FC and has been a catalyst in the brands success thus far.
3) The business model is unique.
ONE FC has taken a vastly different approach in building their organization—a factor that is key to their unparalleled success in short order. They are embracing the power of leverage and forging strong relationships with gyms, organizations, and sponsors. By creating summits and other efficient meetings of the minds, they have developed great synergies that have enabled them to grow their brand rapidly throughout Asia.
The next ONE Fighting Championship event is scheduled for September 13, 2013, in Jakarta and features archrivals Yasuhiro Urushitani against Shinichi Kojima in a flyweight world title fight. The rivalry between the two Japanese men is well known, as they fought each other twice previously—both times ending in a draw—when they were part of the Shooto organization.
Given the previous success of ONE Fighting Championship events, the leadership of Victor Cui, and a significant 10-year contract with ESPN Star Sports, there is little doubt that the ONE FC will continue to enjoy success and growth in Asia, and perhaps even start reaching into competitive markets to expand their unique brand of fighting.
Is ONE FC the next PRIDE? No. There will never be another PRIDE. But taking lessons learned from their downfall and maintaining the current course may enable them to be more than PRIDE ever was. Time will tell.