The growth of MMA has been a sight to see in recent years. While the sport, its athletes, and its fans were frowned upon by the general public during its genesis, it has since grown into a mainstream popularity.
A lot of the credit goes to the UFC and the stars they have produced. Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor were staples in widening MMA's audience. However, other promotions have also expanded the sport and groomed talents. The UFC is no longer the lone organization that hosts the best MMA fighters. There is plenty to watch with Bellator and the Professional Fighters League finding success in the United States.
The promotion has since been known not only for its talent and quality. Despite the emphasis on MMA, ONE Championship spotlights Muay Thai as well. Occasionally, ONE Championship combined both in hybrid bouts with alternating rounds. The company has been innovative in approaching fights and even with the weight-cutting problem in the sport.
ONE Championship owner Chatri Sityodtong's success story
However, according to a documentary by Patrick Gavia, Sityodtong had to overcome many obstacles before he built this martial arts empire.
Growing up in Thailand, Sityodtong learned how to fight young. During the Asian Financial Crisis in the 1990s, Sityodtong's father abandoned him and his family after failing to provide for them. To get his family out of poverty, he left for the United States to pursue his education.
He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Tufts University in 1994, followed by his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1999. During his time at Harvard, Sityodtong lived on a tight budget, barely having money to pay for books and meals.
Sityodtong's perseverance led him to a decade-long career on Wall Street. Despite obtaining financial success working for Fidelity Investments, Sityodtong felt distanced from his true passion--fighting. He soon retired from the finance world, using the money he earned to pursue his love for martial arts.
Sityodtong is a Kru in Muay Thai and has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In 2008, Sityodtong founded Evolve MMA, a chain of academies in Singapore. Three years later, he founded ONE Championship (then ONE FC). The struggles continued as Sityodtong failed to find broadcast partners and advertisers.
However, this did not stop Sityodtong from showcasing Martial Arts in Asia. 12 years later, ONE Championship has been named Asia's largest global sports media property by Forbes. Aside from showcasing some of Asia's best fighters, ONE Championship has housed some of MMA's biggest names, including Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, Ben Askren, and Sage Northcutt.
ONE Championship has gone from a rejected brand to a billion-dollar company. Meanwhile, Sityodtong's net worth is estimated to be around $300 million in 2023.