MMA-Japan joined ONE Championship in Singapore for the February 22nd show, CALL TO GREATNESS, ahead of the promotion’s inaugural Tokyo show locked and loaded for March 31st. There was something to be said of seeing my first live ONE event in its country of birth: Singapore, a blend of Asian cultures with a sprinkling of international feel. Outside of the hardcore fans, people in public recognized the branding on my shirt on more than one occasion. It felt like Tokyo in the early 2000s. Having been living in Asia for 18 years I am probably biased, but the richness, diversity, and way that society views the martial arts is very unique and attractive in this part of the world.
Attending the open workouts at Evolve the afternoon of the following day was great energy. The staff were on point and the media got to see some of the coming show’s top athletes including co-main and main event stars Amir Khan, Ariel Sexton, Stamp Fairtex, and Janet Dodd, in their element hitting the Thai pads and grappling. Very positive vibes coming from them as they went all out for the press while smiling and obviously enjoying themselves. Mitch Chilson as MC handled those present and the live feed deftly and enthusiastically. A photo session and media scrum followed and I chatted to Mitch about Japan and a hypothetical ONE QUINTET team. All the while, some BJJ classes and private sessions were flowing in the background. The atmosphere was truly vibrant and motivating.
The following day a visit to the ONE office was on the agenda. An open plan office space with various rooms for small to large meetings, and a young crew welcomed us. Newly appointed Group President, Hua Fung Teh, greeted us first, gave us a tour, and then introduced us to also newly appointed President of ONE Japan, Hideyuki “Andy” Hata. Mr. Hata was kind enough to give the Japan based press some of his own time separately to talk about the ONE operation launch in Japan. With the first show in Japan just several weeks out, it was invigorating to hear the support ONE is giving in reaching out and forming meaningful ties with deeply rooted Japanese MMA organizations like Pancrase and their tie up with Shooto and various kickboxing promotions in an effort to offer more opportunities for fighters to grow and compete on the world stage. In the notoriously closed Japan, ONE hopes to become an important part of the martial arts commonwealth as the country takes center stage in the sports world with the 2020 Olympics right around the corner.
“INTEGRITY, HUMILITY, HONOR, RESPECT, COURAGE, DISCIPLINE, COMPASSION”. The mantra of ONE Championship, clearly consistent with their thoughtful and positive approach to the combat sports which are so often viewed superficially in the West, has been criticized online for its repetition. However, could it be, like many other areas of society, that some people find it tiresome to mentally open packages and examine them, favouring a simpler, one dimensional approach to viewing MMA? Because it seems that it is a package that ONE is offering – a way of life and approach to learning, to each other, to ourselves, to society as a whole. It takes effort and focus to approach this list of words and honestly ask ourselves what they mean to us in our daily lives and how they are all connected. But, people generally don’t want to talk ethics, especially in the often brutal full-contact sports. And, people surely don’t want to feel “indoctrinated” in this age of Google experts and staunch opinions. Regardless, ONE has been consistent with its message and mission, and moreover, it has all the hallmarks of success: adapting to the environment in each country it sets roots.
Overall, as media, we could not have asked for more. The ONE PR team were most welcoming, professional, attentive, and above all friendly. We were given access to all the information we needed to promote the show and fighters, and the show itself was nothing short of outstanding. There were all walks of life in the arena supporting their favourite athletes, impressive sound and light production, dynamic and entertaining fighter walk outs, all the facilities press need access to when covering such an upscale event. And, for MMA-Japan, it was a thrill to watch the grappling wizardry of Masakazu Imanari, the Judo mastery of Ayaka Miura in her ONE debut, and although the only of the three Japanese not to get the win that day, RISE Featherweight Champion, Masahide Kudo, represent in ONE Championship strongly. We look forward in anticipation to March 31st at the Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo. Here’s to ONE’s hashtag mantra, #WeAreOne, as the promotion joins the awesome JMMA community.