ONE Championship to launch Japan expansion

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ONE Championship is set to expand to Japan and promises to restore the nation’s mixed martial arts industry to its former glory.

Several traditional forms of martial arts can trace their origins in Japan, but many people tend to forget that the country served as one of the starting points of mixed martial arts.

Japan was once considered the apex of modern-day mixed martial arts (MMA), but it has largely fallen out of context over the past decade. In the early ’90s, MMA was growing all over the world as several locations across the globe were beginning to lay the foundation.

With Brazil and the United States focused on the beauty of style versus style in the west, the sport’s old stomping ground in the eastern hemisphere was in Japan. Japan has a strong MMA history as the nation has given birth to heaps of legendary combat promotions such as Pancrase, Shooto, DREAM and PRIDE.

From fearless strikers to elite submission grapplers, it provided the sport with a long list of extraordinary mixed martial artists with the likes of Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Takanori “Fireball Kid” Gomi and Kazushi Sakuraba. However, the Japanese MMA scene drastically lost its lustre with the fall of PRIDE and DREAM.

Japan is poised to reclaim its position among the top MMA countries in Asia, and the world, as ONE Championship plans to make its first venture into “The Land of the Rising Sun” in 2019.

A MMA organisation that was established in Singapore seven years ago, ONE Championship is out to reestablish the nation’s former glory in the sport.

Photo courtesy of ONE Championship

“Japan has been waiting for a top global martial arts organisation for a long time to revive the scene. I’m going to make sure that ONE Championship’s goal to redevelop Japan into a powerhouse is realised in 2019,” ONE Championship head honcho Chatri Sityodtong stated.

In line with ONE Championship’s strategy of developing local and homegrown MMA athletes, the promotion ventures and scouts talents in new markets like Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, India and Vietnam as well as untapped areas of the Middle East, China and Russia. To further cement its stature as the frontrunner of Asian MMA, ONE Championship seeks to set foot on Japanese soil

“Japan has the right history of martial arts of Aikido, Kendo, Judo, Karate,” Sityodtong stated. “So we want to showcase the best martial arts in Japan. We want to do it in the bushido way – with honor, with respect, with humility. Not the way our Western counterparts do it. We want to show real Asian values, real Japanese values.”

ONE Championship houses the best and brightest Japanese competitors as they form an integral part of the roster – with exciting combatants such as Koji Ando, Kotetsu Boku, the legendary Shinya Aoki and ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito. Other Japanese members of the ONE Championship locker room are Mei Yamaguchi, Hayato Suzuki, Riku Shibuya, Tetsuya Yamada, Yuki Kondo, Kazunori Yokota, Nobutatsu Suzuki and Masakazu Imanari.

One of the first steps towards making inroads in Japan was the establishment of a partnership with AbemaTV, a streaming service developed by media company CyberAgent and broadcaster TV Asahi. The joint venture will cover more than 20 ONE Championship events in 2018, as well as offer a reality television series called Surrogacy Battles that aims to discover and develop Japanese talent.

The promotion will also work closely with Dentsu, the country’s largest advertising agency brand that will be responsible for assisting ONE Championship in its operations in the Japanese market. According to Sityodtong, ONE Championship possesses the perfect blueprint in catapulting Japan back into the international MMA limelight.

“We have the right Japanese partners in Japan to succeed and make it even bigger than PRIDE was, and take martial arts back to the mainstream, where it belongs in Japan,” he expressed.

ONE Championship is set to hold its first press conference in Tokyo, Japan on August 23.