ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong happy to co-promote with UFC – and only UFC

Rizin FF envisions a federation of promoters working together to grow MMA. It’s biggest competitor in Asia sees things differently.

“I think the only organization I’d be interested to co-promote with would be UFC vs. ONE Championship, world champions vs. world champions,” ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong told MMA Junkie.

Sityodtong claims ONE is at an “all-time high” and continues to break viewership and attendance records, and he hopes a recent talent share with the UFC could open doors.

“UFC is No. 1 in the west, and ONE Championship is No. 1 in the east, so it’s kind of a best of the east, best of the west colliding,” Sityodtong said. “I think that makes a great storyline for the whole world to want to watch and get excited about.”

This past weekend, hardcore MMA fans were buzzing about a co-promotion between Rizin, headed by former PRIDE chief Nobuyuki Sakakibara, and Bellator president Scott Coker. In the end, the Japan-based promotion took home bragging rights when Rizin bantamweight champ Kyoji Horiguchi captured Bellator champ Darrion Caldwell’s title at Bellator 222.

The collaboration had Coker and Sakikibara talking about a Bellator vs. Rizin card in the future. Coker was less optimistic about a potential co-promotion with the UFC, though he certainly welcomed the possibility.

“It’s not their business model to do that, but if they want to get it on, let’s do it,” Coker said. “We would not be opposed to that. We got some killers in this league. If they want to get it on, let’s do it.”

So far, the UFC’s only co-promotion has been in the world of boxing. In 2017, it partnered with Mayweather Promotions and Showtime to put on “The Money Fight” between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, which was the second-highest grossing domestic pay-per-view in history.

Although talent-sharing agreements appear to be on the rise, true co-promotions are rare. The co-mingling of production and financial interests make talent sharing a more viable option for the majority of promoters.

ONE and Bellator briefly flirted with co-promotion this past year over the topic of Ben Askren. But talks never materialized into a deal, and Askren wound up getting “traded” to the UFC in exchange for ONE receiving ex-UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. Sityodtong was pleasantly taken aback at the UFC’s willingness to do business.

“I thought it would be great for it to happen, but I never imagined it would happen,” he said. “So I’m very grateful to the UFC for playing its part.”

In 2017, the UFC commissioned a study to measure the popularity of MMA promotions in Asia. The study claimed the UFC was the leader in engagement, calling ONE a regional promotion by metrics of viewership and revenue.

But UFC president Dana White has also called ONE a well capitalized “monster” in depositions for its ongoing anti-trust case. Earlier this year, Variety issued a $1 billion valuation for the Asia-based MMA promotion.

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