If you’re looking for some pithy commentary on an upcoming UFC event, you’re looking in the wrong place. Well, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.
What I’ll be talking about today is actually about how the UFC will be up against in the coming years. This is the battle between the UFC and ONE Championship.
Many, almost universally in the western world, consider the UFC the best MMA organization in the world. There are plenty of outliers, though, many of them also in the western world… but the biggest organization in the eastern world is actually ONE Championship.
If you’re not familiar with them, ONE Championship started as ONE Fighting Championship… which they changed due to linguistic reasons (since English isn’t the dominant language in Asia). ONE has a stranglehold on the east, much like the UFC does on the west, and there may be a time coming soon where ONE actually starts pushing into the UFC’s market.
I mentioned the biggest reason in the UFC-ESPN column I wrote a couple weeks ago. With the ESPN deal for the UFC includes removing them from a more mainstream audience, ONE Championship has done something remarkable… and just the opposite:
ALL the events and ALL the fights will be free on their app.
The barrier, as one could imagine, is that some of the names won’t be immediately familiar with American audiences. I was tempted to say “western audiences,” but only those who are wearing blinders don’t realize some of the best fighters are actually in ONE.
Ben Askren, whom I do not personally enjoy watching fight due to his style, is one of the top 5 welterweights in the world and is the current ONE Welterweight Champion. Martin Nguyen is their version of Conor McGregor, he’s the ONE Featherweight and Lightweight Champion. Aung La N Sang is also a two division champion, holding both ONE’s Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion. Angela Lee is the ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion (for those wondering, that is the next division lighter than Strawweight).
I could certainly list a lot of fighters and all of their champions, but I won’t keep going on that one. The “octagon” is more of a circle and you’re going to see all kinds of talent from the newest of new to the most experienced of fighters.
Some people like watching Bellator or Invicta, as well as Professional Fighters League (formerly World Series of Fighting). They’re all big organizations, they all have their own niches for fans, and they all have great fighters. There aren’t a lot of them that are paying top dollar for their fighters, though, which is why the better ones tend to end up in the UFC.
ONE is paying top dollar AND they are the “go to” organization for most Asian countries. China, for instance, is having many of their up and coming fighters go straight into ONE. With China having been cut off from the world so long, there are a ton of athletes that will be joining the rest of the world’s biggest organizations and making waves (like Yao Ming).
Let me stop trying to sell you if you’re not interested in anything outside the UFC on the fighters. The events are free, literally free. If you like fighting, why not give some of them a shot? It’s not going to cost you anything. I’m pretty sure all the previous fights (or at least the more recent ones) are also free. Free. You can watch people punch each other in the face for free.
Give it a shot.
I think that the UFC’s ESPN deal may end up having a few people go on over to check out ONE, since they’re free, and maybe ONE can start getting a bigger foothold in the western world.
Having seen many of the events in the past, I’m a fan of MMA in general and want to see great fights. I like Invicta, I like ONE, I like UFC, and I like watching good fights.
Does ONE have duds? Absolutely. Is the whole event worth checking out? Sometimes, but normally you’re going to be interested in the last four or five fights, just like UFC.
Give is a shot. It’ll be worth a little bit of your time.