Founder and CEO of One Championship Chatri Sityodtong in Singapore, 2021 (Edwin Koo/Getty Images for One Championship)
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ONE Championship: The Billion-dollar MMA Promotion With Big Plans for the US

Group One Holdings’ $150 million December funding round has pushed it past the 10-figure mark according to the latest estimates.

Group One Holdings, the parent company for Singapore-based mixed martial arts, kickboxing, and Muay Thai promotion ONE Championship, a mixed martial arts platform has reached a $1 billion valuation, Tech in Asia reports via a company source. This comes after raising $150 million in a funding round led by Guggenheim Investments and the Qatar Investment Authority that the company announced on Dec. 22.

ONE Championship has been vying to bring itself more formally into the US market, where it would compete directly with the UFC and Bellator. The closest that the company has come to holding an event in the US has been through its Ringside Fighting (RUF Nation) promotion, which held two events in Arizona.

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All of ONE Championship’s events were held in Singapore in 2021, but notably, US viewers got a taste of what the promotion offers in April when the company aired a four-part primetime event series on TNT. Television ratings for the events ranged between 196,000 and 337,000 viewers over the course of four weeks.

Last year ONE Championship said it has plans to hold its first US event sometime this year in October. Colorado was chosen because Colorado’s Office of Combative Sports approved ONE Championship’s ruleset, which includes allowing knees to the head of a grounded opponent — a banned practice in most other MMA promotions.

“Everything has been approved,” ONE Championship VP Rich Franklin said in an interview with MMAJunkie in October of 2021. “I think Denver is going to be one of the major cities that we’re looking at when we’re coming here next year. Our schedule looks somewhat aggressive. I don’t think I can publicly release how many events or any stuff like that on how many we’re doing next year, but I would look for us to be (there) on the back-half of the year.”

The company also attempts to distinguish itself from its competitors by banning dehydration as a weight-cutting strategy. The rule change came after ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing died due to severe dehydration in December of 2015 while attempting to make weight. The new program is designed to increase athlete safety where fighters undergo multiple weigh-ins and tests before and during fight week.

Given the clear, obvious dangers of weight cutting culture in combat sports, this aspect of ONE’s game plan could be the most compelling of all as it aims to spread its wings further in the United States.

What is ONE Championship?

Founded: 2011
Base of operations: Singapore
Parent company: Group One Holdings Pte. Ltd.
Competitions: Mixed martial arts, kickboxing, Muay Thai
Key executives: Chatri Sityodtong (Founder, Chairman, and CEO), Rich Franklin (Vice President)
Notable MMA fighters: Shinya Aoki, Arjan Bhullar, Demetrious Johnson, Angela Lee, John Linkeker, Adriano Moraes

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