The leader in Asian MMA, ONE Championship, is being accused of abusive business practices.
ONE Championship is currently the premier MMA promotion in all of Asia and boasts some of the hottest prospects in the region. It has recently brought in notable worldwide renowned fighters like former UFC champions, Demetrious Johnson, Vitor Belfort and Eddie Alvarez.
A new in-depth report from Bloody Elbow reveals several aspects of the company's rising stardom may not be as legitimate as it may seem at first glance. Faulty finances, fraud investors, fighter complaints and staff grievances have muddied the previously thought pristine image of the Asian MMA powerhouse.
Zero-tolerance Criticism Policy
An anonymous ONE Championship employee reportedly stated that several of the promotion's contracted fighters had "severely low morale."
“ONE announced things about management a while back, only going through certain approved managers," the source shared. "Now new fighters have to sign a contract that states they can’t talk bad about the company publicly.”
It is also reported that an anonymous fighter was approached by ONE Championship and declined their contract offer.
“They pay shit. And when you’re signed, (it’s) exclusively with them," the fighter expressed. "It doesn’t guarantee that they will keep you busy or give you fights.“
Faulty Drug Testing Allegations
In 2019, UFC veteran Will Chope, who is based out of Asia, brought ONE Championship's drug testing issues to light. He claimed the reports of ONE Championship bringing in WADA to properly test their fighters were false and WADA are not signatories and denied testing the promotion's fighters. ONE Championship has not since commented on the WADA situation.
Alleged Fake Ticket Sales
According to Bloody Elbow's report, a ONE Championship staffer claimed the promotion lies about its ticket sales.
“Regarding ‘sold out’ tickets, that’s fucking bullshit. Can you imagine how many tickets ONE staff gets to give out every time? Up to 50 per staff (member)," they said. "Up to 50 tickets per staff [member]. Yes, up to 50. Regardless of [the] venue, as far as I know. Could be more in certain countries.”
Viewership and Ratings In Question
The promotion has stated on several occasions that their product is available to over 1 billion households around the world. It also claims to have had over 85 billion viewers for some of its events, which would easily be among the most-watched events in MMA history. Unfortunately, even though ONE Championship claims Nielsen Ratings offered up those viewership numbers, Nielsen has denied the claims.
“Ask anyone in Singapore if they watch ONE on TV, they (will) probably say no,” the executive familiar with operations said, noting that ONE is available in his home country on cable, not basic television. “People in Indonesia still never heard of them.”
Fightful has reached out to ONE Championship for comment.