ONE Championship’s International Events To Return Next Month
Since ONE Championship returned after a five-month hiatus, all of its events have taken place in Bangkok. With the coronavirus restrictions, it’s difficult to put together cards when the fighters are scattered around the world. However, we could soon be seeing international events before the end of this year.
Getting Back Into Action
Amidst the global pandemic, ONE was forced to cease all activity and put a halt to its flagship events. When ONE: No Surrender finally kicked off on July 31st, it marked as a big win. In an interview with SCMP MMA‘s Nick Atkin, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong said he was focused on getting back into action.
“For us, the most important thing was to just get back into action,” Sityodtong said. “In June, we actually had a show in China and then the end of June was our comeback for Bangkok events. But borders are closed all over Asia so the biggest challenge has been that it’s a little bit different than the States or Europe, etc.
“Literally every country in Asia has closed its borders. And so its very difficult to stage global events that we normally do. So we’re lucky we have some deep connections in Thailand, obviously I’m from there. And so we were able to, with the government’s help, throw a bunch of events. But they were effectively local cards if you think about it. Meaning that we were using Thai athletes and foreign athletes who lived in Thailand. So there was no border requirement. So that was the trickiest part.”
But it won’t be long until fans get to see major fight cards featuring major stars again. Sityodtong aims to have ONE put up mega cards as soon as next month.
“Next week we’ll announce the return of our mega events. We’ll announce some big things happening in October. I think Twitter leaked some stuff out this morning, I’ll just say I don’t know how Twitter does it,” Chatri said, laughing.
“There’s some big things happening, we’ve been working with a lot of governments. You’re gonna see some really cool stuff coming out of ONE Championship in the coming weeks.”
Aung La Nsang To Defend His Title
Chief among these major stars is two-division ONE world champion Aung La Nsang. The Burmese megastar is set to make his return in October and defend his ONE middleweight title against Reinier de Riddier.
The Dutchman secured a title shot by defeating Leandro Ataides at ONE: Warrior’s Code. However, he was replaced by Vitaly Bigdash when he got injured. But after the trilogy fight was scrapped because of the pandemic, ONE has reverted back to de Riddier.
“Aung La will be defending his title. His first opponent he was gonna defend against before the pandemic was Reinier, the undefeated Dutch fighter, but he was injured from his last fight, and that’s why we went with Vitaly Bigdash.
“Both are worthy opponents. People want to see a trilogy with Bigdash, they’re one apiece, that’s a big fight. But Reinier, that’s gonna be a really interesting fight for Aung La as well.”
“The Global Stars Are Back”
Sityodtong guaranteed that fans would be seeing more familiar faces in ONE’s upcoming events. And it’s not just the mixed martial artists who’re returning, but the ONE Super Series athletes as well.
“The global stars are back, we’re gonna have some mega cards coming up – a lot of fun stuff, whether it’s MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing,” Sityodtong said.
“Our global events are back, I’ll be making a formal announcement in the coming week. Hopefully we make some big noise.”
One thing is for certain, ONE Championship’s international events are finally back for the fans. And they can expect to see their heroes back on the big stage.
Eddie Alvarez Not A Contender Yet
Lightweight athlete Eddie Alvarez previously said he was interested in taking a fight with ONE lightweight champion Christian Lee on US soil. However, Sityodtong has said that ‘The Underground King’ may have to wait his turn before challenging for the world title.
According to the ONE CEO, the former UFC and Bellator champion was about “one or two fights away” from a title shot. Alvarez most recently defeated Eduard Folayang by technical submission at ONE: Dawn Of Heroes on August of last year.
“I’d love to see Eddie eventually contend for the title. Eddie against Christian would be a phenomenal fight,” Sityodtong said. “The young lion vs the grizzled veteran … but I wouldn’t put Eddie in the veteran category yet, he still has his prime days ahead.
“He’s had his ups and downs. I think he’s gonna have a big surge here. He wants to be the first person to secure world titles in the three major organisations. He’s conquered UFC and Bellator, so he wants to conquer the ONE world title, and then be the only person on the planet to do that.
“I think he needs another one or two fights. His debut, he got knocked out in the first round [vs Timofey Nastyukhin]; he was losing to Eduard Folayang decisively, everyone would agree, before he staged the biggest comeback possibly of his career. So kudos to Eddie.
“They didn’t rank Eddie in the top five. I would probably put him in the top five, but I don’t think the rankings are far off from reality. Eddie is probably top seven or five. People could argue he’s top five, I think definitely in the top 10, but the lightweight division in ONE Championship is super stacked.”
Alvarez still has his best days ahead of him in ONE and perhaps a world title fight shouldn’t be too long a wait for the MMA veteran, even if it means one or two more fights.
Brandon Vera vs Arjan Bhullar
Prior to the pandemic, Brandon Vera was scheduled to defend the ONE heavyweight championship against Arjan Bhullar. Now that the coronavirus has eased, Sityodtong has said that the fight will proceed.
“Brandon Vera’s next fight is Arjan Bhullar. They’re both signed, they’re ready to go. We were supposed to do that in May before the pandemic,” said the ONE CEO. “But Brandon just had a baby so we want to give him a little bit of time to enjoy the birth of his child and spend time with his family. But I do envision Brandon defending his title this year against Arjan Bhullar.”
Before the end of this year, we can expect to see a heavyweight title showdown between the Filipino-American champion and the Indian-Canadian challenger.
Last week, ONE lightweight champion Christian Lee announced that he has began his next fight camp.
Martin Nguyen vs Thanh Le
Another title fight that had been scheduled prior to the pandemic was a featherweight title bout between Martin Nguyen and Thanh Le. The Vietnamese-American had stamped his ticket to a title shot by defeating Ryogo Takahashi at ONE: A New Tomorrow in January of this year. This fight would have a huge impact on Vietnamese MMA. Sityodtong has also confirmed that the fight between the two is still on and will take place within the year.
“That fight is happening this year,” the ONE CEO said.
In the last few hours, Nguyen has taken to social media to suggest he’s returning back to Sanford MMA in Florida, to get his training camp underway.
It looks like ONE Championship has a packed schedule before the end of 2020. But nevertheless, it will be an exciting year full of action and thrills, despite the obstacles the organisation has had to overcome.
ONE Championship continues with its action with ONE: A New Breed 2 this Friday, September 11th in Bangkok, Thailand.