The main course on everyone’s platter through the last couple of days has been ONE FC. Since last week’s press conference, names circling the promotion have ranged from Renzo Gracie versus Sakuraba, to Manny Pacquiao as a special guest. News from the promotion is even making it all the way to Europe. Several interviews with fighters from the next event, Pride of a Nation in Manila on August 31st, were published as well, on what marks the one year anniversary of the promotion’s launch.
Recently on Twitter, Evolve MMA Coach and Founder Chatri Sityodtong called for a super fight rematch between Renzo Gracie and Sakuraba, and told ONE FC Boss Victor Cui AND UFC’s Dana White to make it happen. Considering the previous rumors of Sakuraba’s retirement match to be in DREAM against Shinya Aoki, and now that ONE FC has culled some of the stalemated promotion’s champions from the roster, it stands to reason that a Sakuraba fight could most easily happen in ONE FC more than in any other promotion. Whether it would be a rematch with a Gracie, an exhibition bout, or a true war remains to be seen.
Other fighters in the news surrounding ONE FC aren’t necessarily household names, but perhaps they soon will be. ONE FC is cementing itself as an organization that gives up and coming regional and regionally-based talent the opportunity to face international opponents. Much like Zorobabel Moreira‘s upset over Roger Huerta, Leandro Issa‘s over Masakazu Imanari, and Kevin Belingon‘s previous opportunity to face the Master of Leglocks, on the next card Australia’s Philippine’s-trained Nicholas Mann and Eric Kelly are set to fight Gregor Gracie and Jens Pulver respectively. In this article by Alfred Gealogo on MMA-FC, Nick Mann says what it feels like to be given such a huge break in his career:
“It’s awesome to be fighting Gregor Gracie and I’m wrapped to be fighting at One FC. Gregor Gracie is a world-class competitor in MMA and I’m really excited to have to opportunity to fight against someone of his caliber!”
Gustavo Falciroli, CFC Champion out of Australia also takes on the biggest fight of his career to date when he faces DREAM Champion Bibiano Fernandes. In his interview with Eddie Goldman on No Holds Barred, he attested to the weight of this opportunity:
“I’m going to the big leagues and trying to show what I am to the world. So that’s the way. Step-by-step the world’s going to get to know me.”
Even Soa Palelei is stoked. From Opposing Viewpoints via MMASucka, he was quoted as saying:
“I got a few fights on the table from a few different organizations that wanted me to sign with and when they contacted me about fighting Andrei Arlovski I thought ‘hell yeah man’.”
Not only Asia-Pac residents are clamoring for opportunities in ONE FC. In this interview on MiddleEasy, British-based James McSweeney says he offered to fight no less than Rolles Gracie, Fedor, and Andrei Arlovski in ONE FC, and now thinks the only way to get his career back on track is to fight Babalu. And ONE FC’s reach is starting spread even further west than the UK, as this article on The European Fight Network suggests.
Of course, this leaves the door open for everyone to speculate who will be on the next card. There are a potential of six bouts left to fill against previously mentioned fighters to appear Shinya Aoki, Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Mitch Chilson, and the remainder of the three Gracies, Igor and Rolles. MMA Orient calls for Folayang’s opponent to be Felipe Enomoto, rounding out the triumvirate round robin that includes Ole Laursen. If the speculation on the next card in the Philippines is satiated soon, then speculation on the next card back in Singapore on October 6th can begin. Called King of Kings, as The Fight Nation broke, ONE FC 6 will crown its first champions. Where they will come from is also anyone’s guess; ONE FC has even signed the first professional Pakistani MMA fighter Bashir Ahmad.
The man behind the matches is now named to be none other than Rules Official and Head Referee, Matt Hume. MMA-Japan breaks that he has stepped down from his previous positions in the organization and taken up the mantle of Vice President of Operations. MMA-Japan names him, along with ONE FC CEO Victor Cui, Evolve MMA Founder Chatri Sityodtong, UFC Asia MD Mark Fischer, and URCC Founder Alvin Aguilar as the most influential people in MMA in Asia right now.
With this much attention also comes controversy. This article from James Goyder on MMAMAnia details a reported rivalry between Legend FC and ONE FC regarding territory, fighters, broadcast, and fraternity. When ONE FC announced its intent to form a Network of promotions and gyms to work on cosponsoring events and fighter sharing, Legend FC declined to join. They also announced their intent to host shows in other cities across Asia, which hasn’t yet materialized through nine consecutive events. Legend FC signed a distribution agreement with ESPN International at approximately the same time ONE FC announced a broadcast partnership with ESPN StarSports, yet hasn’t secured a broadcast to date. Based on primarily on these facts, Goyder states:
“If it was a war between the two promotions, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this was the case, there has only been one clear winner. ONE Fighting Championship has become the superpower of Asian MMA while Legend FC has completely failed to fulfill its ambition to expand outside the Chinese territories and looks increasingly like a a small town show.”
Legend FC has rostered some of the top talent from the ashes of organizations like Art Of War and Sengoku such as Zhang TieQuan, Jadamba Narantungalag, Arthit Hanchana, Fransino Tirta, and Wu HaoTian, and top fighters from other organizations such as Adrian Pang, Jumabieke Tuerxun, and Kevin Belingon. However, this year has seen several of the elite move on to sign with ONE FC, RUFF and other organizations offering bigger purses and brighter lights. Legend FC has also let go its Vice President of Business Development, Aaron Randolph, who was previously the UFC’s first employee in China, helping to establish their broadcast presence and getting Zhang signed. Meanwhile, ONE FC has been hiring up – scalping Loren Mack, previously of WEC and UFC, for the position of Senior Manager of Public Relations.
Legend FC’s fare will continue as they’ve released information for their tenth event, and have plans in place for future shows. If a competitive advantage needs to be stated, it goes to ONE FC for it’s dominance in the public eye, in the press, in it’s roster of highly marketable fighters, and in it’s sheer determination to corner MMA in Asia. These have made ONE FC indeed a force to be reckoned with.
* Edited to include content for Gustavo Falciroli and Soa Palelei