ONE drops Japan and Seoul from first half event schedule

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Shinya Aoki says ONE could be fighting for its survival in 2020.

ONE Championship gets its 2020 campaign underway in Bangkok this weekend, where flyweight Muay Thai champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon defends his crown against former champ Jonathan Haggerty in the main event of ONE: A New Tomorrow.

The event is part of an expanding calendar that will include “a minimum” of 50 events, according to ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

In a press announcement last November, Sityodtong said that will include events from ONE Championship, its Hero Series, Warrior Series and Esports ventures. He also said that while nothing was 100% confirmed, initial discussions for US and India were ongoing.

Before the year gets underway, ONE has already shuffled the decks, dropping Japan and South Korea from its first half plans.

After an intense focus on the Japanese market in 2019, its return to Tokyo on 5 April has been removed, along with a planned South Korean event on 19 June. Instead, ONE: Legendary Warriors will now take place in Guangzhou on 20 June, postponing yet again its South Korean debut.

Strong headwinds

Japan was a big part of ONE’s story in 2019 and postponing the event is intriguing. Just last week former lightweight champion Shinya Aoki warned of a slowdown in Japan and said ONE could be fighting for its survival in 2020.

Aoki’s claim is a sobering view of a story that ONE tends to spin as overly positive.

ONE, for example, claimed its second Japanese show ONE: Century drew 85 million viewers – that’s bordering Super Bowl numbers, an event that generates tens of millions in sponsorship revenue.

While its still early days, it shows nothing is certain in a MMA market that is not immune to the headwinds of economic pressure. Strap yourself in, it should be a wild and wonderful year.

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