They were officially unveiled to mixed martial arts (MMA) fans as the newest fighters in the One Championship on Wednesday (7 November), and former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez wasted no time in disparaging the American promotion company.
During a glitzy media conference at Marina Bay Sands, ostensibly to publicise for Friday’s Heart of the Lion fight event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the two MMA stars shared the limelight with the main-event fighters, Bibiano Fernandes and Kevin Belingon.
Criticism directed at UFC
And Alvarez, 34, fired the first salvo when he said, “Where I’ve been, they’ve kind of lost their way. I feel like I’ve found my way with the One Championship family. I can respect my opponents and I can go in and fight like a man. I know my journey in martial arts can truly be appreciated here.”
Johnson, 32, also echoed Alvarez’s sentiments. When the former UFC flyweight champion was asked how he has fit in with his newest fight promoters, he instead veered off and answered, “I spent seven years fighting in North America, but my previous company, they are into creating chaos and drama.
“Respect, honour and integrity – North America does not appreciate these traits,” he continued. “I’m not controversial, I just want to do martial arts, and after seven years, I feel that this is finally the place I want to be.”
Debuts at grand prix tournaments
The two illustrious fighters will make their One Championship debuts next year in two grand prix fight tournaments, featuring eight top fighters each in the lightweight and flyweight divisions. While the brackets and matchups have yet to be revealed, the winner of each division will have a shot at the ONE Championship titles.
Alavarez, the only fighter to have held title belts in both the UFC and the Bellator MMA, will compete in the lightweight division, where he could face the likes of Amir Khan, Ariel Sexton, Eduard Folayang and Shinya Aoki. Johnson could take on flyweights such as Kairat Akhmetov, Adriano Moraes and Geje Eustaquio.
For Alvarez, who has won titles in every fight company he has worked for, he wants the One Championship title belt to complete his collection.
“It’s about finding the best guys in the division, and challenging every one of them,” the American said. “I want to start with a clean slate here, but I’ve certainly set my sights on winning the belt.”
E-sports venture for One C’ship in 2019
As One Championship chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong proudly showed off his prized signings, he also announced that his company intends to lead a plan to invest up to US$50 million (S$68.7 million) to create Asia’s largest global e-sports championship series – One eSports.
Together with key partners such as Singapore companies Razer and Singtel, as well as Japan’s largest global advertising agency Dentsu, this joint venture will see One eSports hold a number of events alongside One Championship martial arts events next year.
Gaming company Razer, in particular, will provide its expertise in the e-sports industry to run an e-sports tournament or series in partnership with One eSports.
Johnson, an avid gamer, will help to lead One eSports’ efforts as its chief brand ambassador.
“We see a natural crossover between martial arts and gaming fans in Asia, and an opportunity to bring them together,” Chatri said. “One Championship is committed to bringing its brand of large-scale even production and live broadcast capabilities, unique world-class content production, global media distribution, storytelling expertise, and marketing experience to One eSports.”
Angela Lee withdraws with back injury
First up though is Friday’s fight night, which has been rocked by the injury withdrawal of popular atomweight women’s champion Angela Lee, who fights in Singapore colours. The 22-year-old suffered a cracked disc in her back in training last week.
As a result, her co-main event fight with China’s Xiong Jingnan for the women’s strawweight title has been postponed. Taking the place on the card will be a men’s catchweight (73kg) bout featuring Lee’s younger brother Christian taking on Japan’s Kazuki Tokudome.
The other main event fight sees Brazilian Fernandes and Filipino Belingon square off in a bantamweight world championship unification bout.
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