One Championship lays off staff as MMA shows halted by COVID-19

SINGAPORE: Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion, One Championship, said on Monday (Jun 15) it was cutting 20 per cent of its employees worldwide after being unable to stage fight cards for almost four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Singapore-based organisation, which promotes cards across Asia in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing, has between 201 and 500 employees, according to its LinkedIn profile.

One Championship said in a statement it had raised an additional US$70 million to its “war chest”, bringing its total capital to US$346 million but added it had also “streamlined operations, including a 20 per cent reduction of total worldwide headcount”.

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Social distancing and other measures to contain the virus have forced the closure of sporting events worldwide and One Championship’s last event was held behind closed doors in Singapore on Feb 28, said a spokesman.

Four events were planned to be held without fans in Singapore during April and May, but they had to be shelved because of the country’s “circuit breaker” measures.

Another event on May 29 in Manila was also cancelled because the Philippines remained under lockdown.

One Championship chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong has said it is unclear when fights can resume, because of the travel restrictions, quarantine and distancing rules imposed by governments across Asia.

Chatri Sityadtong, chairman and CEO of ONE Championship, Asia's largest MMA promotion
Chatri Sityadtong, chairman and CEO of ONE Championship, Asia’s largest MMA promotion AFP/ROSLAN RAHMAN

Apart from fighters, the company also has to bring in referees, ring girls, coaches, training partners and its own staff into any country hosting an event.

Infrastructure such as the fighting cage has to be shipped and constructed at each venue, and although local staff are used for installations the company needs to provide its own supervisors, the spokesperson said.

READ: About 3,800 companies closed down in April; expect uptick in coming months: Chee Hong Tat

The US-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on May 10 became one of the first sports to restart post-coronavirus.

It has so far successfully put on six UFC shows in tightly controlled environments under COVID-19 testing protocols in Jacksonville, Florida, and Las Vegas.

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