Interview: ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong

InfluentialBrands® Top CEO of the Year 2017 and award-winning Asian Corporate Business Entrepreneur Chatri Sityodtong is a highly influential Mixed Martial Arts impresario.

He has claimed sought after professional sports industry accolades such as being officially named and awarded as “The Most Powerful Person in Asian MMA” and “The Most Influential Executive In Asian MMA” by Yahoo! Sports and Forbes.

Sityodtong, has led ONE Championship’s boom in Asia and around the globe, marking significant increases and growth in social media influence and television distribution in the past three years. Under Sityodtong’s vision, ONE Championship has officially garnered 8.3 billion social media impressions in 2017, from just 352 million in 2014, which is more than a 23x increase. Social media video views have also increased heavily, totaling 1.5 billion across multiple platforms, compared to 312,000 just three years prior.

Furthermore, ONE Championship has posted astronomical increases in global TV distribution, now being broadcast to a potential 1 billion viewers in over 128 countries worldwide. In the past three years alone, ONE Championship has come to a peak TV ratings share of 1-2% to a staggering 11-36%; an increase of up to 36x the amount of growth.

In comparison, TV ratings in Asia for global sports media properties such as the English Premier League, Formula 1, and the NBA only sit at 1-6%. This includes an increase in annual TV broadcast per core country, coming from 12-18 hours to a phenomenal 100-2800 hours, which is more than a 230x spike.

Dean Perretta of FOX Sports 1340 AM caught up with Sityodtong to discuss the popularity and growth of ONE Championship. Sityodtong is considered to be one of the best professional sports coaches on the planet. Perretta would ask him about his goals for his organization in 2018.

Dean Perretta: First and foremost Chatri, congratulations on being named InfluentialBrands Top CEO of the Year. What does this accolade mean to you personally and how humbling is it receive such a prestigiously distinct and sought after honor?

Chatri Sityodtong: It is an honor to receive the 2017 Top CEO of the Year Award from Influential Brands, but I have to give credit to an amazing team we have at ONE Championship. ONE Championship promises to continue to dedicate itself to highlighting Asia’s greatest cultural treasure, martial arts, and telling its inspirational stories through our local homegrown martial arts superheroes.

We are just at the beginning of our 2018 calendar. We already opened the year with two blockbuster events. The reception that we had at those two events promises to be an even better year for our company, and I can’t wait to share every moment with our beloved fans.

DP: Named and awarded as “The Most Powerful Person in Asian MMA” and “The Most Influential Executive In Asian MMA” by Yahoo! Sports and Forbes. With that being said, what have been the greatest challenges and obstacles that you’ve had to successfully overcome both in your life and professional career?

CS: Managing any business, let alone the sports business, is certainly not easy by any means. But if you have passion and love for what you do, it will drive you, and you will experience success. Out of all, I am proud of developing our local martial arts superheroes and telling their real-life stories. We, as an organization, take great pride in telling these stories. Our athletes have amazing stories, and being able to inspire people from all over the world is the best thing about this business. Uniting the millions of people in Asia to celebrate our greatest cultural treasure, martial arts, is what drives us.

Nearly seven years ago, there was a lot of resistance because people mistakenly thought it was about fighting and violence. But it’s not. ONE Championship is about showing the beauty of martial arts, the rich heritage, its tradition, and the values of martial arts. This is not about street fighting and whatnot. That was a common misperception that we had to overcome.

Organizations in the West have done a great job, marketing to their fans, emphasizing the negative trash talking or the arrogance or the bravado, the machismo, whatever you want to call it, bottle-throwing and swearing at live event or press conferences. You’ll never see that in Asia.

It is not part of our culture or part of our ethos. Again, it works well in the western hemisphere because that’s what resonates with the American audience. But you can’t just use the cookie cutter form and think that it’s going to work in Asia.

I’ve been doing 30 years of martial arts for my entire life. I am a true martial artist thick and thin, and I believe in martial arts’ values and the cultures and everything it taught me, the humility, the courage, the honor, the respect; these are part of the fabric of Asian society.

That’s what we want to celebrate. We want to celebrate that never in history have we had a platform that unifies four billion people to celebrate Asian heroes who exemplify Asian values until today.

DP: Globally acclaimed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 6th degree black belt under the legendary Carlos Gracie Jr, Renzo Gracie, was once quoted as saying, “Evolve (MMA) is the best MMA school in Asia and has the highest quality instruction in the world.” In terms of methodology, what  do you feel separates Evolve MMA from other Mixed Martial Arts academies around the globe?

CS: Our mission is to unleash greatness in everyone through authentic martial arts under world champions. By creating a safe, fun, and supportive environment, Evolve enables everyone to enjoy the benefits of martial arts such as fitness and good health as well as confidence, mental strength, and discipline. At evolve, we teach self-defense for the real world.

We offer programs for complete beginners to advanced competitors. All age groups, genders, skill levels, and fitness levels are welcome. Evolve has the highest standards of excellence and you can expect the highest quality martial arts instruction available anywhere in the world. Each course at Evolve has been carefully developed in order to maximize your learning in the least amount of time.

Our goal is to help you to evolve into everything that you can be. The Evolve Motto is “Unleash Your Greatness” since it is about your journey to unleashing your potential as a human being. Another important philosophical cornerstone at Evolve is that all of our courses are rooted in reality. You will learn self-defense for the real world, and you will develop a keen understanding of how to protect yourself in real life.

DP: MSN officially named you Chatri as one of the best professional sports coaches in the entire world alongside Manchester City Head Coach Pep Guardiola, Manchester United Head Coach José Mourinho, Manchester United’s 13-time English Premier League winning Head Coach Sir Alex Ferguson and Wink MMA’s Greg Jackson. What did you learn most under the late-great Thai combat sports icon Yodtong Senanan in order to become such a great coach?

CS: The quote ‘In life, the best attracts the best. And the best produce the best.’ is one of the most important life lessons that my teacher, Kru Yodtong Senanan, used to share with me always over the last 25+ years until his passing. It was his simple formula for success. As the founder of Sityodtong Camp, he produced the most number of Muay Thai World Champions in history and he gave a life to thousands of orphans in Thailand.

A lot of the lessons that I have learned in life came directly from my training in martial arts. Martial arts is what truly saved my life. There were times back when I was young that the odds were stacked incredibly high, but because I hold the values that martial arts teaches dear to my heart, I was able to overcome many difficult situations. I have come from poverty when my family went bankrupt during the Asian financial crisis. We had to make ends meet one way or another. But I had a goal in mind and because at the time Muay Thai taught me to never give up and to persevere, I brought that mentality into my daily life.

Scars are proof that we are human, that we are vulnerable and that we can get hurt and that we can go through the hardships and life. But they are also proof that we can overcome our obstacles and if we work hard enough, we can make it. We can achieve our dreams.

Though being an entrepreneur is different from being a martial artist, I can confidently say that the lessons I have learned through martial arts have directly impacted my life and the way I hold my business. Without martial arts, I wouldn’t be standing here today living the life of my dreams.

DP: Last but most certainly not least Chatri, your very successful businesses have been featured on ESPN, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, New York Times, Reuters, Yahoo! Sports, MSN, Men’s Health, China Post, Times of India and the Jakarta Globe to name a few. What are your major goals for 2018?

CS: Every single year, ONE Championship always makes a landmark and groundbreaking feats. In 2018, aside from having 24 events, the organization will venture into new market. It’s a big achievement for us as we expand into a brand new territory and highlight Asia’s greatest cultural treasure.

ONE Championship has become the platform that unifies four billion people to celebrate Asian heroes who exemplify Asian values until today. ONE Championship chooses to honor the true essence of martial arts — honor, discipline, respect — these are some of the principles that our martial artists embody.

We have experienced such exponential growth. ONE Championship is popular because we built this organization with the Asian people in mind. Asia is the birthplace of martial arts and we felt it was right to showcase all the local talent here to the rest of the world.

Our vision is to become a part of everyday life for everyone in Asia. I envision a world where everyone in Asia will tune into our events every weekend. There is no reason why it should not happen because Asia has always been the home of martial arts.

More predictions and analysis at Doc’s Sports.

Follow Dean on Twitter @DeanPerretta

(Photo Credit: ONE Championship)

Dean Perretta
Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.