For this op-ed, I dive into the subject of hyperbole and certain fictions surrounding ONE Championship. Encircling their bold claims - with the organizations’ lack of transparency and rectitude: the choruses’ sang by the promoter, along with their business decisions, social and cultural draws, and their accompanying implications through it all. I re-state the essential realities supported by the work of many MMA publications and additional academic sources.
Integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, and discipline. Does this ring a bell? By this time in our current panorama of the MMA realm, these words fall under not only deaf ears within the entire MMA fan community, but more evidently an MMA community that chuckles in satirizing fate. If there were such a thing as an MMA thesaurus, the terms virtue signaling, pontificate, and sanctimonious would include not only the definitions, but also photos attached alongside their definitions; photos specifically of Chatri Sityodtong – the carnival barker of MMA promotion. And no, I didn’t come up with this nickname all by myself. The MMA community will have to thank Mr. Marc Raimondi for coming up with this unsullied term for Chatri; expressed during my first ever interaction with the big man himself through the famed "A-Side Live Chat" - courtesy of Bloody Elbows’ big brother website.
The choruses’ sang by Chatri: business success – linked to PR.
John Nash stated it best. "One of my favorite genres is ONE Championship press releases disguised as independent news. Can't imagine who this is fooling." By this point, MMA fans and most of the MMA media and journalists - simply roll their eyes each time a ONE PR press release is publicized. In fact, every time my eyes have greeted a press release from the organization, I truly ask: why am I continually being insulted? The ‘billions and billions’, wait for it, "potential reach". Keep your eyes peeled for that folks, as you can tell that PR for ONE shrivels in loathing for that adjective.
I know I know, I sound like quite the pessimistic and gloomy critic. I can’t help it; I seek the veracity of truth. Nevertheless, the latest ONE ratings numbers are in: the 100th event did a whopping 85 million viewers globally. Yes, your prescription glasses aren’t defective. The number is taken straight from their latest press release, in conjunction with their business partner Nielsen – a global measurement and data analytics company, which provides the viewership numbers on ONE’s behalf. Simple right? Nope.
Upon closer investigation, and my own personal suspicious belief (along with just about every MMA fan and media member), I wanted to do some digging into how these viewership numbers came to be.
After speaking with Bloody Elbow’s own John Nash, he confirmed my suspicions of this in its entirety. During an interview with Ariel Helwani in December of 2018, Chatri stated that the organization averages a whopping 20 million viewers per show, while he then stated that any questions regarding this and confirmation - can be made be reaching out to Nielsen themselves. John Nash did in fact pursue this by reaching out to Nielsen via email, seeking to confirm these magnanimous viewership numbers.
A representative from Nielsen stated to John Nash that the viewership numbers that ONE quotes are based on multiple sources, not just Nielsen data, therefore it would be best for John to authenticate the numbers with ONE directly. John responded to Nielsen with reference to Chatri’s statements on Ariel Helwani’s show, as well as stating that ONE will not answer his requests for clarification; while John again asked: "Is your team saying that the 20 million number is not a number reported by Nielsen?". Nielsen’s response was that, once again, Nash needed to reach out to ONE for comment, as Nielsen was unable to assist him with a sense of confirmation. Nash experienced these same forms of indisposed communication in the past with both parties; while in my terms, he was surely getting the ‘ring – around’.
Nash states, "I had a similar exchange in April, where I asked for confirmation of a number ONE said came from Nielsen. Nielsen wouldn’t confirm, instead they turn told me that I’d have to speak to someone at ONE, but when I contacted that person I didn’t get a reply." There you have it once again folks, confirmation that is not confirmation.
Not all heroes wear capes, as I look at journalists like Nash as true heroes that sit atop the throne of real, authentic, truth-finding reporting.
What is journalism for? [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://archives.cjr.org/cover_story/what_is_journalism_for.php
The Outlines’ Jon Christian provides some context in juxtaposition to this; well, the antithesis, as these press releases seem to sink the idea of journalism for the tainted. It’s clear as the blue sky that certain publicists convert some writers to, as Jon Christian states, "secretly mention or link their clients in stories on HuffPost, Forbes, and other sites". This is painstaking to see within a few pieces I read as an MMA fan. This represents the contrasts of objective, genuine, and valid journalism, as I often am feeling that I need to essentially pull my hair out reading such forms of wary payola commentary or brown envelope reporting. While I am not accusing this form of journalism to be paid off on these websites mentioned – from a PR standpoint; more so, it makes me simply uncomfortable to read such bizarre high praise and reinstatement of bold, hyperbole claims. I’ll leave it at that, and let the readers decide for themselves what to think when these particular forms of reporting pieces are patched out in the Google search engine.
Whitewashing – Sports Propaganda
Diving in. Ah, it’s now time to truly dive into the bold sweeping claims made by Chatri. "ONE Championship is filled with good human beings who are also good martial artists." "Building heroes for the world." "True role models for society". "We don’t sell fights; we build heroes." Yup, we’re just getting started.
Within an interview with MMA Weekly in November 2017, in regards to a reporter suggesting that the "west" promotes bombastic characters, Chatri responded sarcastically by stating, "Would you be proud to have these characters in your children’s bedroom" [in reference to posters]. Let’s unpack this.
Yes, I would be proud to have characters such as GSP in my children’s bedroom in poster image form. And no, I would not want such fighters as Timothy Nastyukhin (most notably the man to stop the underground king Eddie Alvarez in his debut with ONE), who has also fought for prominent fascist, white nationalist fight clubs known White Rex - shown in posters as prominent sports figures in my children’s bedroom.
Diving into the grim now. I would also become nauseous to the idea of having my children idolize or look up to any of ONE’s fighters who have association with, been praised and awarded by, and have any involvement with the brutal Min Aung Hlaing and his military of Myanmar. Along with the State Counselor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi - famously known for turning a blind eye to and refusing to acknowledge her government militaries horrific ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.
For the readers who are unaware, the Rohingya people are recognized as an ethnic minority that inhabit the far northern region of Myanmar's Rakhine State (previously known as Arakan), and have been defined as one of the worlds' most oppressed and abused minorities.
According to The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, The UN, Amnesty International and the BBC, it is estimated that nearly 730,000 Rohingya men, women, and children faced the obliteration of their homes and widespread oppression, with nearly 25,000 of them killed alone in the past few years by the hands of the Myanmar military within the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (Burma).
Based on the reporting of NPR, A U.N. fact-finding mission stated last year that the Myanmar military "took the lead in killing thousands of Rohingya civilians, as well as forced disappearances, mass gang rape and the burning of hundreds of villages." It recommended that Min Aung Hlaing and other top leaders be tried for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." The degree to which these genocidal war crimes have been documented in the region under his command are simply stomach-turning.
"Christopher Sidoti, Marzuki Darusman and Radhika Coomaraswamy, members of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar attend a news conference on the publication of its final written report at the United Nations in Geneva." [Digital Image]. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/myanmar-army-chief-must-be-prosecuted-for-genocide-against-rohingya-muslims-un-report-says-1.764122
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who also is a Nobel peace laureate, is doubling down on her denial of the genocide taking place. According to the New York Times, the government of Myanmar announced on Wednesday that its leader, "will head a legal team it will send to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to contest a case of genocide filed against it".
Stated by Agence France-Presse within The Telegraph - and more specifically, the West African nation Gambia; is expected to reveal its case of complaint in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in December of this year, "on behalf of the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation." The West African nation is accusing Myanmar of breaking the 1948 UN Genocide Convention through its vicious military crusade in 2017, which specifically went after the Rohingya minority.
Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters. [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/20/aung-san-suu-kyi-to-defend-myanmar-against-genocide-charge-at-the-hague
From a social media standpoint, Facebook has also banned the top general Min Aung Hlaing along with 19 other top Burmese officials and organizations from its platform, following a United Nations investigation advocating that they, as Oliver Slow from VOA News states, "face a trial for genocide following last year’s brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State."
And according to an article by The Guardian – within the South China Morning Post, Twitter has also banned the top general from its platform. This was a result after Tun Khin - who is the president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK- met Twitter executives in their headquarters questioning the social media giant regarding why the top generals account is still live. Tun Kinh then went on to state: "The fact that Twitter has joined Facebook in deleting his account – which he used to sow hatred and spew out his defensive propaganda – is a massive victory for the Rohingya people."
These atrocities have reached the attention of the United States, as according to The Straits Times, on July 16th 2019, the country "banned visits by Myanmar's army chief and three other top officers due to their role in the "ethnic cleaning" of the Rohingya minority, urging accountability for their brutal campaign".
"Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces, in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on March 27, 2016." Ye Aung Thu—AFP/Getty Images. [Digital Image]. (2016). Retrieved from https://time.com/5004822/myanmar-rohingya-min-aung-hlaing/
Top general Min Aung Hlaing – has provided Aung La Nsang – the current middleweight and light heavyweight champion of ONE – a substantial degree of praise, by asserting that the ethnic Kachin fighter represents the unconquerable spirit of Myanmar, "the pride of the nation". In July 2018, General Min Aung Hlaing and his defense military of armed forces presented Aung La N Sang with a letter of recognition and support, along with a cash award as a gesture of appreciation. It’s worth noting that the three branches of the Myanmar armed forces have shown considerable praise to the ONE Champion over the years as well.
In February of 2018, Aung La Nsang was also honored by General Min Aung Hlaing and Tatmadaw - air force, army, and navy representatives of his region. These individuals represent the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief, as Aung La was presented with a $10 million cash prize (within his countries form of currency), in addition to a certificate of honor provided by the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief.
Victor Cui – CEO and Owner of ONE Championship – seen with Aung La NSang and top Myanmar military generals, including General Min Aung Hlaing.
Stated within his comments for The Irrawaddy, a political website founded by Burmese exiles living in Thailand, and claiming to have an impartial stance on Burmese politics; the ONE middleweight and light-heavyweight champion noted – in regards to his meeting with the State Counselor - "Somewhere in our conversation, I felt like I was talking a close family I’ve know for my entire life. It’s amazing how sweet and relatable she is. My family loves her and she inspires me to be a better person."
The Irrawaddy - English Edition. [Digital Image]. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/theirrawaddy/photos/pcb.1797540796957436/1797540520290797/?type=3&theater
The constant puffery of Myanmar athletes and the promotion of events in the region – aiming to showcase the region as incredibly positive, without any remote mention or charitable donation to the Rohignya refugees is not only unsettling, it is simply doleful.
As incomprehensibly malevolent these ethnic cleansing realities are, and the realities of the region that are carefully not revealed through the select promotion of the ONE Myannmar stars of the company (Aung La N Sang most notably), it’s disappointing to see an organization pride itself on how holier-than-thou they tend to preach. Heck, Aung La N Sang literally deleted the word Rohingya from a social media post, following many hateful Myanmar fans ripping him to shreds for attempting to show compassion to the ethic Muslim minority. I credit him for at least trying, I’ll say.
As Aung La N Sang stated "Whenever I post stuff, I like to post cool videos or cool photos from Myanmar. That’s how I share Myanmar with the rest of the world". I certainly wish that showing a small sample of the truth can one day be projected by the the multiple-time world champion.
Scandal and Drug Free
ONE Championship claims drug testing to commence in 2019 through WADA. [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://thebodylockmma.com/one-championship/whats-going-on-with-one-championship-wada/
The choruses’ sang by Chatri linked to PR – additionally extend to his pontification of remaining scandal free. In an interview with MMA Weekly in 2017, Chatri is seen to be boasting about the scandal free values of the organization: "It’s no coincidence that in the last 6 years, we’ve had zero scandals compared to our western counterparts who have weekly or daily scandals of whether their athletes are going to prison or doing cocaine or steroids or whatever it is". (To remind the reader, zero forms of drug testing were initiated by ONE during this time). He then goes on state how he celebrates the truest forms of martial arts.
Chatri’s pious claim of upholding a scandal free organization is patently false (i.e. the death of a fighter in their organization in 2015). The organization completely, and rightfully so (which I will give them credit for), changed its weigh-in policies and procedures as a result of 21-year-old Yang Jian Bing - tragically passing away from extreme weight cutting in December of 2015, with Scott Harris initially reporting on this.
In an interview with Business Insider in October of this year, Chatri claims that no scandals have been associated with the "top stars" of the organization *cough*.
The suzerain titleholder of PED evidence, Vitor Belort – promoted as a "legend" and a positive ambassador for the organization exemplifies the values of martial arts – according to Chatri. I know, I’m scratching my head as well.
I wonder how Michael Bispings’ eye feels after he became legally blind along with the actual removal of his eye, as a result of Vitor’s PED head kick reign. The moment performing enhancing drugs are taken away from the legend himself, his fighting career was shown to go drastically downhill. ONE even has a video promoting their new star, entitled "Vitor Belfort – ONE Fast Facts". Facts indeed...
Michael Bisping reveals extent of eye injury as he removes ‘glass eye’ live on podcast. [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://themaclife.com/featured-posts/51078/
The issue of PED and drug related scandals are absent in the organization for one reason and one reason alone: questionable drug testing, or lack thereof. Some of ONE’s biggest stars such as Gary Tonnon and Eddie Alvarez, have been quoted in past interviews stating that they are not aware of any drug testing, while also not being aware of any of their opponents actual weigh-in results on weigh-in days (we’ll tackle that asterisk later). Martin Nguyen, who is the current featherweight and former bantamweight champion of the organization, stated in an interview to The Body Lock: "I always thought it was mandatory to at least test for any anabolics, testosterone, TRT – just standard testing – in ONE Championship, until I found out that they really don’t test at all."
To add onto this area of obscure mystery are the puzzling comments shared by the GOAT (well, considered to be by many including Israel Adesanya); we’re talking about Demetrious Johnson. In his statement to Abhinav Kini of Low Kick MMA in April of this year, he notes: "People over in North America might think that everyone over in ONE Championship is on the juice. We get drug tested. I got drug tested two times." "I got tested Saturday at my last weigh-in, and then I got tested right after the fight. [They] took two samples, just like I did with [United States Anti-Doping Agency], and they took it to the [World Anti-Doping Agency] labs."
That’s right folks, a whole two times – with one on the actual day of weigh-ins, with the other the following day. Someone please, inform DJ how the process of cycling off of PED’s works.
Essentially, when a fighter knows the exact day following a fight camp that the tests will take place on, it is common sense at this point to grasp the legitimate proficiency PED users have perfected in cycling out PED’s once they know the dates in the future to prepare for. Valid and credible drug testing is seen in random drug testing; all throughout a fighters time within an organization and through random periods during a fight camp especially. Simply put, this is how you catch a PD user DJ. Sorry to break it to you.
And in terms of tainted supplements (i.e. Nate Diaz), we all have enough understanding of this debacle by this point. And it’s very likely at this stage of his career: DJ is not that stifling naïve; thus, why his statement is all the more perplexing.
Expanding on this subject matter, in 2016 - in an interview with The Straits Times, Chatri provides a prattle based - imprudent perspective on this matter, in which the reason behind ONE not carrying out doping controls was because of the ‘culture of martial arts.’ In the interview, Chatri "insisted the culture of respect in martial arts – and the poor economic backgrounds of many fighters – meant drug-cheating was unlikely". *Face palm*.
Maybe now in 2019 he’s changed his tune. Interestingly, in January of this year, Chatri stated at a ONE press conference the following: "It is true that we began doing WADA testing actually last year," as he then promised that more announcements will be following very soon with further details. He then went on to add, "Good news is: last year we did a lot of tests, and 95-97% of our athletes came out clean." This year is going to be full out – WADA standard testing"
WADA’s Response: The Truth
WADA: Second international pharmaceutical conference addresses doping in sport. [Digital Image]. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ifpma.org/resource-centre/wada-second-international-pharmaceutical-conference-addresses-doping-in-sport/
In their statement to The Body Lock, WADA Manager of Media Relations and Communications Maggie Durand confirmed what we’re all thinking.
"We were recently made aware of these claims. ONE Championship was not and is not a WADA Code Signatory – therefore they do not fall under our remit."
The steps to become a WADA Code Signatory are stated on the official WADA website; stating that an entity must follow their code, printed as "[t]he World Anti-Doping Code (Code) is the core document that harmonizes anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities around the world. It works in conjunction with six International Standards which aim to foster consistency among anti-doping organizations in various areas: testing; laboratories; Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs); the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods; the protection of privacy and personal information; and Code Compliance by Signatories."
There are currently zero records showing that ONE has subscribed to this, which simply means that their testing is in no way - shape – or form, under WADA supervision. Durand also specified how "WADA is not a testing agency" in response to Chatri stating that ONE’s testing would be ‘through WADA’.
It’s certainly possible the ONE could see themselves applying WADA criteria to their own, personalized tests; however WADA stated this "could not guarantee it was WADA compliant". As WADA explains, based on the reporting from The Body Lock, "Some non-signatory sports organizations model their anti-doping rules and testing programs on the model rules and guidelines and International Standards that WADA makes publicly available to our stakeholders on our website. It may be that ONE Championship have decided to model their program based on these documents, but as they are not Code Signatories and do not fall under our remit, we cannot be certain of their rules or program and if either are (sic) WADA compliant."
Durand also addressed any proposals moving forward for an anti-doping partnership amongst WADA and ONE – with Durand stating, "Not for the time being."
There you have it folks, WADA completely distancing itself from ONE.
"Russia answers WADA but non-compliance threat remains". [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/sports/other-sports/story/world-anti-doping-agency-russia-russian-anti-doping-agency-2020-olympics-1613591-2019-10-29
Last but not least, the words of former UFC fighter Will Chope, which stuck through the heart of ONE on this issue. While we won’t dive into details surrounding Chope’s hasty domestic violence background (the reason why he was cut by the UFC in 2014); Chope – who is now based in Asia, shared his apparent insider views of ONE’s drug testing through social media in July of this year. His response can be seen here – courtesy of Bloody Elbow. https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2019/7/17/20697441/one-championship-threatens-ufc-vet-with-legal-action-for-drug-testing-comments-will-chope-mma-asia
While Chatri provides an endearing and compassionate response to Chope seen within the link, ONE’s law team provided the legal threats to Chope within a heartbeat. Fair to say that he struck a nerve with the organization. Could his claims be true? We'll always wonder.
Conflict of Interest – Agent Certification Program
MMA: Certifying agents a step toward protecting fighters, says ONE boss. [Digital Image). (2019). Retrieved from https://news.abs-cbn.com/sports/05/04/19/mma-certifying-agents-a-step-toward-protecting-fighters-says-one-boss
In April of this year, and originally reported by John Morgan of MMA Junkie, ONE announced the introduction of a mandatory agent certification program under their organization. Specifically, all agents and/or managers wishing to work with ONE athlete’s have to undergo a stringent and aberrant approved checklist. The checklist is as follows:
· Currently a resident in Asia for at least one (1) year
· No prior criminal record
· No history or current ongoing matters of legal or lawsuit activity with any athlete
· A minimum of 10 years of related experience in the martial arts industry
· Must possess a College or University Degree
Although the second rule is certainly commendable, the remaining rules are perplexing and audacious in reality.
Within his further explanation of this new form of stringent recruitment, Chatri noted how slight exceptions could be made in some cases for living residents; yet his new policy system has been met with a high degree of criticism from many in the MMA community. Originally shared by MMA Junkie, the CEO of Iridium Sports Agency - Jason House, responded by stating the following: "Requiring an Agent to live in Asia for a year is absurd. No other Professional Sports league in the world requires that." House further went on to state, "Some of these fighters are managed by their coaches or their dads or whoever, because that’s who they feel comfortable with," said House. "Say that person doesn’t have a college degree, or say he hasn’t been in the business for 10 years, whatever. That puts the fighter in a tough spot if he’s now forced to seek out new management when he’s happy with his current situation".
Prominent and famous MMA Manager Malki Kawa, who manages the likes of Demetrious Johnson, Jon Jones, and Tyron Woodley, also spoke his mind on the topic. "I’ve already been told they’re going to work with some non-Asian residents, and I believe I’m one of them," Kawa said. "They’re going to carve out an exception for me or they’ll never get another one of my fighters. It’s as simple as that. If you’re sitting here talking to me about my guys who are coming up on contracts, looking for certain dudes, and you want to be in the mix when there’s free agents? You’re not going to take yourself out of that just because I’m an American agent and not an Asian one. That’s ridiculous."
Additionally, Chatri announced the launch of ONE Elite Agency, with this being an "invitation-only sports agency reserved for the top 10 percent of athletes in ONE who show the biggest global hero promise." In response to this, Malki Kawa also stated, "That part’s stupid, and I think it’s a big conflict [of interest]. They shouldn’t have done that."
In the eyes of ONE, and to some members of the MMA community, this agent certification program can possibly be viewed as a system in which fighters are protected in terms of their financials - ensuring that the trust is placed in sport management professionals that adhere to a valiant set of policy guidelines. While many have argued, as Jason Cruz of MMA Payout maintains, "[it’s] a way to control the fighter pool to ensure that the promotion has a cadre of agents that will cede to ONE Championship in contract negotiations knowing that they could be de-certified. It also forecloses many U.S.-based agencies without an office in Asia."
Erik Magraken of combatsportslaw.com offers the clearest picture of this in understanding.
"Athletes set minimum standards of who can represent them. Not their employers. Having a promoter set limits on who can represent fighters is like having an opposing party in a lawsuit certify who you can use as your own lawyer. It's absurd. Managers owe a fiduciary duties to their client not to the promoter sitting on the opposite end of the bargaining table."
Magraken also goes on to state that a controversial policy such as this would face regulatory challenges, in terms of the idea of ONE seeking licensing in the US or Canada, in which, "conflicts of interest between managers and promoters are regulated." Within Nevada, the state "prohibits promoters from acting as managers with NAC 467.104 reading as follows: An unarmed combatant may not have a promoter or any of its members, stockholders, officials, matchmakers or assistant matchmakers:"
1. "Act directly or indirectly as his or her manager"; as well as
2. "Hold any financial interest in the unarmed combatant’s management or earnings from contests or exhibitions."
Magraken additionally points to the reference of Rob Maysey, who works as a legal council within the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association. See the screenshot below.
ONE Championship Announces Controversial "Agent Certification Program. (2019). Retrieved from https://combatsportslaw.com/2019/04/29/one-championship-announces-controversial-agent-certification-program/
Overturning Fights: ONE’s Call
Midnight Mania! ONE FC enjoying complete lack of government oversight in Singapore. [Digital Image]. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mmamania.com/2019/5/23/18636468/midnight-mania-one-fc-enjoying-complete-lack-of-government-oversight-in-singapore
Andrew Richardson from MMA Mania provides an interesting perspective: "As a professional fighter, I really want to love ONE FC…I understand the desire to fix incompetent judges and referee calls. Such incompetence is rarely officially addressed, as the government committees that oversee mixed martial arts (MMA) in the states are loathe to criticize their own".
"All that said, there wasn’t anything blatantly wrong with the Petchmorakot-Petrosyan decision. It was a close fight, and ONE involved itself unnecessarily. By getting involved, questions have to be asked about ONE’s motivations — how much of this decision to overturn the call was in interest of seeing Petrosyan (the more popular man) advance further in its tournament?".
I’m sure we can all agree that ONE - or any other fight promotion for that matter, has no business becoming involved in changing the official decision of a close fight, especially when ‘the guy we want to win’, doesn’t win. Any fight promotion will certainly never admit to this; however their actions in situations such as this set an alarming precedent of insolent power. My hope as an MMA fan is that situations such as this never take place on the regular. But as Andrew Richardson states in the headline of his piece, "ONE FC enjoying complete lack of government oversight in Singapore" – certainly rings off alarm bells.
Closing Argument – True Journalism, Debt & Slight Praise for ONE
My favourite quote in MMA media comes by way of Luke Thomas. As Thomas famously states during an episode of the MMA Beat, "one thing MMA media hates to do is to ask questions about their own shortcomings; I’m not sure why?… and they pretend that there is never any questions about what we’ve missed or not done right or something, and that’s the fastest way to lose public trust".
I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that journalists and writers such as John Nash & Karim Zidan - along with my additional sources of reference in this op-ed, exist to really hold truth to power; examining the evidence relentlessly, and digging for the truth rather than simply writing about the standard metrics and ‘fan reporting’ that you see so often on most MMA websites. I find that most MMA media are so fearfully concerned with losing their access and credentials to events; at this point, so many of them have lost the touch and hunger to really present compelling and challenging journalism. Simply nodding their heads, while Chatri or Dana make an outlandish or daftly deceptive and misleading statement on the regular. Rather than asking about the fight itself, and ‘what’s next’, as cliché as this is, why not put truth to power? Ask the tough questions.
Coming in hot -Time for some partial credit (sort of)
While ONE claims to be closing in on and "destroying the UFC" in the Asian market, along with their $1 billion evaluation *cough and sneeze*, it’s important to lastly know that the finances behind the promotion have accumulated losses stretching over $92.5 million, based on the economics reporting by John Nash. The UFC is certainly no stranger to this somber reality; it wasn't until 2007 that the company started earning a profit - according to Dana White himself with millions in the hole.
I do applaud ONE for their innovative weight cutting policy - following the tragedy in 2015; all MMA organizations can look to this in terms of a reference in my opinion. Nevertheless, has ONE solved weight cutting in the sport? It remains to be seen; yet I believe that they have indeed set an optimistic precedent in this lone regard.
While in October of this year (8 years in limbo), the organization finally began streaming and sharing live weigh-ins' for the opposing fighters and media to see. Can you believe it? I couldn’t until I watched it. For the first time - actual weigh-in transparency. Bravo.
roger-huerta-soccer-kick | MMA Junkie. [GIF]. (2012). Retrieved from https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2014/08/is-it-too-late-for-a-roger-huerta-comeback-better-to-ask-if-he-truly-wants-one/roger-huerta-soccer-kick
The abolishment of soccer kicks in August 2016; I give the organization credit for as well. The feeling of integrity, honor, respect, and values, after plainly kicking a man in his head like a soccer ball in that unambiguously docile, meek and submissive position - when he is clearly in no shape possible to continue. And yes, I’m aware that many MMA fans will disagree with me about this. I encourage all of you, put your two scents in within the comments section. A debate for another day.
I’d like to thank Bloody Elbow’s own John Nash for his contribution/assistance, John Morgan from MMA Junkie, Andrew Richardson from MMA Mania, Michael Fiedel from The Body Lock, Abhinav Kini of Low Kick MMA, Erik Magraken of Combat Sports Law, and Scott Harris from Bleacher Report for their content. Additional supported evidence through Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The United Nations Human Rights Panel, The New York Times, The Straits Times, The Guardian, NPR, The BBC, WADA, and The Online Journal of Recreation and Sport was also provided in this analysis.