Shinya Aoki, who has been among ONE Championship’s biggest stars from its early years, recently wrote about the promotion’s struggles in Japan, saying that the company could be fighting for its survival in 2020.
The two-time lightweight champion penned a piece for Abema, and as translated by Karaev_Fan on twitter, Aoki brought up some of ONE Champinship’s “red flags” in their Japanese operations.
Shinya Aoki wrote a short essay for Abema, noting that "survival" is likely to be the theme for ONE Championship in 2020. Notes that low view numbers and the postponement of the next ONE Japan card are red flags and that fighters should expect there to be a round of cuts in 2020 https://t.co/5wftJ6xVQu— Karaev fan (@Karaev_Fan) January 1, 2020
He notes that while K-1, RISE and RIZIN have found success in raising new stars, ONE is still lacking young talent that are building the genre— Karaev fan (@Karaev_Fan) January 1, 2020
He urges them not to get comfortable with living off of a platform and to shift their mindset to expanding the pie
Despite their constant bold claims about big numbers and incredible success, ONE’s financial troubles have actually been well documented and paint a completely different picture. Documents from Singapore showed that ONE had accumulated losses of S$92.6 million as of 2017, and their spending has only increased in the following years.
Bringing up financial issues, low viewership, and a possible round of cuts isn’t the most shocking revelation to those who have been paying enough attention, but what comes as a bit of a surprise is the person talking about it now. ONE Championship and Evolve MMA has a history of trying to control the narrative and taking action against fighters who speak out or step out of line. And for years, Aoki has been the face of both those Chatri Sityodtong-owned companies.
Aoki also did explain that with the MMA promotion’s uncertain future in Japan, he’s also been trying to diversify his income streams, which includes giving his expert opinion on the sport and writing editorials like this, along with pro-wrestling gigs and other ventures.
The 36-year-old JMMA star has won five of his last six bouts, compiling a record of 44-9 (1 NC) in a career that saw him win belts from ONE, DREAM, Shooto and WAMMA.
UPDATE: Karaev_fan has clarified that the translations were based on the Japanese perspective, and Aoki was only talking about ONE and their Japanese fighters struggling in the country. This post originally noted that it was about ONE as a whole, and the change has also been reflected on the headline and subhead below it.
The rest of the issues brought up such as Aoki’s lack of optimism about ONE status in Japan, along with ONE’s prospects in comparison to K-1, Rise and RIZIN still seem to be accurate from a JMMA point of view.
Additionally, Aoki also wrote about being worried about the impact since ONE’s Tokyo show and their signing spree in 2019, said people need a sense of crisis, and called for the old and young generations to work together and start a revolution for them to survive moving forward.
Aoki has since also taken to Twitter to say he was mistranslated, clarifying he was discussing Japan and ONE’s contracted fighters, not ONE’s own survival. He also now says that the future is “bright” in Japan.
もともと日本の格闘界やONE契約ファイターに檄を飛ばすのが本意で、ONE自体のサバイバルだなんて語ってもいない。— 青木真也 shinya aoki (@a_ok_i) January 5, 2020
Aoki’s original blog post (archived here) has also been edited since this post went up. Parts about Aoki not being optimistic about ONE’s status in Japan in 2020, ONE postponing a Japan event, low viewership, and releasing fighters in 2020 have all been removed.