On Sept. 3, 2011, the martial arts promotion known at the time as One Fighting Championship or One FC held its premiere event. The brainchild of Thai martial artist and entrepreneur Chatri Sityodtong, One had announced its presence just a few months before, launching with a two-pronged strategy consisting of aggressive, ambitious talent acquisition on one hand and a vocal espousal of values traditionally associated with Asian martial arts, such as humility, honor and self-improvement, on the other.
One FC: Champion vs. Champion took place Singapore Indoor Stadium, near its headquarters, and featured many of the elements that would come to define the new promotion, already fully formed and in place. The lineup included single-discipline martial artists crossing over to MMA (Gregor Gracie, Thai boxing star Yodsanan Sityodtong) as well as established veterans who were either Asian (Yoshiyuki Yoshida), Americans of Asian descent (Andy Wang) or Americans who had spent large portions of their career fighting in Asia (Phil Baroni). That Wang was a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter” who had been made into a bit of a punchline on the show for his embrace of the samurai ethos made him an even more fitting signing for the new promotion.
The bill, which incidentally streamed live and for free on Sherdog, also included several Asian up-and-comers who would form the backbone of One’s first crop of homegrown stars and champions, most notably headliner Eduard Folayang, who remains a key figure in the promotion’s lightweight division to this day. In the main event, Folayang, a champion in URCC, the premier organization in his native Philippines, met brash Heat welterweight champion A Sol Kwon of South Korea, giving the event its tag line. The two champs went toe-to-toe for three blistering rounds, with Folayang—sporting a severely broken nose—earning a well-deserved unanimous decision and both men picking up a well-deserved “Fight of the Night” bonus.
With a successful first event in the books, One was officially a going concern in mixed martial arts. Nine years and nearly 150 shows later, the organization known as One Championship since 2015 is as ambitious as ever, and continues to be entertaining, inspiring and frustrating in equal measure.