For the mixed martial arts (MMA) scene in Asia, there is only ONE. While the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has long reigned as the premier MMA promotion in the west, to the east, ONE Championship has taken that market by storm.
Since its inauguration in 2011, Victor Cui, the CEO and owner of ONE, has moulded a sporting and entertainment powerhouse. It’s a brand, at least in combat sport circles, that is regarded as one of a kind, both inside and outside of the cage.
Take for example their revolutionary weigh-in system. At the start of the year, ONE implemented an outright ban on weight-cutting by dehydration. The move came on the back of the tragic death of their 21-year-old Chinese prospect Yang Jian Bing last December as he was cutting weight.
His passing rocked the MMA world to its core. Bing was not the first fighter to pass away while cutting weight but cases are extremely rare. What isn’t rare, is fighters being hospitilised and not being able to fight because of the problems stemming from cutting weight. It is arguably the biggest problem in the sport and with tragedy on their hands, ONE recognised this.
A group, including company doctors, officials, as well as veterans of the sport who have seen it all, ONE vice presidents Rich Franklin and Matt Hume, came up with a solution built around constant weigh-ins of all contracted fighters to determine their best hydrated weight to fight at. It’s the first of its kind in all of combat sports and it’s one that VP and former UFC middleweight champion Franklin believes will be adopted elsewhere.
Featherweight champion McGregor had stunned the mixed martial arts world last week by announcing his “retirement” before later backtracking.
The UFC responded by removing the 27-year-old from the billing for his July 9 fight with Diaz on the UFC 200 card in Las Vegas.
However McGregor insisted in a tweet on Monday that he was back on the card and looking forward to fighting.
But in an interview with the TMZ sports website, White said he was baffled by McGregor’s announcement.
“It’s not true. We haven’t talked to Conor or his manager since the press conference. I don’t know why he would tweet that,” he said.
White added: “All the media keeps asking me that. I feel like the scene in ‘Step Brothers’ when they ask if they can build the bunk beds. I don’t know how many more times I can say the fight is off or how many more press conferences I can have saying the fight is off for people to believe it’s off.”
The divisive Irish superstar was pulled from the fight last week after refusing to travel from his training camp in Iceland to fulfil promotional requirements.
Diaz, who stunned the MMA world last month with his submission victory over the featherweight champ at UFC 196 last month, is still scheduled to fight on the main card. However, he revealed it’s all-or-nothing and if he doesn’t face the Irishman, he’s going to “go on vacation”.
Speaking at the kick-off press conference for UFC 200, he said: “I just came to fight Conor McGregor. I don’t really have too much interest in anybody else.
“I don’t have any interest in fighting at all. But if that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to do it.
“I didn’t ask for that fight, but he asked for it and he wanted it. If that ain’t gonna happen, I’m going on vacation for real.”
UFC president Dana White spent the majority of the press conference defending his decision to pull McGregor from the historic event at the new T-Mobile arena. He went on to explain that he “doesn’t see how it would be fair” for the Dublin native to fight at the event without attending press events.
And with McGregor’s absence, Frankie Edgar, who fights Jose Aldo on the mega card for the interim featherweight strap, called for their rematch to be bumped up for the undisputed title.
“I don’t know what’s going on in his head. I don’t really care, you know?” Edgar said of McGregor. “I think this fight should be for the vacant title right now, to be honest.
“I don’t think he’s ever coming down to 145lbs, if he ever even comes back. So I think me and Aldo should go at it for the real one.”