World’s Largest Martial Arts Organization plans to expand to Saudi Arabia with live shows and training academies

November 27, 2022

ONE Championship, the world’s largest martial arts organization, is keen to bring live shows and state-of-the-art training academies to Saudi Arabia as part of its expansion in the MENA region, according to parent company Group ONE’s president Hua Fung Teh.

ONE, which is Asia’s largest global sports media platform, consists of two marquee sports properties: ONE Championship and ONE Esports. The organization is looking to capitalize on its fast-growing popularity in the region, with large countries like Saudi Arabia squarely in its sights.

“Martial arts are globally loved, recognized, and easy to understand. A lot of it comes from Asia, but it has been exported all over the world. It has a strong foothold in the MENA region and in particular Saudi Arabia, making the latter very important and interesting to us,” Teh said.

In recent months, ONE Championship has stepped up its effort to tap into its growing MENA fanbase.

In September, ONE and beIN announced a multi-year partnership to broadcast ONE Championship events live to hundreds of millions of viewers across 24 territories in the MENA region, marking the first time beIN is distributing martial arts content to its audiences.

While Teh is excited to see ONE showcase its martial arts events on Saudi soil, he insists that the organization wants to do more than bring their events to the Kingdom.

ONE’s long-term plans for Saudi Arabia will look to build on the country’s sporting culture, which has produced medalists on the international and regional scenes. This is all in an effort to create a sustainable ecosystem that produces local athletes and giving them the opportunity to perform on ONE Championship’s global stage.

Teh, who attended the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh alongside ONE Founder & CEO Chatri Sityodtong, expressed his admiration of the ambitious Vision 2030 plans, whose goals include increasing community participation in sports.

“Vision 2030 is really on track. If you look at the projects launched and investments made, there are a lot of very compelling things happening on the ground,” Teh said.

“It’s also very clear that Saudi Arabia wants to promote sports as a big part of Vision 2030,” he added.

One of the plans in discussion is to introduce ONE’s feeder league reality show, Road to ONE, to the MENA region. The league, which had seen success in countries like China, the Philippines, and Mongolia, pits the best regional athletes against one another and grants the winner a contract to fight in ONE Championship.

ONE Championship: Martial Arts, From Asia to the World

ONE Championship has seen explosive global growth in recent years.

In terms of digital viewership, it ranked second only behind the NBA among all major global sports properties in 2021, with over 13.8 billion video views across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, according to Nielsen, a global leader in audience insights, data, and analytics.

With mounting interest in ONE Championship’s event coverage, 2022 has seen ONE secure a host of broadcast deals.

In April, the martial arts organization and Amazon Prime Video announced a multi-year agreement for Prime Video to broadcast a minimum of 12 live ONE Championship events in primetime annually in the United States and Canada. That was followed up with a broadcast partnership with Globo’s Combate, making them the exclusive distributor of ONE martial arts events in Brazil, starting in January 2023.

“In the past 12 months, we’ve been quite public about bringing our events outside of Asia. We hope to eventually host events on the ground in the Middle East, North America and Europe,” Teh said.

There is a key reason ONE’s product resonates with audiences globally: authenticity. Unlike its competitors, ONE is based in Asia where martial arts were born, and it focuses on exporting the ancient arts and its values to the rest of the world.

“We are based where the sports is from and are happy to share the values of the sport with the rest of the world,” Teh said.

“Our focus is not violence, it’s not blood sport. Our focus is values, heroes, and stories. Martial arts has been around for thousands of years, it’s part of culture, it’s an ancient art form,” he added.

ONE’s formula has centered around its mission to unleash superheroes who ignite the world with hope, strength, dreams, and inspiration.

“Ultimately, sports is not just about watching a game or a fight. It’s about stories, the coverage, the drama. It’s about telling the athletes’ life journey, their struggles. They have all went through some sort of struggle to get there,” Teh said.

The winning formula has seen ONE’s valuation skyrocket to around $1.4 billion.

In October, ONE and Media City Qatar announced a partnership that will see several episodes of the second season of its popular Netflix business reality series The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition filmed in Qatar.

With a growing MENA fanbase and a big regional talent pool to scout and train, ONE Championship looks set for a bright future where its authentic product is sure to resonate with its audience.

“The Middle East is part of Asia – and if you look at our business: martial arts and gaming, those are very popular in the Middle East and the Kingdom,” Teh said.

November 27, 2022
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