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I have a dream: One chief eyes Hollywood and 2028 Olympics

May 10. 2019
ONE Championship CEO and chairman Chatri Sityodtong
ONE Championship CEO and chairman Chatri Sityodtong
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By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The Nation

After successfully gaining the recognition of One Championship worldwide, the company’s chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong has set even bigger goals to create films of his fighters and take mixed martial arts (MMA) into the Olympics by 2028.

The martial arts enthusiast has recently launched a TV and film production division, One Studios, and plans to announce its first film next month.

As his camp is full of MMA exponents with inspirational backgrounds, Chatri formed an idea to turn their lives into films with the aim of creating real-life heroes to inspire children with fewer opportunities.

“One doesn’t only create fighters but also heroes who are appreciated by the world,” said Chatri in an exclusive interview during a recent visit to Bangkok. “If they gain fame, why not have a career in films to set an example for children to follow their footsteps.”

The One chairman explained that many Thai world boxing and martial arts champions had tough upbringings but had no financial security after retirement. 

A career in acting, just like former WWE champion Dwayne Johnson or “The Rock” has achieved in Hollywood, should provide a promising option for these boxers when they can no longer fight.

“Many boxers in Thailand have to make a living by driving tuktuks or working as security guards after they throw in the towel. So why can’t we give them a job in another field as a second option,” Chatri said.

The Thai-Japanese businessman, already with media distribution through live broadcast of his events to over 140 nations worldwide, thinks he has spotted a good opportunity to create content for television, films or for digital markets like Netflix, Amazon or even Hollywood to be exported to the west and other continents. 

“Thai athletes mostly come from poor Isaan families but have incredible life stories before they became world champions. The West really loves inspiring life stories and they want to cheer for these people,” added Chatri, who added that if Korean soap operas, which are non-English, can be widely popular, his project about Thai heroes should be a hit too.

Mutiple time One Championship winner Shannon Wiratchai and One Bantamweight Muaythai world champion Nong-O Gaiyanghadao are potential One stars that will gain huge recognition from the projects.

“Krutong [Shannon] has an interesting life story. He is good looking and very charismatic while Nong-O is one of the greatest Muay Thai world champions in history. He is very humble but a big hero,” Chatri said adding pin-up girl Rika Ishige, a Thai-Japanese MMA fighter, as another prospect star from the project.

Apart from the movie project, One recently signed a partnership with Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA), an Amsterdam based non-profit organisation made up of pioneers in MMA across five continents. Chatri, with help from GAMMA, hopes to see MMA’s Asian heritage feature in the 2028 LA Olympics.

“ONE Championship and GAMMA have the best chance to take MMA into the Olympics because of our values. We both represent integrity, humility, honour and respect which are the values that Olympics care a lot about,” Chatri said.

He said unlike the American based MMA promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which he described as violent, bloody and ill-mannered, One and GAMMA focus more on the art of defence, discipline, sportsmanship, respect and patience.

“When children put the posters of our heroes in their bedrooms, I want to make sure that the heroes are good human beings and have good hearts. I believe One and GAMMA can go to the Olympics as we try to promote positive, inspiration, values stories and heroes for society,” Chatri said.

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