IT didn’t matter if you were Singaporean, Filipino, Malaysian or any other nationality.
Twelve thousand fans inside the Singapore Stadium just stood up as one and applauded lustily when Eduard Folayang’s arms were raised in triumph after his archetypal victory over mixed martial arts legend Shinya Aoki at the One Championship - Defending Honor held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last weekend.
Folayang scored the crushing victory early in the third round after barely surviving Aoki’s takedowns and submission attempts during the first two rounds.
As the third started Aoki swallowed a flying knee while lunging forward to attempt another takedown. He grabbed Folayang instinctively but the Filipino fighter pushed him aside.
Folayang pinned Aoki to the cage and delivered another vicious knee. Aoki turned his back and assumed a fetal position while Folayang rained down vicious blows to the side of his head which forced Referee Yuji Shimada to halt the bout.
It was a spectacular finish to a high-profile bout that drew the interest of millions across Asia.
ONE Championship chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong believes Folayang could be the next Asian global icon who will follow in the footsteps of Manny Pacquiao.
Chatri said ONE championship fighters like Folayang are different from their western counterparts. Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather are great draws in the American and European stage but Asians simply do not identify with their belligerent, boorish behavior.
Asian heroes are fighters like the humble, self-effacing Pacquiao and yes Folayang.
“If you look at Asia the reason we love Manny Pacquiao is because he’s a monster in the ring. Beautiful. But outside he’s humble. He’s kind. He’s gentle. This is the Asian hero. It’s a very different approach than the western counterpart,” said Chatri.
Asian fighters from South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Mongolia and Thailand have already won ONE Championship titles.
ONE Championship has local relevance and global appeal because Asians genuinely are the best martial artists on the planet. People simply love to root for heroes who remind them of themselves. Historically, Asians have never had many heroes on the global stage, except for Pacquiao and a few others. ONE Championship is changing that. It is creating and building Asian heroes that the entire continent can rally behind according to Chatri in a report.
The National Basketball Association is the global basketball organization because of its heroes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and now Lebron James. The UFC is the most successful fight promotion in Europe and America because of its heroes like Chuck Liddel, Ronda Rousey and now McGregor.
ONE Championship will enjoy a similar explosive growth into global relevance if they have their own heroes like Folayang.
ONE Championship live events are broadcast over one billion homes in more than 70 countries. Events are held in Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Dubai and China. The fighters come from all over the world. From Europe, the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Southeast and Central Asia.
According to Chatri ONE Championship has not even begun to scratch the surface of the opportunities in Asia.
China has a humongous population of 1.4 billion. A second tier city in China, and there are dozens, has a population of 10 million which is much more than enough to sustain the holding of regular live events.
Martial Arts have deep, deep roots in Asia which has been its home for 5,000 years. Asia is a continent of warriors. It is also home to more than half the 7.4 billion people on earth. On sheer potential alone the possibilities for ONE Championship are limitless.
There are 4.1 billion people in Asia. There is a long, long avenue for growth ahead of ONE Championship which Chatri has always seen to become Asia’s first multibillion dollar sports media property.
The next step for ONE Championship will be to hold live events every weekend all across Asia within the next three to five years. The plan is to increase the number of events to 52 per year. Sort of Friday Fight Night. By this time ONE Championship will be embraced by Asia and already woven into the fabric of society and daily life according to Chatri.
All this becomes possible with the ascendance of Asian heroes like Folayang.
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