ONE Championship chief shares key factors behind Singapore comeback

Published October 25, 2020, 2:31 PM

by Carlo Anolin

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong

The coronavirus pandemic not only did change the landscape of sporting events worldwide but also the daily lives of every individual.

Aside from the health hazards, the pandemic had hit greatly on the economic and tourism departments of different countries.

In the sporting field, for instance, several promotions have prepared safety protocols, which were thoroughly reviewed by respective governments, before getting a green light to hold events.

So when ONE Championship decided to return to their home base Singapore for the first time since February, they traversed tough roads before conquering the “new normal.”

If the Philippines usually hosts sporting events at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City or the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the Lion City is proud is of its Singapore Indoor Stadium.

ONE Championship had prepared three events at the Singapore Indoor Stadium this month alone, including one of the biggest cards on October 30 in ONE: Inside the Matrix, which features four world title bouts.

Speaking to Filipino sportswriters in a virtual conference Friday, ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong shared how they carefully threaded into their safety protocols for their Singapore comeback.

“Basically we test them before they fly out of their respective countries. When they land, we test them right away and we have a test that gives results quickly, within 12 hours. And then, we test them throughout the week,” said Sityodtong. 

“But more importantly, we secure every floor of the hotel, every room, and the athletes are always escorted. A bubble has been created from the airport to the hotel and to the venue. The athletes are obviously isolated and there are multiple test points.”

On event nights, ONE Championship had designated “zones” for a certain number of people only. The promotion announced Friday that 250 in-person “superfans” will be allowed inside the stadium, making it the first sporting event in Singapore to permit limited audiences.

ONE: Reign of Dynasties last October 9 and the announcement of the Singapore government for the pilot use of pre-event COVID-19 testing at select events last October 20 paved the way for the promotion to let select spectators watch the October 30 fight night live.

“We’re used to hundreds of employees operating in a single event. Having just 30 is a big challenge,” Sityodtong added. “At the same time, we’re doing everything to the highest to assure safety for the world and for our athletes on October 30 and for our fans.”

Filipino fighter Eduard Folayang, who will face Australian foe Antonio Caruso on the said date, lauded ONE Championship for its ways of continuing business despite the setbacks faced amid the pandemic.

The Team Lakay veteran said the promotion not only helped their fighters in pursuing their passion but also their employees in carrying on with their livelihood in these trying times.

“They are very brilliant in handling this kind of crisis,” the 35-year-old Folayang said during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association virtual forum. “Kasi syempre ‘yung iba nagsara. Halimbawa, ang daming business ang nagsasara and yet ‘yung ONE cinonsider talaga nila yung mga athletes and the show na ginagawa nila.” 

“Marami [silang] natutulungan, hindi lang kaming mga fighters pati ‘yung mga nagta-trabaho,” he added.

ONE Championship had to freeze its events for four months after its last closed-door fight night in ONE: King of the Jungle at Singapore Indoor Stadium. But starting June 20 in ONE Hero Series 13, the promotion gradually began to adapt in the “new normal” by resuming its audience-free setup.

Since June, ONE Championship already held 10 events without compromising the health and safety of its athletes and workers, thanks to the brilliant minds of Sityodtong and the rest of the ONE Championship management.