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ONE Championship begins on Sky Sports - The 'Olympics of martial arts' explained, and which fighters to watch

Founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong explains the vision and global expansion of ONE Championship, the "Olympics of martial arts" as well as picking out the fighters you must see; Watch the first ONE Championship event on Sky Sports Mix from 1am on Saturday morning

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Live on Sky Sports on January 13 at 1am you can see all the action from ONE Championship featuring Brit Liam Nolan

ONE Championship begins on Sky Sports this weekend with Britain’s Liam Nolan fighting on the undercard of the Shamil Gasanov vs Oh Ho Taek featherweight MMA clash.

Watch the first One Championship event on Sky Sports Mix from 1am on Saturday morning.

Regarded as the largest platform for martial arts on the planet, ONE Championship events feature different disciplines, like mixed martial arts, kickboxing, Muay Thai and more, with world titles for each of their different sports.

Saturday morning's bill is made up of a variety of MMA and Muay Thai kickboxing contests, with Nolan meeting Ali Aliev in a lightweight Muay Thai bout.

Liam Nolan (Photo: One Championship)
Image: Liam Nolan will fight live on Sky Sports (Photos: One Championship)

'The very best of the best'

ONE founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong explained: "The way we think of ourselves, other than the home of martial arts, is it's the Olympics of martial arts.

"In the Olympics, you have multiple disciplines, multiple sports and the whole world stops to watch the very best of the best compete. There's no difference in that. We have the very best of the best martial arts on the planet.

"Every week you get to see the Olympics of martial arts and the cool thing as a fan is you get to experience different martial arts, different disciplines, different storylines yet you know you're watching the very best of the best on the planet."

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Check out some of the coldest knockouts seen in ONE Championship ahead of January 13 bill live on Sky Sports Mix from 1am.

The world's largest martial arts organisation

Well-established in Asia, ONE Championship is continuing to grow globally.

"Nielsen came out with a global sports property industry report a year and a half ago. We were surprised but in viewership and engagement metrics across TV and digital and social platforms, we ranked higher than the UFC in terms of actual size. UFC's the world's largest MMA organisation, they only focus on one martial art, which is mixed martial arts. We are the world's largest martial arts organisation, we have multiple disciplines," Sityodtong said.

UFC is one of the most well-known entities in the combat sports world. But ONE, its founder insists, is very different.

"The only thing that's similar to the UFC is we both have the world's best rosters on the planet," Sityodtong said. "We both are giants in our respective hemispheres.

"The UFC's focused on MMA, we're focused on all martial arts, all the different disciplines. But the best of the best on the planet, whether it's striking or grappling or mixed martial arts.

"We focus on the ethos of martial arts. I'm a lifelong martial artist as the founder. I've been doing Muay Thai for almost 40 years and Brazilian jiujitsu for 14 years or so and I want to represent real, authentic martial arts from the home of martial arts here in Asia.

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Check out some of the strangest moments to happen in ONE Championship history!

"I can fight and feel very confident in the physical realm - but what martial arts really teaches you are the incredible values of integrity, humility, honour, respect, courage, discipline, compassion and so much more," he continued.

"That's why millions of parents all over the world and in the UK send their kids to martial arts schools. It's for them to learn these incredible values and discipline and humility and work ethic and all that amazing stuff that they want to impart and that's what we showcase.

"UFC and ONE arguably have the two best rosters on the planet, I obviously argue that our roster is better than UFC's, actually many martial arts experts would agree with me. But the real difference comes in the ethos.

"We are the Olympics of martial arts if you will."

Who to watch?

British fighters are making inroads in One Championship.

Jonathan Haggerty had a stunning year in 2023, becoming a two-sport world champion when he won Muay Thai and kickboxing bantamweight titles.

He will defend his Muay Thai championship on February 17, live on Sky Sports.

"He's a phenom. He's genuinely the best striker in the UK right now. But more importantly, arguably one of the best pound-for-pound strikers full stop across any martial art in the world today," Sityodtong said.

"If you go to his Instagram page and you take a look at the way he hits the heavy bag or pads, he's a rare talent.

"He's beaten some legendary names, very, very tough folks that no one thought he could beat and he's risen to the top of the world in two different sports. I think you're going to see him reign for a long time."

Jonathan Haggerty (Photo: One Championship)
Image: Haggerty holds ONE world titles concurrently in kickboxing and Muay Thai

Another UK kickboxer Liam Nolan will be in action on Sky Sports' first One Championship show, live from 1am on Sky Sports Mix on Saturday.

Liam Harrison is a highly esteemed, all-action fighter. "You have legends like Liam Harrison who have been around the block and truly have represented the UK around the world. A pure knockout artist, kill or be killed, his style. There's a lot of exciting fighters," the ONE founder noted.

International stars to watch include Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Demetrious Johnson.

"I think the UK fans are absolutely going to fall in love with Rodtang, he's arguably today the pound-for-pound greatest striker on the planet. Massive KO power, massive heart, super-exciting style," Sityodtong said.

"In mixed martial arts obviously we have the GOAT [greatest of all-time], in Demetrious Johnson. I think UK fans will love the GOAT."

Liam Nolan (Photo: One Championship)
Image: Liam Nolan is looking to rise through the ranks

The promotion has fighters who do deliver action. "Our fighters are the best and they come to finish," Sityodtong said. "Our finish rate as an organisation is hovering around 70 per cent.

"Our athletes are the best of the best on the planet and they come to finish fights so it's very, very exciting.

"These are household names in the world of martial arts. These are the royalty, if you will, of martial arts. It doesn't matter what discipline you watch. You are in for a treat."

What's coming up

The first ONE Championship show on Sky Sports takes place in the early hours of Saturday morning, UK time.

Watch the card featuring Gasanov vs Oh, Nolan vs Aliev and much more from 1am on Sky Sports Mix.

Jonathan Haggerty will make his Sky Sports debut when he puts his ONE Muay Thai bantamweight world title on the line against Felipe Lobo. That will be in the early hours of the morning on February 17.

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