ONE Championship: Company culture and branding as a competitive edge.

How MMA’s biggest upcoming promotion creates its own lane and manages to escape the UFC’s shadow.

UFC: A monopoly?

As a startup guy, I’m always interested in business strategy and competitive positioning. Yet when it comes to mainstream MMA, it has been hard to find any worthy competitor for the UFC. Bellator is another very popular promotion, but often considered as a cheaper alternative. Partly because the UFC was here first, but mostly because of the talent pool: While some big names have left the UFC for Bellator in recent years, many still consider the UFC as the pinnacle of MMA and a move to Bellator, like it or not, as a downgrade.

  • Cash?
  • Talent pool?
  • Corporate culture?
  • Potential Market?
  • Product quality?

Enters ONE Championship

(Source: ONE Website)

Cultural differences

The opening ceremony, atmosphere and overall show were focused on positivity and tradition, promoting the fighters’ backgrounds with martial artists ailing from Burma, China, Japan, Brazil, and the US. The show was great and the fights impressive, but what ultimately really struck me was the respect between fighters, with a standout moment being the main event post-fight interview.

Leading by example

This is one of the many striking examples of how culturally different the UFC and ONE are, highlighted by their two ambassadors: While Dana White, UFC’s president, is famous for his brash and straightforward style, ONE’s CEO Chatri Sityodtong embodies the martial arts culture he’s instilling in ONE. He took the stage during that card’s post-fight press conference to speak on the event and re-iterate the company’s mission and values:

(Source: ONE website)

The Bottom Line

What I take from this short analysis is another interesting lesson on product and brand positioning, and how diverse a market can be, even with a seemingly untouchable global leader. This is something I have observed time and time again in SaaS businesses: For every giants like Salesforce, Hubspot and Zoho, you can find hundreds of other Customer Relationship Manager software, for every business sizes, industries and focus.

(That’s a whole lot of options! Source:



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Thierry Maout

Jack of all trades, master of some. Vancouver-based, I write about tech, business, MMA and education. Mostly in English, but sometimes in French too.