ONE Championship (commonly referred to as ONE) is a Singapore based mixed martial arts (MMA), kick-boxing and Muay Thai promotion that has been around since 2011. It was founded by Chatri Sityodtong and is considered Asia’s largest MMA promotion and is still expanding. ONE held a few events live on TNT last Spring and ranks as one of the world’s top “ sports media properties for viewership and engagement,” according to their official website.
Competition is the life-blood of any sports promotion and especially in combat sports, so ONE of course is looking to expand. ONE has had plans to come and hold events in the United States in 2020 according to Sherdog, but those plans were sidelined when COVID-19 put the world on pause.
Now, with everyone in the fight business putting on events ONE is looking to stick to those plans. With their rule-set recently approved by the Colorado State Boxing Commission, the road to ONE bringing their brand of combat sports to the US is looking closer to happening. With that in mind, here are 15 ONE athletes that should be on your radar.
Originally from Kentucky and fighting out of Washington,Johnson’s path to ONE is a great story because he was traded from the UFC to ONE, for Ben Askren. At the time, Johnson competed as the 125 lb champion, a division that was rumored to be gone when Johnson left but has turned out to be one of the more fun divisions to watch. When he entered ONE’s Grand Prix, he was a favorite to win and he did, but it was a tournament title, he suffered his first loss when he fought for the ONE flyweight (135 lb in ONE) division title. Still, he’s accomplished a lot in his career as an MMA fighter, so since ONE lets athletes compete in kickboxing and MMA, Johnson will be testing himself against one of the best fighters in his weight class under a special rule set and the next man on this list.
You’re not reading that wrong. Jitmuangnon’s Muay Thai record is 267 Wins, 42 Losses, 10 Draws. In 2020, The Nation, an English language daily online publication in Thailand where he’s from listed Jitmuangnon as the best pound-for-pound Muay Thai fighter in the world. He and Johnson faced one another in a four round fight, with the rules alternating between Muay Thai and MMA rules according. Rounds one and three were under Muay Thai rules and two and four, were under MMA. Johnson’s grappling proved to be too much.
Alvarez is known as “The Underground King” to fans of MMA in the northeastern United States. Growing up in Philadelphia, it was easy for Alvarez to get the hunger to be a professional fighter. First with boxing, then wrestling he found his way to MMA fighting in unsanctioned fights before making a career as a professional mixed martial artist. His fights with Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos are some of the best fights in modern MMA. Alvarez has brought that same energy to ONE and is definitely a must watch fighter.
Aoki is probably one of the most dangerous submission based fighters in the current landscape of MMA. Of his 47 wins, 31 come by way of submission and he is currently riding a four-fight win streak in ONE. In his off time, like many MMA fighters Aoki competed in grappling events and after a win at a recent one, he challenged fellow Japanese MMA legend Yoshiro Akiyama to face him at ONE’s next event, ONE: X.
New Jersey’s Tonon came into MMA with a heavy following from the world of competitive submission grappling. While he is known for his leg-locks, he keeps evolving as a complete mixed martial artist by using everything he has learned since making his transition to MMA in 2018. His record might seem small but as a lifelong competitor and only 30-years-old, Tonon’s name should be on your watchlist of fighters signed with ONE, despite a recent loss to Thanh Le.
Fighting out of Brazil, Moraes was undefeated before he came to ONE riding a nine-fight win streak. He lost his debut with the promotion in 2013 and it was the first loss of his career. Fight fans unfamiliar with Moraes soon came to recognize him as he quickly became a title contender, then champion. When he fought Johnson on ONE’s TNT event, no one expected him to win against a fan favorite and former UFC champion like “Mighty Mouse” Johnson but he did. It is a testament to the level of global talent in MMA that ONE is looking to bring more exposure to. He followed up that win against Johnson with another win against Yuya Wakamatsu.
Being a “Champ-Champ” in any organization is a pretty big deal. It’s making yourself top dog in two different weight classes and not many get to do it. For ONE, that man is Reinier de Ridder. The 31 year-old “Dutch Knight” got to showcase his skills on TNT last April when he won his rematch against Aung La Nsang for the light heavyweight title. Most recently, he secured an arm-triangle against Kiamrian Abbasov.
This Canadian-American young lady holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu along with her title in ONE. She has fought her entire career with ONE and the promotion recently became a mother. Lee improved her record to 11-2 with another finish win, this time against Nong Stamp.
As stated in the beginning, ONE is a full-on martial arts promotion that holds MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai matches. Holzken’s resume should speak for itself but if you have never seen kickboxing on the scale it is today, this Dutch stiker’s matches are must see events. The term “high level stiker” gets thrown around a lot in MMA but when it comes to kickboxing, there are levels to levels and Holzken is on that upper tier. He recently defeated another kickboxing legend at ONE on TNT 3, who is the next kickboxer on the list. His last fight did result in a loss against Sinsamut Klinmee.
The Australian striker known as“The Gunslinger” Parr may be at the end of his career in some people’s eyes but that does not mean he is looking to walk away without putting on a show. He had just signed a six-fight contract with ONE when he made his promotional debut against Holzken. While he did lose the fight, he put in a valiant effort that kept Holzken on his heels before the loss came. If you are a fan of knock outs, Parr should be on your radar.
The Russian born Nastyukhin handed Alvarez his first loss when he came to ONE from the UFC. Another moment fans found out how big the world is when it comes to the talent of competition in MMA on a global scale. He would eventually get a title shot against Christian Lee at ONE on TNT 2 where he would fall short losing by TKO. He most recently lost to Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev but he is still ranked at the top of the division so expect to see more from Nastyukhin in the future.
Before there was MMA, there was Vale Tudo in Brazil, and Fernandes like many Brazilian fighters grew up around it. If ONE has proven anything, it’s that when a fight deserves a rematch, they usually happen. Such is the case with Fernandes and his last three fights against the former champion, Kevin Belingnon. Fernandes recently lost to John Lineker by knockout in 2022.
Another Brazilian on this list, Lineker was released from the UFC in 2019 and ONE signed him when that happened. Lineker’s following comes from the type of fights he won bonuses for so it should be no surprise that he is on a three-fight win streak with ONE, the last two being my way of knockout. Lineker last defeated Bibiano Fernandes in March of 2022 by knockout.
Are there many brother and sister champions in combat sports? If it’s something you have never seen before, ONE has that with Christian, who keeps his sister Angela company on this list. He got some airtime with U.S. fans when he scored his win over Nastyukhin at ONE on TNT 2 but he unfortunately lost his next fight to current champion, Rae Yoon Ok via decision this past September. There was some controversy, so a rematch might be coming.
Since winning the title she has successfully defended it four times and is the first Chinese MMA champion in a major promotion. She and Lee are 1-1 against each other since Xiong attempted to take Lee’s Atomweight title, but it’s clear that these two women are the queens in the weight classes they hold titles in. It’s reminiscent of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC, sure they have fought each other but is there something more to see if they fight again after time has passed? Maybe.