Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) media promoter ONE Championship’s upcoming US event is almost “sold out” as it ramps up efforts for its North American debut in May, said its chief financial officer Jesley Chua in a Bloomberg interview on Wednesday.
“Fan interest in the event has been really high. We are almost completely sold out at the event with pretty minimal marketing so far. So really looking forward to it, and we hope to build on that event to announce a much larger calendar of on-ground events for our fans there,” said Chua to Bloomberg TV.
The highly anticipated event will take place in Denver, Colorado, marking ONE Championship’s long-awaited break into the US market following years of delay. The COVID pandemic halted ONE’s live events for nearly two years until it began gradually resuming its live shows in Singapore last year.
ONE’s US foray also follows a multi-year deal with Amazon Prime Video to grow its viewership in the US market, replacing its previous contract with Turner Sports.
Its push into the US market is also taking place at a time when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – its significantly larger American archrival – resumed its activity in Asia. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the UFC launched a series of pay-per-view live events in Singapore last June, featuring a roster of Asian fighters for its live bouts.
ONE Championship has also been making an aggressive push into the Middle East, tapping on its Qatari connections via Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), from whom it secured capital in its $150 million equity round in December 2021.
The Singapore-based firm also announced on Wednesday five flagship sponsors for Season 2 of its edition of The Apprentice, most of whom are from Qatar. They are Qatar Airways, Ooredoo Qatar, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (Indosat), TUMI and Katara Hospitality.
ONE is backed by an impressive roster of investors which include Sequoia Capital India, Sequoia Capital’s US growth fund, Vulcan Capital and Heliconia Capital.
The MMA promoter has consistently maintained optimism to hit profitability, previously sharing that it will hit $80 million in revenue for 2022 and turn profitable in the next three years, according to its CEO Chatri Sityodong last year.
The firm’s annual losses for 2021 jumped 125% to $111 million compared to the same period in 2020, according to its disclosure on Singapore’s ACRA. The firm’s net cash flow used in operating losses also grew 61.9% to $63 million in 2021 from $38.2 million in 2020.
ONE’s revenue — from event ticketing, live broadcast, sponsorships, digital platform and merchandise — grew 19.1% to $67.7 million in 2021 from $56.8 million in 2020. But it continues to recognise non-cash components as revenue, which may involve the barter of products or services in-kind.
ONE has long shared plans to pursue an IPO public listing, a move said to have triggered its decision to redomicile its entity from Singapore to the Cayman Islands last August.
“An IPO is always something that we consider among all the various capital raising options that we have, so that’s definitely something on the table and something that we’re looking at. And a dual listing is always possible, whether in Singapore or in Thailand where we have a huge fan base. So all those things are definitely on the table for us,” shared Chua in the interview.