So, my wife and I got a rare opportunity to be photographers for a day and join the many media practitioners that covered a mixed martial arts (MMA) press conference that was recently held in Tokyo. But before that, here’s the news, straight out:


ONE Championship, The Home of Martial Arts

ONE Championship, the world’s largest martial arts organization and Asia’s largest global sports media property, has formally announced its 2019 calendar of events, with its much-awaited Japan debut happening on 31 March 2019 in Tokyo.

“It is our absolute pleasure to announce today that we will be officially holding our first ever live event in Tokyo next March,” ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said at the press conference that was held on 23 August 2018 at the Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel in Shinjuku.

MMA stars attend ONE Championship’s press conference in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

The event was also graced by a number of ONE Championship stars, including ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes, Renzo Gracie and brother Ralph Gracie of the famed Brazilian jiujitsu family, phenomenal kickboxer Giorgio Petrosyan, former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki, Mei Yamaguchi, Ken Hasegawa, Garry Tonon, and Muay Thai champ Nong-O Gaiyanghadao.

Home to many famous martial arts disciplines such as jiujitsu, aikido, judo and karate, Sityodtong noted that “Japan has a rich martial arts culture and history, and ONE Championship has been planning for a very long time to bring our authentic martial arts experience right here to the fans.”

With the exemption of its ONE Warrior Series, ONE Championship disclosed that 24 of its live events will be held in 11 Asian countries, which will include the debut not only in Japan, but Vietnam and South Korea as well.

The live events are as follows:

  • Jakarta, Indonesia – 19 January
  • Manila, Philippines – 25 January
  • Bangkok, Thailand – 16 February
  • Singapore – 22 February
  • Yangon, Myanmar – 8 March
  • Tokyo, Japan – 31 March
  • Manila, Philippines – 5 April
  • Jakarta, Indonesia – 4 May
  • Bangkok, Thailand – 11 May
  • Singapore – 17 May
  • Beijing, China – 7 June
  • Macau, China – 15 June
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 28 June
  • Guangzhou, China – 20 July
  • Manila, Philippines – 2 August
  • Bangkok, Thailand – 17 August
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – 6 September
  • Tokyo, Japan – 11 October
  • Jakarta, Indonesia – 26 October
  • Shanghai, China – 9 November
  • Singapore – 22 November
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 6 December
  • Manila, Philippines – 13 December
  • Seoul, South Korea – 20 December

ONE Championship is targeting a total of at least 30 live events next year.

A different brand of MMA

Mixed Martial Arts aficionados are well aware of the duopoly of ONE Championship and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the world of MMA.

But Sityodtong, himself an MMA practitioner, believes that what sets ONE Championship apart is its high regard for what he calls “the true values of martial arts,” which are integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, discipline, and compassion.

The half-Japanese noted that ONE Championship’s thrust is akin to the samurai code of chivalry, bushido, which is a very stark difference to the West’s flashy brand of MMA.


MMA and MMaritalArts

Now, back to the couple photographers.

I think we’d agree that this first event coverage of ours counts as a Japan date, for a few good reasons:

  1. This was one of those rare moments that we got to do something that was not work- or kids-related.

Work in Japan can sometimes really be deadly stressful. Ever heard of  karoshi? That goes for family life as well.

  1. Here’s a big event in Japan that requires zero Nihongo proficiency.

For any non-Japanese speaker who has lived in Japan for quite a while, you’d know that being in a place, an event or experiencing something that you can appreciate with just your ears and eyes (without the aid of Google Translate or any other translation app) is like finding water in the desert.

  1. A laid-back, lighter, and less-demanding shoot is every photographer’s dream.

Regina would have probably run if we were at lead, but as backup photographers, we got to explore more and appreciate the easier side of the media practitioner’s life.

Officially, photographers for a day!
  1. Here’s more of Tokyo.

Walking towards the venue allowed us to see another facet of Tokyo, specifically towering Nishi-Shinjuku, where you can marvel at even just the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and say, “I’d love to be a government employee there.”

Those skyscrapers are part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
  1. You get some claim to fame.

Renzo Gracie. If all you recognize is his family name, then you know just half of how immensely big this guy is when talking about MMA. But, definitely, the Gracie family is etched immovable in the MMA greats stone. Specifically knowing Renzo, however, is learning what “will” is all about: you don’t break this guy’s will even if you literally break his elbow. Hope to see a Renzo Gracie – Kazushi Sakuraba rematch soon!

Our moment with an MMA legend!

Incidentally, ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera is a Filipino. Yes, a kababayan. In his own right, he is to Philippine (or Asian for that matter) MMA what Manny Pacquiao is to Philippine (or Asian for that matter) boxing. Those rare moments, you try desperately not to miss.