Friday, May 24, 2019

The Strange Relationship Between ONE Championship and Evolve MMA and Their Conflict of Interest

Today we look at the odd occurrence of so many fighters from big gyms outside of Asia are repping Evolve MMA when they fight in ONE Championship.

For those of you who don’t know Evolve MMA is a Singapore based gym founded and owned by Chatri Sityodtong.

Just in case you don’t know, that happens to be the same Chatri Sityodtong that is the founder, chairman, and CEO of ONE Championship.

Blaring conflict of interest aside,

given the size of Evolve and its location in Singapore giving it proximity to ONEs HQ, it would make sense that we would see a lot of fighters from their stable in the promotion.

Then we take into account that the promotion and the gym have the same owner, again, conflict of interest aside, and of course, we realize it becomes more commonplace to see Evolve fighters on the roster.

And surely we are not surprised if we see many of them moved up the ranks and getting title shots or favorable matchmaking.

All of that, under the veil of Asian MMA you can sort of understand.

But what really gets me, what really makes me scratch my head is why so many fighters who come over from prominent gyms outside Asia come into ONE Championship and rep Evolve alongside their own gym.

Just in recent history, we have seen this with Ben Askren who repped Rufusport and Evolve, We saw this with Demtrious Johnson who repped AMC Pankration and Evolve, Garry Tonon repped Renzo Gracie and Evolve and most recently Sage Northcut who repped Alpha Male and Evolve, and even walked out in an Evolve T-Shirt.

And of course, two of the fighter the promotion pushes more than anyone else Angela Lee and Christian Lee, both of whom fight out of United MMA and Evolve MMA.

All of this really raises some questions for me, I have to wonder what the motivating factors are for a fighter to come out repping a gym that is not theirs.

Is this more of a sponsorship that is giving some fighters extra money to just toss the name of the gym out there, sort of like how it worked with Gary Goodridge being paid to rep “Kuk Sool Won” at UFC 8.

It’s all such a shmooze, A lot of this comes back to that full blown lack of transparency that ONE is so famous for.

To anyone who has followed the sport for any amount of time, this whole dual gym thing would be strange, and even more so when you realize that the gym and promotion have the same owner.
Of course, any reasoning I come up with is pure speculation, but I’m a speculating man so I’ll have a theoretical go at it.

At first, I thought it might be part of the cost of entry for well-known fighters looking for another run in a big organization. But the numbers for that don’t add up as there are some notable names who have not done the whole dual gym thing, Yushin Okami and Eddie Alveraze to name a few.

That leads me to think that it’s much closer to the whole sponsorship idea, that Evolve MMA wants to have high caliber fighters under their banner and if they can leverage contracts with ONE Championship to make that more possible then it’s certainly an easier way to go about it than developing championship fighters from the beginning.

I reached out to several former members of the Evolve Fight Team and they all confirmed that none above mentioned fighters spend considerable time at Evolve other than dropping in to do seminars or for the last week or two before their fight to finish their camps there.

But they generally come with their own team and will only occasionally take part in the pro team training.

Knowing this adds a lot of weight to the idea that these fighters coming over from the US are more or less sponsored by Evolve, or paid to rep that gym, not actually training out of there in any significant way.

At the end of the day, it’s all speculation, some educated guesses are thrown in there and some inside knowledge of the industry, but when the operations are so opaque it’s hard to do more than speculate.

One of the things that really is interesting though and throws up a massive conflict of interest sign is that every single one of the former members of the Evolve fight team I talked to told me that Chatri trains with them just about every day at Evolve and that sometimes he will come in and actually run the training sessions for the fighters.

Keep in mind, this is the guy who also owns the promotion they fight in. He trains with them every day, and he sometimes takes on the role of coach. How can he not assume that impacts his objectivity.

If you go back to some of the early ONE events, back when it was still ONE FC, before they dropped the word fighting from their vocabulary. There are fights where Chatri is actually cornering fighters.

One fight he is cornering Shinya Aoki, another video from the very first event, he walks out with Eddie Ng, in a fight against Yuan Chun Bo where Matt Hume, one of the Executives for ONE Championship is also the ref!

Chatri Sityodton Congratulating Shinya Aoki on a win after he cornered his fight
Chatri Sityodton Congratulating Shinya Aoki on a win after he cornered his fight

To put this in perspective, before dana white was the president and minority shareholder in the UFC he managed several fighters, you might have heard of them, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell.

once he had an ownership stake and management position he had to remove himself from that role because there is no legitimate commission on the face of the planet that would allow that conflict of interest.

But hey, nothing to see here….

What do you guys think? Why are so many of the ONE Championship imports repping Evolve MMA alongside their own gyms?

And what do you think about Chatri's involvement with Evolve is that a conflict of interest since he also runs ONE Championship, do I even need to ask?

Let me know.

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