Heliconia invests in One Championship
One Championship boss says Heliconia partnership will help it grow into a top sports franchise
Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL) in America, as well as the English Premier League, are some of the world's most highly valued sports competitions, with billions of dollars in revenue generated every season.
The Singapore-based One Championship hopes to join that exclusive group, says chairman Chatri Sityodtong, in a phone interview with The New Paper from Shanghai yesterday.
"My dream has always been to build the first multi-billion dollar sports organisation in Asia... and I believe we can grow it into a US$10 to $15 billion organisation in the future," said the Thai entrepreneur, who owns Evolve MMA Gym in Singapore.
One Championship, which promotes mixed martial arts (MMA) fights, took a major step towards that goal yesterday when Heliconia Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of state investment company Temasek Holdings, invested an "eight-figure sum" in what has been described as the largest sports media property in Asian history.
The announcement comes just days after Ultimate Fighting Championship's US$4 billion ($5.4b) sale to WME-IMG.
The UFC is an American promotion company of mixed martial arts and is the largest in the world.
Chatri said the partnership with Heliconia, which would see its CEO Derek Lau join the One Championship board, is "one of the biggest ever" in the five-year history of the MMA promotion.
The tie-up means One Championship is in a good position to raise more funds through an initial public offering (IPO) soon.
"If you look at the path Silicon Valley companies usually take towards an IPO, a major step is the backing of a major institutional investor such as Heliconia," said Chatri, a former hedge fund manager.
He added that the tie-up with Heliconia would help them break into new markets like Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and, most crucially, China, where even the UFC has so far failed to make inroads.
One Championship has had big plans to break into the Chinese market for several years now.
It aimed to have 10 events there last year, but managed only two, in Guangzhou and Beijing. This year, it has already held two events in China, in Hefei and Changsha.
Chatri said: "(The Heliconia partnership) accelerates things for us because they can add value in terms of potential customers, strategy, and help with government matters such as intellectual property protection and licensing."
Chatri pointed out that Asia is lacking a multi-billion dollar sports franchise, while North America has MLB, NFL and the NBA, Europe has the EPL and the Bundesliga, and in the past season alone, they have generated income from anywhere between US$2.9b and US$13b.
Heliconia's Lau said: "We believe One Championship can potentially be the next big thing for consumers in Asia.
"They have the right product for Asia, they understand Asia and know how to monetise the value proposition in various ways in the new economy.
"We are really excited to see One Championship taking the lead in the coming years to grow the sports media and entertainment industry in Asia."
My dream has always been to build the first multibillion dollar sports organisation in Asia... and I believe we can grow it into a US$10 to $15 billion organisation in the future.
— Chairman of One Championship Chatri Sityodtong
One Championship usually holds its fight events in venues that seat at least 10,000 and generally enjoy good ticket sales.
During the Ascent to Power event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in May, 11,000 fans watched Angela Lee win the inaugural women's atomweight world championship, where tickets cost between $38 and $748.
One Championship fight nights reach over one billion households in 118 countries. It charges US$9.99 ($13.45) for pay-per-view access for its fight nights. In 2012, the company inked a 10-year deal with Fox and Star Sports to broadcast its events in more than 70 countries.
SPONSORSHIP & MERCHANDISING
One Championship has listed 30 partners or sponsors on its website, which includes well-known names like Canon, Under Armour and Intel. It also has tie-ups with Disney, Facebook, Sony and Universal Music Group.
It has also collaborated with the likes of Everlast to produce limited-edition merchandise.