MMA firm One Championship and the World Lethwei Championship are in talks to cross-pollinate each other's organizations

A One Championship cage girl holds up a round card ahead of a Lethwei match in Myanmar, 2015.Photo by AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe
  • Asian fight firms One Championship and World Lethwei Championship (WLC) have talked about sending athletes to fight in each other's organization, Insider understands.
  • One Championship boss Chatri Sityodtong told Insider he would only co-promote with the UFC in a champion vs. champion format.
  • But he added that Dave Leduc, who has an exclusive agreement to fight for the WLC, is a "stud" who he'd love to have at One.
  • WLC CEO Gerald Ng told Insider that can happen and he'd be happy to send other Lethwei fighters into One, so long as One's MMA fighters come to WLC, too.
  • The WLC intends to bring its unique brand of violence to the United States, could debut in 2020, and would not rule out working with bloody fight firms like the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

MMA firm One Championship and World Lethwei Championship (WLC) are in talks to cross-pollinate each other's promotion.

After speaking to One founder Chatri Sityodtong and WLC CEO Gerald Ng, Insider understands that the combat executives have been discussing ways they can elevate their brands by working together.

Sityodtong, who is based in Singapore, and Ng, who resides in Myanmar, know each other well as Sityodtong employed Ng in his media department between 2013 and 2015.Advertisement

Ng went on to work for broadcast networks before joining the WLC in 2016 and becoming its full-time CEO in 2017.

The two businessmen have retained a close relationship and Ng told Insider in May that Sityodtong consulted him when One promoted events in Myanmar, some of which included Lethwei fights.

"We've got a long-standing relationship with One Championship, and when they first started doing [shows] in Myanmar, they leaned on our expertise on Lethwei if and when they incorporate it into their promotion," Ng told Insider.

Sityodtong told us WLC champion Dave Leduc is 'a real stud'

Sityodtong told Insider earlier in the year that he is excited to incorporate more Lethwei fights under his One Championship banner.

He told us in April that he wants to "showcase all the martial arts" at One Championship because, he said, fighting is a "celebration of Asia's greatest cultural treasure."
One boss Chatri Sityodtong.Photo by One Championship

Sityodtong called Lethwei "a genuine art," adding: "There's mastery involved. It takes a decade of training every day to get to the top."

He singled out World Lethwei Championship's cruiserweight champion Dave Leduc for praise, saying the unbeaten Canadian is "a monster."

Sityodtong said: "I love [Leduc's] fighting style, I love his aggression, and I love his finishing ability. He's a real stud."Advertisement

"I love Dave Leduc … I would love to have him in One Championship."

Leduc has spoken warmly of One before, Ng is happy to make it happen for a stand-alone event, and would consider supplying more World Lethwei Championship athletes to One.

"We've known about that [Sityodtong wanting Leduc in One], and have been helping them plan it," Ng told us.Advertisement

In exchange, One's MMA competitors could compete in the WLC ring, fighting using Lethwei rules.

A co-promotion would be unlikely as Sityodtong told Insider he would only consider such a deal with the Las Vegas fight firm the UFC.

He even said he'd be confident his 21-year-old champion Christian Lee would top UFC's lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a hypothetical champion vs. champion event.Advertisement

One and the WLC could work together with a more simple lease agreement on certain athletes.

Ng explained: "We're talking to them … to allow some of our athletes compete for them, and we might see athletes from One compete for World Lethwei Championship as well," Ng said.

Ng would co-promote with other organizations, though

While a co-promotion with One may be ruled out, the World Lethwei Championship would consider co-promoting with other firms.Advertisement

Ng had previously told Insider that, after a coronavirus-enforced hiatus, the WLC is restarting operations with a Myanmar show on July 4, before holding its debut international show in Cambodia in September.

The WLC is planning other international events in Japan, Thailand, and wants to debut in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2020, too.

Photos by BKFC

There had been industry rumor that the WLC could co-promote with the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), which is run by the American fight sport entrepreneur David Feldman.

BKFC was only founded in 2018 but has power-punched its way into the combat landscape because of a violent brawl between Jason Knight and Artem Lobov which was so bloody and so feral that highlight clips were enthusiastically shared through social media channels.

It promoted Insider to dub BKFC "the bloodiest show in town" in 2019, ahead of the former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi's bare knuckle debut, further elevating the sport.Advertisement

According to reports, Feldman is even attempting to entice Mike Tyson into his bare knuckle ring with a $20 million offer to potentially fight his recently-signed veteran heavyweight boxer, Shannon Briggs.

Considering the momentum the BKFC has enjoyed so far, rumors of WLC attaching itself to BKFC for an American event may not have been unfounded.

Clarifying the speculation, Ng told Insider that there has not yet been any discussions, but he does not rule out co-promotion with Feldman.Advertisement

"We've never personally talked," Ng said. "But a couple people I know work for him and a couple people he knows work for us as well.

"I'm glad his promotion is doing well," he said. "We're not opposed to co-promotion but has to depend on what the goals of the co-promotion are.Advertisement

"Lethwei and MMA, together with Lethwei and dutch kickboxing, can work just as well as Lethwei and bare knuckle boxing."

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