Battling to be the best: ONE Championship CEO's fight to succeed

Chatri Sityodtong outlines the life lessons he lives by to The Dialogue
Chatri Sityodtong outlines the life lessons he lives by to The Dialogue Copyright Euronews
By Didier BurnodGuy Shone, Mohammed Elashi
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"I don't know, maybe it's God or the Universe's way of helping people to unleash their potential," says Chatri Sityodtong.


When your name literally means warrior, there is a lot to live up to. But entrepreneur and martial arts instructor Chatri Sityodtong has done more than that. 

He's the CEO of ONE Championship, a major global sports property that's revolutionised sports entertainment and along the way is inspiring millions. Each time he's been knocked down, he's gotten back up and fought harder.

Chatri's early life was idyllic until the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, when his father became bankrupt and abandoned his family. 

"We lost our house, we lost our car, and overnight I watched my family disintegrate," he says. 

Two things helped him through this period: "One was the fact that I was a martial artist. I had a warrior spirit forged into me, and second is my mother's love," Chatri told The Dialogue.

His relationship with his mother has clearly been pivotal. She instilled confidence in him as a child, telling him he would "grow up to help the world". 

He devised a plan to help his family, securing a place at Harvard Business School. Most students use university to escape their parents - not Chatri. 

"My mother ended up living with me in my dorm at Harvard," he says. She took the bed in the single room while he slept on the floor. She had, he continued, "nowhere else to go".

Courtesy of Chatri Sityodtong
Chatri credits his mother for instilling confidence in himCourtesy of Chatri Sityodtong

While at Harvard, Chatri survived on one meal a day and couldn't afford to take public transport. Despite this, he remembers the time fondly. 

"When I look back at that journey, I am filled with gratitude," he says. "I don't know, maybe, it's God or the Universe's way of helping people to unleash their potential."

Combined with his years of martial arts training, this has taught Chatri humility. "You have to be humble to learn," he states. 

He tries to impart this lesson to all who participate in ONE. "We are all works in progress," Chatri enthuses. "But do you have the commitment, the humility… the hunger to be the greatest version of yourself?"

ONE is Asia's biggest mixed martial arts media platform. With 13 billion views on social media, it hosts some of the world's toughest fighters. 

Besides being the man behind this incredibly successful venture, Chatri has also made a name for himself on television as the host of a special ONE Championship Edition of the popular The Apprentice series. 

Season 2 will be filmed in Qatar after Group ONE Holdings signed a deal with Media City to produce and develop a wide range of global content. The plan is to create an esports hub in the country, while the deal also marks ONE's foray into the Middle East, described by Chatri as a key market.

ONE has a huge audience with up to 90 million viewers per event. Chatri wants his success in the Championship to go beyond a spectator sport. "I know we are inspiring the world. I know we are giving hope," he says. 

He is driven by this rather than money. The martial arts gave Chatri a purpose, and he wants to share it with the world. 

"Go out and do martial arts," Chatri urges, adding doing so would help people "unlock their potential and live their greatest life."

Courtesy of Chatri Sityodtong
Chatri says martial arts training taught him humilityCourtesy of Chatri Sityodtong

While Chatri has achieved great success, he hasn't forgotten the hardships of his early years. 

Helping underprivileged and troubled children continues to be his main focus. His inspiration comes from his own personal hero, his late Muay Thai Master, Kru Yodtong Senanan.

A few years before he died, Senanan won $2 million (US dollars) in the Thai lottery. In an instant, he announced he would give it all away. 

"There was a sea of people at the gym asking for a donation," Chatri explains. 

"He would listen to each person's story and give what he felt was appropriate. That to me symbolises the human spirit born free, and that for me is my master," he says.

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