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Loss-making One Championship gets $70m injection as 20 per cent of workforce cut

Action from a One Championship fight (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Singapore-based mixed martial arts promoter One Championship has raised $70m (€62.2m) from investors while revealing a hefty cut to its global headcount.

After being unable to stage fight cards for almost four months because of the Covid-19 pandemic, One Championship said today (Monday) that it was streamlining operations, including cutting 20 per cent of its worldwide staff.

One Championship said that the funding injection brings its total capital to $346m. The news also comes just one week after Bloody Elbow, the SB Nation-owned MMA publication, revealed that One Championship accumulated losses of S$82m ($58.7m/€52.2m) in 2018.

Chatri Sityodtong, the One Championship CEO and founder, told AFP that the extra funding comes from existing backers as well as investment from a US-investor whose identity will be revealed in the coming weeks. He said that the backing helps to “future proof” the organisation.

Hua Fung Teh, group president of One Championship, said: “I am full of gratitude for this strong vote of confidence amidst the worst global economic crisis in 100 years. With nine figures of cash on the balance sheet and a streamlined organisation, ONE Championship looks forward to continuing to delight our fans around the world with more heroes and new experiences for many years to come.”

Figures revealed in the Bloody Elbow report showed annual eight-figure losses for the Singapore-based property in 2018, 2017 and 2016. The figures came from the financial documents filed by the MMA promotion with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

In 2017, a loss of S$34.3m after tax from continuing operations was listed, following on from a loss of S$20.3m in 2016.

Broadcast revenue rose from S$4.7m in 2017 to S$19.7m in 2018, while sponsorship income was listed as having increased from S$10.8m in 2017 to S$16.7m in 2018. Ticketing revenue dipped slightly, according to the filing, dropping from S$1.06m in 2017 to S$947,254 in 2018.

However, “marketing expenses” rose from S$15m to S$49m, while “employee benefits” and “professional fees” also rose sharply to S$20.7m and S$10.8m, respectively.

The profit and loss, revenue and expenses figures cited all refer to Group One Holdings Pte Ltd, the name that refers to the One Championship company. Any “Group” figures in the filing refer to the company and its subsidiaries collectively.

The One Championship 2019 financial results are due to be filed in Singapore later this year.

Within an email to staff reported today by the Tech in Asia website, Sityodtong noted: “Like other global sports media properties such as the NBA or the EPL, ONE is an IP-heavy, asset-light global platform business. As Asia’s only billion-dollar sports media property at global scale, ONE has a rare and dominant position in our industry. Our institutional investors understand these qualities deeply and continue to show unwavering support as witnessed by today’s capital raise announcement.”

One Championship had scheduled four events to be held without fans in Singapore and the Philippines during April and May, but these were cancelled due to the strict ongoing Covid-19 prevention measures in both countries.

(Additional reporting by Martin Ross)