ONE Championship Chairman Accuses UFC of “Western Arrogance”

ONE Championship star Angela Lee, who the UFC claims isn't ready
Angela Lee Credit: ONE Championship

The UFC touches down in Singapore this weekend, for the first time in several years. Hosting UFC Fight Night 111: Holm vs. Correia at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, the promotion is venturing into enemy territory. ONE Championship territory, to be exact.

That fact was not lost on the Asian fight promotion, who earlier this year offered its biggest star, atomweight champion Angela Lee, up for a cross-promotional fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk of the UFC. In March, ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong told IBTimes UK that “Angela is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in any organization. I would love to see her fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk, I think that would be a great fight.” Before you say “well Joanna Champion is a strawweight, that would never work” keep in mind that ONE Championship’s revised weight class rules means the two are essentially at the same weight.

Of course, the UFC isn’t generally in the business of letting their stars fight elsewhere. Usually. So it’s not surprising that UFC Senior VP of International and Content, Joe Carr, shot the idea down while questioning Lee’s credentials. Speaking at the UFC Singapore press conference, Carr suggested that a fight with Jedrzejczyk “will not end well for Lee.” He continued, saying

I don’t know if that really makes sense with where she is at this point of her career. But if she wants to come and sign an exclusive contract with the UFC and fight in the strawweight class, then let’s see.

She is young and talented but she is a long way from competing with the top women in the UFC and a long way from the top of the strawweight class at the UFC.

That raised the ire of Chatri, who responded in an interview with Singapore’s The New Paper:

I am disappointed by the western arrogance displayed by the UFC, especially as guests in our home of Asia.

The theme of foreigners coming here and bashing Asians is not a new one…

If they really believe they are the best, then they should have no issues accepting our humble invitation of our world champions versus their world champions.

If the UFC think that they are better, then let’s do it.

If they’re so confident, then let’s set up a fight between Angela and Joanna.

I have been a martial artist for close to 30 years and I know where Angela ranks.

Let’s do it next month. All they have to do is pick up the phone and I’m ready.

It’s an interesting little promotional feud. Despite being the global leader in MMA, the UFC has allowed Asia to slip through its fingers, while ONE Championship has established itself as the leader in Asian MMA. Lee is their biggest name, a breakout star who was born in Canada, resides in Hawaii, with Singaporean and South Korean ancestry. In short, she has cross-cultural appeal, and with her impressive (and unblemished) record, she’s poised for big things.

UFC Fight Night 111: Holm vs. Correia takes place Saturday, airing in the wee hours of the morning in North America. ONE Championship returns with its next event, Light of a Nation, on June 30.