“Growing Pains”: ONE’s Chatri Sityodtong Addresses Champs Being Stripped at Scale

Luckily for ONE Championship, Christian Lee got the job done at ONE on Prime Video 4 on Friday night.

Capturing a second title at welterweight, Lee (17-4) put away Kiamrian Abbasov in the fourth round with a hailstorm of elbows in a finish that would make Paul Felder proud. The back-and-forth fight saw the now double-champ Lee overcome some serious adversity, after looking out on his feet while being lit up in the opening five minutes.

Had Abbasov put Lee away then, ONE’s welterweight title would have remained vacant. That’s because, for the second time in as many Prime Video cards, the champ missed weight, losing his belt essentially on the scale.

ONE Championship’s arrival on the Prime Video streaming platform has been a feather in the promotion’s cap, and the cards to date have been quality offerings, faring better than the ill-fated ONE on TNT series last year. But between Abbasov and John Lineker, who was stripped of the organization’s bantamweight title ahead of ONE on Prime Video 3, there have definitely been some bumps in the road.

Asked by Cageside Press following Friday’s card whether these incidents were the sign of a problem, or alternately that the system was working, and a signal that certain fighters might need to move up in weight, ONE Chairmain and CEO Chatri Sityodtong referred to the incidents as “growing pains.” And he’s willing to accept that, in the name of fighter health and safety.

“I think it’s an example of, athletes, if you want to fight the highest levels in the world, and you want to fight in the healthiest system — our medical process, obviously with our hydration, with our Fight Week CAT scans, with our neurological exams for athletes, it is by far the highest standard of any organization in the world, and I’m very proud of that.”

“So there are some growing pains with our entire medical system, there clearly is. But I think it’s an amazing thing,” Sityodtong continued. “Fighters need to know they can’t game the system.”

“If you look at what’s happening in the States, people cutting 25 pounds of water weight and regaining it back and more 24 hours later is terrible for the human body. Terrible for your health long term, let alone your brain health,” ONE’s top exec added. “The water doesn’t necessarily hydrate your brain as it does other organs in the same amount of time.”

Sityodtong believes that extreme weight cutting is to blame for “a lot of strange knockouts in American organizations. Maybe a jab knocks someone out, because their brain isn’t hydrated still.”

“So from that perspective, I’m okay. We will have little bumps and bruises, but we have the healthiest medical system, medical process for athletes globally, full stop, at the highest levels in the world. If these things happen, it happens. But I think also fighters who quote unquote try to ‘game’ the system, this is what happens.”

With Lee getting the job done Friday, Abbasov is off the hook in a sense. Whether he chooses to remain at welterweight (which in ONE’s modified weight system is 185lbs, with minimal weight cutting enforced by hydration tests) remains to be seen. As for Lineker, he’ll compete for the title stripped from him early next year.

Still, a reported ten fighters either missed weight or failed hydration tests ahead of ONE on Prime Video 4, a sign that these “growing pains” may be far from over.

Watch the full ONE on Prime Video 4 post-event media appearance by Chatri Sityodtong above.