ONE Championship CEO: Agent certification program to combat 'widespread problem'
When ONE Championship announced an “agent certification” program that would effectively bar some managers from representing the Asian promotion’s fighters, the MMA world had questions. So too did managers already representing some of ONE Championship’s top talent.
Was the company really going to enforce a residency requirement that excluded managers living outside Asia? Was it not a conflict of interest for the promoter to decide who can and can’t represent its fighters? And how did all this affect the talent agency that ONE Championship itself had created to represent its own athletes?
ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong would only answer these questions via email, but in response to MMA Junkie’s queries the company head insisted that the time had come to take action against theft by agents representing the promotion’s fighters.
“In Asia, it is a widespread problem in combat sports across the entire continent,” Sityodtong wrote. “I want to weed out the theft by unethical managers and agents. It is time to elevate martial arts to global standards like those of the NFL and NBA. This year alone, several ONE athletes have asked for our help to resolve ugly situations. One of our world champions was cheated badly last year and is still going through some issues with her former manager. Effective immediately, ONE Championship has instituted a lifetime ban for any manager or agent who steals from a ONE athlete.”
As for the Asian residency requirement, Sityodtong confirmed that some exceptions would be made “on a case-by-case basis.” The reason the company included that clause among the certification requirements, Sityodtong wrote, was because it felt ONE Championship would have “the best ability to go after an unethical agent in Asia due to our strong government and business ties across the continent,” which would aid it in providing “legal justice” to fighters wronged by their managers.
“The main point of the ONE Agent Certification is to weed out the unethical agents entirely from the ONE ecosystem,” Sityodtong wrote. “Ultimately, we want to deal with world-class managers and agents who have the highest integrity and professional excellence. If you are a world-class agent from any part of the world with an outstanding reputation for professional conduct and excellence, then we want to work with you. Exceptions to the Asian residency requirement will be made based on a manager and/or agency’s reputation and our due diligence.”
Sityodtong again insisted the the promotion “will not work with anyone with a criminal record and/or a long history of litigation with athletes,” but said each application for certification would be looked at “in its entirety.”
Still, it remains unclear how the certification program could be affected by ONE Championship’s own forays into the same space via its recently announced ONE Elite Agency.
Similar to earlier releases on the subject, Sityodtong’s email described OEA as an “an exclusive, invitation-only sports agency reserved for the top 10% of athletes in ONE Championship who show the biggest global hero promise in and out of the circle of competition.”
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