Recently, One Championship announced that Brazilian welterweight Luis “Sapo” Santos(61-9-2) will return to the promotion to main event the upcoming Jakarta card against Rafael Silva(40-15). The news of Sapo’s return was shocking for the Asian MMA world as Luis Santos and his management team just recently had a public fallout over social media with the One Championship CEO, Victor Cui.
Luis Santos was scheduled for a rematch with Ben Askren for the One Championship Welterweight title in November 2015 but the fight did not materialise as Santos, who failed to make weight for the fight refused to meet the additional demands of Ben Askren. On top of that, former One Championship commentator Jason Chambers, who is a partner of the Apex Sports Agency, which represents Luis Santos, published a 3000 word article slamming One Championship on manlymenstuff.com.
Santos was still contracted to the promotion, but it would have been safe to assume that he will never step in the One Championship cage again. However, that is not the case so MMA Latest contacted Jason Chambers to find out the reasons for the change of hearts within both parties.
Jason stated that the promotion contacted him after he published the controversial article, but their discussions were strictly regarding Santos’s future in One Championship. He revealed that there was talk of a rematch between Askren and Santos but thinks that it would be impossible after the change in One Championship’s weigh-in policy.
“They have contacted me, but only to discuss Sapo and the next steps.” said Jason. “I primarily deal with Matt Hume at ONE and he is great to deal with. We briefly spoke about the possibility of having the rematch with Askren. It’s a fight, in my opinion, that has to happen. However, with the change in One Championship’s weigh in policies, that fight doesn’t look like it’s in the cards at the moment”
Perhaps the change of communication channels could primarily be the reason for Santos’s return to the promotion. Chambers told MMA Latest in an earlier interview that One Championship CEO Victor Cui ignored his queries in which he described it as a blatant “no fucks given” attitude. When we asked him why would his client return after the name calling incident, Jason replied “words are words”.
“Words are words. He(Santos) and I had a long discussion and name calling aside. We both believe very much with what One Championship is doing in Asia and think this is still a very great opportunity for him.” – Jason Chambers
It is still puzzling that One Championship would recall the fighter who they have potrayed as unproffessional and uncooperative only four months ago. On top of that, Santos have been chosen to main event againts a fighter who have not gained any success in his past two appearances in the promotion.
“I’m not going to speculate as to what ONE’s perspective is or what their business plans are especially as it relates to Sapo.” said Jason. “But I can say there are no “easy” opponents. Matt Serra was viewed as an “easy” opponent when he knocked out GSP, Holly Holms was viewed as an “easy” opponent when she beat Rhonda Rousey. ONE asked several opponent to fight Sapo and for one reason or another , none of those matches came to fruition. So here we are.”
Santos have gained a decent following with the Asian fans after his impressive performances in the One Championship cage and have gained more publicity since the media storm in November 2015 and this could be one of the reasons why the promotion still consider him as an asset to the company.
Luis Santos will face Rafael Silva on One Championship:Tribe of Warriors, 20th Feruary 2016 in Istora Senayan, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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