ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong sparked quite a debate when he declared that his organization promotes the best strikers in the world, especially compared to the very “sloppy, mediocre-ish striking” Sityodtong says he’s witnessed in the UFC.
Of course, ONE Championship not only promotes MMA, it also boasts several divisions across both Muay Thai and kickboxing, which are obviously striking-based sports. Sityodtong feels that factor only strengthens his claim. He said the difference in levels between ONE and the UFC is “not even close.”
Jonathan Haggerty, the current ONE bantamweight Muay Thai world champion, backs his boss about the striking in ONE compared to other organizations, including the UFC.
“One million percent — ONE Championship is where the greatest strikers are, in my opinion,” Haggerty told MMA Fighting. “I believe the best strikers are on the ONE Championship roster, for sure.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic, if only because ONE promotes a pair of striking-based sports that don’t exist in the UFC. Of course, Haggerty’s opinion is also understandable considering the platform that ONE finally provided to many of the best Muay Thai stylists and kickboxers across the world, many of whom were struggling to gain exposure on an international scale beforehand, much less earn significant financial compensation.
These days, Haggerty gets the best of all worlds. He not only conquered the flyweight Muay Thai division in ONE, he also bumped up a weight class and scored arguably one of the biggest upsets in promotional history when he knocked out two-time Lumpinee Stadium Fighter of the Year, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, to claim the bantamweight title.
“Muay Thai fighters are finally getting the recognition they deserve, and I’m very thankful to Chatri and ONE Championship for delivering such a massive platform for us to perform on,” Haggerty said. “I’m just very thankful. It’s the hard work that all the athletes have put in ourselves to get in the position we are right now.”
On Friday at ONE Fight Night 16, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime Video, Haggerty attempts to become a two-sport champion when he takes on Fabricio Andrade for the ONE bantamweight kickboxing title. Andrade also holds the ONE MMA bantamweight belt. At age 26, Andrade has quickly become one of the most discussed names on the ONE roster, especially after he flattened UFC veteran John Lineker to claim his title back in February.
Overall, Andrade holds a perfect 6-0 record with one no-contest in ONE Championship, with five of his six wins coming by knockout or submission.
Haggerty respects Andrade’s desire to cross over for his own attempt at becoming a two-sport champion, but just as he believes ONE strikers are a level above their UFC counterparts, he’d say the same about his striking matched up against anyone coming over from MMA.
“Fabricio Andrade is a world-class striker,” Haggerty said. “ONE Championship’s got the best strikers and we’re not taking him lightly. We know he’s a champion for a reason. He used to do kickboxing back in the day, so he’s no stranger to kickboxing. If anything, I’m more of a stranger to the kickboxing rule set, but he’s going to try to bring fire, I’m going to bring my fire, and we’ll see who gets put out first.
“If he comes forward like he’s been coming forward in his last fights, he’s going to get hit and he’s going to get hurt. He’s going to get tagged. We’ll just have to see on Nov. 4 what he brings, and I hope he brings his ‘A’ game because I’m certainly bringing mine.”
If all goes well on Friday and Haggerty wins the ONE kickboxing title, he already has an idea in mind for his next fight — and that involves a rematch where Andrade would have advantages over him.
“I’d love to be able to do a MMA fight,” Haggerty revealed. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, once I beat Fabricio Andrade for the kickboxing belt, I’m going to call him out for his MMA belt and hopefully we can get that on.
“I grew up in an MMA gym. My father’s gym is an MMA gym, so I grew up doing the basics in MMA. I’d say I’m quite good. I can throw a triangle [choke] or two on. A little bit more practice and who knows? I might have to armbar him. I’d like to fight him for his MMA belt.”