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Chatri Siytodtong addresses struggles high-profile ex-UFC fighters have faced in ONE Championship

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Since signing with ONE Championship, ex-UFC athletes Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and Sage Northcutt have all faced their fair share of struggles while acclimating to a new promotion.

The trio of fighters, who all joined the organization in 2018, have amassed an overall record of 4-4 with one no contest along the way with three of those wins coming from Johnson’s run during the ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Alvarez has a win over former ONE champion Eduard Folayang but then a TKO loss to Timofey Nastyukhin in his debut along with a unanimous decision defeat to Rae Yoon Ok in his last outing.

As for Northcutt, his ONE debut ended in disaster after he suffered multiple broken bones in his face following a first-round knockout loss to Cosmo Alexandre. He hasn’t fought since then.

The high profile additions to the ONE roster helped the promotion raise its profile with fans primarily in the United States but the results have definitely been mixed. Still, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong has no regrets with his decision to sign the former UFC fighters to his roster.

If anything, Sityodtong believes the losses by prominent UFC veterans only proves that the promotion is filled with elite athletes even if some of their names aren’t as well known outside of Asia.

“We made an investment in several UFC superstars like Sage, like Eddie, like D.J., like Yushin Okami, a bunch of UFC guys. They’ve all got knocked out,” Sityodtong told MMA Fighting. “Rude awakening. I think it’s just a testament to the level [of competition].

“I genuinely believe that the best roster in the world is ONE and the UFC depending on the weight class. I do believe the UFC has better heavy weight classes so the heavyweight, light heavyweight divisions but I genuinely believe lightweight and below, ONE would dominate any organization in the world. We’re seeing that.”

Now it must be noted that due to weight cutting regulations instituted by ONE Championship that the divisions there are different than the counterparts in U.S. based promotions like the UFC or Bellator.

For instance, flyweight title fights in the U.S. take place at 125 pounds or below but in an attempt to curb extreme weight cutting, ONE designated a 135-pound limit for their flyweight division. The same can be said for every weight class across the promotion.

Of course, ONE still employs all of the major weight classes as well as additional divisions not currently featured in promotions like the UFC, which means a fighter like Johnson could technically compete at strawweight at 125 pounds.

That said, Johnson has been adamant about not cutting down to that weight again during his career and he’s downplayed the notion that he’s somehow struggled just because he’s faced larger opponents in ONE.

“The biggest thing from fighting in the UFC to fighting over in Asia, they’re just taller,” Johnson told MMA Fighting. “In my time when I was fighting in the UFC, there were guys like Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, Kyoji Horiguchi, guys who were about 5-foot-3, 5-foot-4. Now, Adriano [Moraes], he’s like 5-foot-9. Yuya [Wakamatsu] is like 5-foot-6 so I’m just fighting taller guys. I’ve got to make sure that I’m making a lot more effort to cross that distance.

“I think there’s amazing athletes all over the world, not just in the UFC or ONE Championship or Bellator or RIZIN. There’s so many organizations across the world that just haven’t gotten the chance to shine on the big stage. That’s always been my viewpoint, even when I was in the UFC.”

Sityodtong understands the natural bias when it comes to the UFC, especially in the United States where the promotion holds an iron grip over the largest share of the MMA audience.

That said, Sityodtong doesn’t believe that the talent level is all that different between the two promotions and the only evidence he needs is seeing what happened when he matched up some of the best fighters in the UFC against athletes in ONE.

“I know the American media in the states covers the UFC a lot, the MMA media, so American fans have a perspective that the UFC is the only thing in MMA cause it’s in America,” Sityodtong said. “Obviously, the UFC has events in America.

“The reality is there’s four and a half billion people out here in Asia. Almost everyone does martial arts. The talent pool that we can select from is tremendous but of course we scour the globe for the very, very best talent, just like the UFC or Bellator does. On any given day, I think it’s a toss-up and I think we’re seeing that whenever athletes crossover from different organizations, they don’t necessarily do well.”

Ideally, Sityodtong would love the chance to cross promote an event with the UFC to face off with fight fights pitting the best of the best between the two promotions but there’s almost no chance that would ever actually happen.

In the meantime, Sityodtong will continue to show pride in the roster ONE has built and he expects Johnson, Alvarez, Northcutt and any other free agent additions to eventually find their way in the promotion.

“Look, I think fans will always debate who’s the best champion at which division or who’s the best pound-for-pound all over the world,” Sityodtong said. “The No. 1 question I probably get from fans is would you ever do a ONE vs. UFC event? I’ve always said yes, I would love to see it. It would be a global mega-event of epic proportions if you think about it.

“Look, I still love Eddie, I still love Sage, I still love D.J. Look, I love all these guys and I think the investment will pay off. They are amongst the best in the world with a bright future. It’s just Eddie’s joined a division that’s murderer’s row and he’s going to have to go through all those guys in order to get a title shot but at the same time he wouldn’t have it any other way. He wants to prove he’s the best in the world still. I think when he left the UFC, he was No. 3 or No. 4 [ranked] or something like that. He still has it. [Demetrious Johnson] is 35 years old but I still believe he’s in the prime of his career. I still believe he is the GOAT.”