Two-time ADCC champion Yuri Simoes isn’t happy with his relationship with ONE Championship.
A decorated grappler with a long list of achievements in the jiu-jitsu and submission world, Simoes signed with ONE for his MMA debut in mid-2020, but lost a decision to Rong Fan in his first bout. Since then, Simoes said he’s had a hard time getting another fight booked.
“It’s an upsetting situation because I was coming off a surgery when I signed with ONE and many people thought I wouldn’t even fight anymore, but I recovered and made MMA my top priority,” Simoes told MMA Fighting. “I grew up thinking I would become a MMA fighter and dedicated body and soul for this expecting the same from the promotion.
“I was always very active in jiu-jitsu and grappling, but it hasn’t been the case [in MMA]. And looks like I’m not the only one. I spoke with other athletes — not one or two, but several athletes I know — and they are having the same problem. Looks like only a select group of people have the opportunity to be fighting constantly.”
Simoes understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many travel restrictions over the past 18 months, but many U.S.-based athletes were able to compete since his most recent bout, and he said, “I got no offer to fight.”
The grappling wizard still believes he can become the ONE middleweight champion, and even volunteered to take fights at welterweight or light heavyweight in order to stay more active.
“It took them so long to give me a fight that when they did, I suffered a serious spinal injury a week later but couldn’t pull out of the fight,” Simoes said. “I was asking for a fight for so long, how was I going to turn it down? I had to fight no matter what. I don’t regret it, I still think I did a great fight. They gave [Fan] the decision, but I think I did better in the fight. I expected things to move smoothly after that and get more fights, but that wasn’t the case.
“It’s very disappointing when you commit to something. ... I dove into this new sport and made it my main goal, to win a belt there, but it’s unanswered. I think it’s disappointing.”
Simoes said he can’t go into specifics about his current ONE contract, but said he has a little over one year left with the Singapore-based promotion. Simoes is staying active in the grappling circuit in the meantime, defeating Fellipe Andrew via decision recently at Fight 2 Win. Back in June, he defeated Devhonte Johnson and Mahamed Aly in grappling matches.
“I hope I can do more fights, otherwise I don’t know what I’ll do,” Simoes said. “I want to fight MMA. Back when I decided to fight MMA, I posted on social media I wanted to fight for ONE because I grew up watching PRIDE and saw from the outside how they talked about valuing the martial artist, that eastern mindset regarding fighting, not that disrespectful mindset [from the west]. But I had no idea I would go through such a situation, you know? Not just me, many others are going through the same thing.
“I won’t say I regret [signing with ONE] because I was following my heart at that moment. It’s hard to say I regret it, man. Many promotions shut down due to the pandemic. I know it’s a complicated situation, but I’ve heard that many other athletes were dealing with this issue [before the pandemic]. In that sense, it’s really frustrating.”