BANGKOK — Mixed Martial Arts is kicking deeper into the land of Muay Thai with a tournament to be held March 11 headlined by women and Thai MMA fighters.
Just a year after Thailand hosted its first major MMA event headlined by a former Muay Thai champ, organizers on Tuesday showed off some of the fists and feet that will be seeking glory at Impact Muang Thong Thani in March at a pan-Asian tournament featuring veterans and new blood alike.
At the top of the ticket, six-time women’s atomweight world champ Angela “Unstoppable” Lee will face off against kung fu fighter Jenny Huang from Taipei.
“I’m honored to be a role model for women across Asia,” 20-year-old Lee said, adding that she wants to inspire Asian women to learn self-defense.
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“This year’s championship will showcase the best fighters of Thailand and Asia,” said One Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
The March 11 event will be followed by another Dec. 9.
MMA has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and Singapore-based One Championship has made quick inroads into Thailand where it was once viewed with skepticism or enmity.
Last year, 38-year-old former Muay Thai champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, who made the leap into MMA, was defeated by a Japanese fighter at Impact Arena.
This year will see the debut of the first Thai woman MMA fighter, half-Japanese Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige. Famed Muay Thai boxer Yodsanan “Little Tyson” Sityodtong will also fight.
ONE Championship president Kamol Sukosol said moving into the rest of Asia was a natural fit.
“I thought it was very suitable because Asia is the home of MMA,” Kamol said.
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is a sport where gloved fighters in the same weight class can use a variety of strikes and moves from a variety of other combat sports, including boxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling, karate and taekwondo to knockout their opponent. If the allotted time runs out, the victory is decided by the judges.
“It’s not as famous as football yet, but MMA is rising from its underground status,” Kamol said.
One Championship founder Chatri Sityodtong said he put the the female fight in the title event to make a case for women’s rights.
“I purposefully put Angela and Jenny in the title event because I want to showcase these intelligent, strong and beautiful women in order to inspire women across Asia to achieve their dreams,” he said.
One says it spent 40 million baht and sold 15,000 tickets ranging from 500 baht to 15,000 baht lasts year.
One Championship was founded by Thai-Japanese millionaire Chatri in 2011.
Thai rap trio Thaitanium and rock band Slot Machine will perform at the March 11 event, which will be broadcast live starting at 9pm on Channel 32.