Last week ONE Championship announced a groundbreaking agent certification program. A few people within the industry questioned how the scheme would operate in practise and Chatri Sityodtong addressed those issues today.

The ONE Championship CEO gave a detailed explanation of why the program was introduced,

“Unfortunately manager theft is rampant in Asia. This agent certification program is to weed out and stamp out theft, fraud, incompetent managers (and) agents who take advantage of their athletes. We want to get rid of all that.”

There have been reports of agents in Japan taking 50% of their client’s ONE Championship purses and this is the type of exploitation the new program appears to have been designed to address,

“We’ve had several of our athletes just this year alone who are in sticky situations that ONE Championship had to step into,” Chatri said.

The new criteria for working with ONE Championship is very specific and Chatri explained the thinking behind it,

“Look we don’t want to deal with any managers or agents who have a prior criminal record, we don’t want to deal with anyone who has been in a lengthy history of lawsuits with their clients, we don’t want people who are not qualified so a minimum of 10 years experience in managing athletes. The Asian residency requirement – the reason why we have that is because ONE Championship has better ability to go after unethical agents and managers in Asia because we have deep government and business relationships across the entire continent.”

However for the agents outside of Asia who were dismayed to discover they would be unable to work with ONE Championship he did offer some reassurance,

“Of course we will make exceptions on a case by case basis. If you are manager or agency with a reputable track record and outstanding relationships with your athletes then you can come from any part of the world.”

Since its inception in 2011 ONE Championship has established itself as the market leader in Asian MMA. It’s a role and responsibility Chatri does not take lightly,

“I fell a deep responsibility to set standards of excellence. There has never been a global sports media property in history in Asia. One thing is we do nothing and the ecosystem isn’t healthier, isn’t better or the other thing is we step in and set standards of excellence, standards of conduct for everyone in the ecosystem and I genuinely believe its going to lift everyone up in the end.”

He also made it clear that there would be serious repercussions for any fighter representative who breached the new regulations,

“Any manager or agent who cheats or steals from a ONE athlete will receive an automatic lifetime banner. Effective immediately.”

In Thailand it is not uncommon for fighters to sign 10 year contracts at a very early age. Buakaw Banchamek had a very public falling out with Por Pramuk amid rumours that the gym had been taking the lion’s share of his purse money throughout the two time K-1 Max winner’s career.

Meanwhile in the Philippines several boxers accused a manager of luring them to Australia with promises of lucrative fights and purses that never materialized. Instead they had their passports confiscated and were forced to work as unpaid labourers on his property.

In certain parts of Asia unscrupulous agents and managers are clearly able to exploit the current lack of regulation in the industry. It is a situation ONE Championship is taking immediate action to address and it will be interesting to see whether this program does succeed in improving standards across the region.