A unit of Temasek Holdings, Singapore-based Heliconia Capital Management, is leading a round of investors in the Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) venture ONE Championship. The investment will see Heliconia Capital chief executive Derek Lau join One Championship’s board.
Heliconia, which invests in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from Singapore that have the potential to expand on a regional and international basis, is leading a consortium of firms seeking to inject a sizeable investment into the MMA contest organiser.
It focuses its investments on SMEs as a separate portfolio from Temasek, targeting those with the potential to be globally competitive. Some firms in its portfolio are gaming hardware product Razer and F&B corporation Jumbo Group, whose IPO it backed as a cornerstone investor.
Commenting on the investment, Lau said, “We believe One Championship can potentially be the next big thing for consumers in Asia. It has the right product for Asia, it understands Asia and knows how to monetise the value proposition in various ways in the new economy.”
Started in 2011, Singapore-based ONE Championship has hosted live events across 11 Asian countries and currently broadcasts fights across 118 countries, complemented by a 10-year broadcast deal with FOX Sports signed in 2011.
ONE Championship is seeking to leverage on the growing appeal of the MMA in the Asian markets. This deal comes in the aftermath of the sale of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to a consortium led by Silver Lake for a consideration of approximately $4 billion, highlighting its appeal as a mainstream entertainment event and the evolution of the fighting discipline over time.
While with a less established brand history than its competitor, the UFC, ONE Championship is deepening its presence in the Asia Pacific (APAC), supporting and sponsoring a growing roster of popular fighters.
According to the company, it has plans to increase the number of live events this year to nearly double what it organised in 2015, which saw 11 events.
According to a report from The Straits Times, the investment is forecast to grow the valuation of the firm to beyond S$1 billion and is described as a “significant eight-figure sum”. It also marks the first sports-related investment by Heliconia.
In an interaction with the Singapore publication, founder and chairman of ONE Championship, Chatri Sityodtong, explained: “Derek and I both believe One Championship can become Asia’s first multi-billion dollar sport media property… It is a big boost for the global MMA industry and a massive point for the sport in Asia.
“We have been growing at triple-digit percentage annually for the past five years… the deal puts us on the path to pass the $1 billion valuation in the next 12 to 18 months,” he added.
Proceeds from the latest investment will likely fund the expansion of its footprint in existing markets like China – which it entered in 2015 – as well as new markets like Japan and South Korea.