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Thai Businessmen Lead Thailand to Modern MMA

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  • Chatri Sityodtong
    Chatri Sityodtong (Photo : Harvard Business School)

They've led vastly contrasting lives, hail from different beginnings as young boys born from the kingdom of Thailand. Soon, they'll both find each other in the same place, the land of their birth, working together to bring modern Mixed Martial Arts back home.

ONE Championship Chairman, Chatri Sityodtong and media entrepreneur Kamol 'Sukie' Sukosol Clapp are hard at work, preparing to deliver the biggest sporting event in Asia to fight-hungry fans in the ancient city of Bangkok.

The pair of Thai entrepreneurs are set to introduce Thailand to ONE Championship's unique brand of live MMA events. A press conference is scheduled for 3 March to announce the show, and where and when it will take place.

In 2011, ONE Championship was launched with the goal of bringing modern MMA to Asian shores. The sport had been growing exponentially throughout the past decade, predominantly in the west, making its expansion to the east -- the birthplace of martial arts -- inevitable.

Today, ONE has become the world's most exciting MMA organization hosting the best Asian mixed martial artists and world champions, all signed to exclusive contracts, on the largest media broadcast in Asia.

It starts with one

Chatri, 45, is instrumental in ONE's success, driving the organization with passion, fervor and a keen sense of business. Yet before Chatri became a self-made billionaire, he came from humble beginnings.

During the Asian financial crisis, Chatri, his parents and younger brother became homeless and survived on one meal a day. After his father went bankrupt, selling fruit on the street just to get by and eventually abandoning the family, Chatri was left alone to pick up the responsibility of provider.

If it weren't for martial arts, he says, he wouldn't be where he is today. Chatri credits martial arts for having saved his life, rescuing him from hardship and poverty and the perils that came along with a life spent living constantly on the edge of a knife.

"It was a very bad time and my future looked very bleak. The only thing I really had at the time was my martial arts training -- the mental strength, the discipline, the focus, the courage, the desire for continuous self-improvement. Most importantly, an unbreakable will, a warrior spirit to conquer adversity in life," said Chatri.

"The lessons of martial arts, the gifts of martial arts are so precious that I really believe it's the greatest platform to unleash human potential. That's what gave me the strength and the courage and allowed me to bring my family out of poverty."

Now, sitting on a fortune forged from hard work and an insistent desire to dig his family out from the trenches, Chatri can't help but look back from whence he came.

"That's what love can do. That's what passion can do," he said.

With the gall to persevere, Chatri was able to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School through a scholarship. As a student, he couldn't afford the subways, couldn't afford taxis. To make money on the side, he delivered Chinese food and taught Muay Thai. He did many things just to survive. At one point, even his own mother came to live with him in his Harvard dorm room, against student policy.

But even then things were different. Chatri had that look about him that exuded the aura of someone who had just conquered life. It was evident.

Shortly after university, Chatri moved to Silicon valley, building a software company from the ground up with a few close friends. They raised $40-million and employed 150 people. They eventually sold the business for $20-million, giving Chatri his first taste of wealth.

By the age of 30, was able to purchase an apartment in New York for his mother and put his younger brother through college. He then moved on to Wall Street, putting up a multi-million dollar hedge fund that made him one of the richest people in the world today.

Yet Chatri wasn't satisfied. Something inside of him was yearning for more fulfillment.

"Once I became wealthy and I started making millions on Wall Street and being successful, I realized that money wasn't the only thing that drove me. My soul wasn't fulfilled," said Chatri. "After almost a decade on Wall Street, I wanted to do something with my life. Instead of taking, I wanted to give to the world and change the world."

The other half of the equation

On the other side of the spectrum sits beloved local Thai celebrity, Kamol 'Sukie' Sukosol Clapp -- the second half of ONE Championship's winning formula in Thailand.

Sukie was recently named ONE Championship President in Thailand, overseeing day-to-day operations for ONE in the country as well as continued business development. With his breadth of knowledge and experience in the local market, Sukie is quickly pegged as a key cornerstone for success.

Unlike Chatri, Sukie came from a well-known family who were fondly dubbed the 'musical hoteliers' of Thailand.

In 1990, jazz singer Kamala Sukosol built the Sukosol business dynasty, developing a managed collection of establishments from homey abodes to private palaces. Along with Sukosol Hotels and Sukosol Group, the family single-handedly runs The Sukosol -- one of Bangkok's premier hotel offerings.

Coming from the music industry, where he started Thailand's most successful independent label, Bakery Music, Sukie now serves as Director of Projects for the Sukosol Group and is responsible for driving the family business into new and exciting ventures.

Sukie's latest role with ONE Championship is evidence of his desire to tap into new and undiscovered territory. The innovator will bring along with him various skills and knowledge obtained from years in the music industry.

ONE events have the atmosphere of a rock concert, building momentum from when the show starts, up to an epic finale manifested in an intense main event that electrifies ravenous martial arts fans. With Sukie, there is no doubt that ONE Championship can achieve what they have set out to do.

The dynamic duo

ONE Championship is set to bring the absolute best in world-class mixed martial arts to Bangkok. With Chatri and Sukie at the helm, it's not only going to be an event, it will be an absolute spectacle.

ONE's move into Bangkok is considered the key to the region. With Thailand's rich martial arts history, having been the originators of the ancient combat art of Muay Thai -- one of the most widely used disciplines in modern day MMA -- ONE is poised to cause a potential business boom in the market.

In the past decade, hundreds of MMA gyms have opened up across Asia, many of which are in fact in Thailand. With ONE's aggressive expansion plans, developing mainland China and other key markets, a move into Bangkok was an obvious choice.

No other MMA promotion in the world has accomplished what ONE has in Asia, making them the perfect team to continue cultivating the sport in the region.

As young boys from varying economic backgrounds and life experiences, Chatri and Sukie have come together in a magnificent partnership that promises no less than the moon and the stars.

They find themselves, now on the cusp of greatness, giving back to a community that has helped them become who they are today. For Chatri, it's a chance to tap back into his roots in Thailand. For Sukie, it's yet another opportunity to boost Thailand's already strong economy by bringing in new business.

It's a partnership that just makes a world of sense, and it's all coming very soon.

In a venture that's sure to produce a significant economic impact to the city of Bangkok, everyone's a winner.

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