OnePride MMA: Is Asian mixed martial arts better than ever?

Mixed martial arts, as a sport, continues to thrive and grow at a rapid rate as it has done for the better part of the last few decades. While that may be a worldwide movement it’s important to focus in on one specific region from time to time, and in this instance, the growing success of Asian MMA needs to be recognised and appreciated.

In 2013 the UFC made their way into the Indonesian MMA market as a part of their global expansion when they announced a partnership with MNC media. The UFC has held 20 cards in the Asian market to date and despite having this partnership for broadcasting, they have yet to test the Indonesian market. Not only that, but arguably the leading organisation in the world have yet to even have an Indonesian fighter on a single card.

In ONE Championship there have been quite a few fighters from the southeastern Asia country, which is huge. Yet none have been able to break it into the bigger market outside of Asia. This may all change soon. Regionally the market for MMA in Indonesia is growing larger and more events are taking place frequently with high-level fighters being produced.

Jakarta-based promotion OnePride MMA is leading the development of regional MMA. Since 2016 the promotion has hosted just under 50 events, with cards being spread out across the country. CEO of the OnePride MMA, Fransino Tirta, believes that development for the sport is a key focus in the running of their events.

“Before OnePride, basically there is no televised local MMA show, so we have to develop MMA in Indonesia. Now that it’s developed, nurturing our fighters is very important to make a good quality show. The key for our successful business is working together with TV One as a media partner, so we can blast and promote our show massively.

“Yes, of course, having our fighters to fight in UFC would be our ultimate goal since the very beginning me and Mr Ardi Bakrie, our goal is to create Indonesian MMA Pride that can compete at the highest level, put Indonesia on the map of MMA world.”

Currently, there are some local stars in the promotion and likely candidates to move onto the worldwide scene soon. Some of these stars include Rudy Gunawan (9-0), Linda Darrow (6-0), Angga (7-2) and Theodorus Ginting (4-0). Two of the aforementioned fighters, Gunawan and Darrow are respected champions within the promotion that have successfully defended their titles. Angga and Ginting are both upcoming highly skilled contenders that are impressing with every fight.

Each of these fighters has fought all of their bouts under the One Pride banner and could potentially fight on a larger stage in the future.

At 34, Theodorus Ginting believes the younger generation of Indonesian fighters may get the chance to fight in the UFC but would not pass up the opportunity if it arose. On the promotional side of it, believes OnePride has changed a lot for both him personally and across the country.

“What OnePride MMA has done to me personally it really has boosted up my social status as a professional fighter in the society. It has been a rough 10 years of struggle in Indonesia. Nobody really knew what we are doing until this show came up.

In the country itself OnePride MMA really helped to set the eyes of the people to the sport of MMA itself, it has become the most likeable sport in Indonesia today.”

Ginting is accurate with how it’s grown the sport, and the volume of events plus the major events Asian MMA giants ONE Championship host in the country every year has seen the country become a hotspot for MMA.

A fighter with sights set directly on the UFC is the highly skilled Angga. After losing out in his last title shot, he is determined to get his own back and earn a spot on the international scene. Angga is also very complimentary on how the promotion has grown the sport in the country.

“Yes I do (believe I can make it to the UFC) because if I can to be a champion and have a good career at the OnePride Mma, I can continue my career into international battles and if there is a chance I want to continue to UFC.

“OnePride MMA is very helpful because in Indonesia there are so many good fighters and can develop fighters skill from Indonesia.”

The desire to fight in the UFC for these Indonesian fighters is clear. Fighting at that level is huge for both the individual fighter and the sport locally. The UFC has had many fighters from all across Asia, hailing from countries such as Japan, China and South Korea to name just a few. The closest Indonesia have gotten so far is in Linda Darrow. In June the UFC announced that the OnePride MMA strawweight champion would become the inaugural UFC scholarship recipient. This included an all-inclusive deal to train in the state of the art UFC PI in Las Vegas, Nevada. This, unfortunately, did not include a UFC contract, however, it definitely put her in contention for the future. When speaking about the scholarship, Darrow detailed the pressure and the nature of the deal.

“I am honoured to have the privilege of being the first person to receive such scholarship, but at the same time, I felt a weight on my shoulder from having such privilege. At times, I felt that what I did on the camp will have a bearing on whether UFC will scout Indonesian talents in near future.

As for the fight, a fight in the UFC was not discussed at the time. The deal was strictly on the scholarship, but it definitely put me on UFC’s radar. Hence, while we may or may not see me a fight in the short run, it definitely brings me a step closer to fighting in UFC, and I want to have it sooner than later to have the honour of being the first Indonesian national to fight in the UFC.”

Darrow receiving this scholarship is certainly a huge step forward for MMA in Indonesia and shows the impact OnePride MMA has had. The promotion may be young but what they have done in a short period of time makes them a special commodity to the sport in Indonesia. This could finally grant the country with a native fighting under the UFC banner on a worldwide stage.