The ONE Championship roster is home to some of the very best martial arts heroes to come out of Japan. While promotions like PRIDE and DREAM have laid down the groundwork for the mixed martial arts scene in Japan, ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong aims to take it to new heights.
“We have the right Japanese partners in Japan to succeed and make it even bigger than PRIDE was, and take martial arts back to the mainstream, where it belongs in Japan,” Sityodtong proclaimed. As ONE Championship takes their first step into Japan in 2019, the future definitely looks bright as the promotion gives martial artists the perfect platform to showcase their skills on the global stage.
The distinction of being the most experienced Japanese athlete on the ONE Championship roster easily goes to mixed martial arts legend Yuki Kondo, who has a staggering 104 professional bouts under his belt. He is a veteran of multiple MMA promotions including the very popular PRIDE.
Hailing from Nagaoka City, Japan, Kondo made a name for himself during his time in Pancrase, where he became the light heavyweight champion, middleweight champion, and two-time openweight champion. He made his ONE Championship debut in a losing effort to fellow legend Renzo Gracie at “ONE: Reign of Kings” in Manila, Philippines on July 27, 2018.
Another multi-promotion veteran, Koketsu “No Face” Boku was a fixture in Shooto before making his ONE Championship debut in 2012, when he captured the ONE Lightweight World title in his first match in the promotion. He has since competed ten more times one the ONE Championship stage, facing former champions Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki of Japan, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of the Philippine sand Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa of Mongolia.
Aoki is one of the best MMA fighters to come from Japan. He is a former ONE Lightweight World Champion and is currently making his way back to the top of the division.
Considered by many as one of the best submission specialists in Asia, Aoki is a former WAMMA, DREAM, and Shooto titleholder with 41 career victories under his belt, 25 of them coming via submission. On the ONE Championship stage, he quickly showed why he was a legend, capturing the ONE Lightweight World Title in just his second match with the promotion and successfully defending it twice.
Among those also representing Japan under the ONE Championship umbrella are former two-time ONE Women’s Atomweight Title challenger Mei Yamaguchi, submission grappling legend Masakazu Imanari, featherweight contenders Tetsuya Yamada and Kazunori Yokota and strawweight contender Hayato Suzuki. Other Japanese stars like Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Takanori Gomi and Tatsuya Kawajiri have all helped raise the banner of Japanese MMA all over the world as well.
When talking about Japanese MMA stars, there is no brighter star than that of Kazushi Sakuraba. A veteran of PRIDE, K-1 and DREAM, he faced the best of the best throughout his 46-bout career, including legendary matches with Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Before becoming two-time ONE Strawweight World Champion, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito dominated the ranks of Shooto, which included a run as the promotion’s featherweight king. He made an immediate impact in his ONE Championship debut back in 2016, submitting former champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke in four rounds.
Naito is set to defend his championship against Filipino rival Joshua Pacio at “ONE: Conquest of Heroes” on September 22, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Here is a clip featuring the reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion: