‘Business Maverick’ Yoshiaki Ito seeks to restore Japan’s MMA glory


Yoshiaki Ito

Several traditional forms of martial arts could trace its origins in Japan, but many people tend to forget that the country likewise served as one of the starting points of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Japan was once considered the apex of modern-day MMA, but it has largely fallen out of context over the past decade. With ONE Championship’s hiring of successful business magnate Yoshiaki Ito as President of ONE Championship (Japan), the country is once again poised to reclaim its position among the top MMA countries in Asia and the world.

In the early 1990’s, MMA was growing all over the world as several locations across the globe were beginning to lay the foundation. With Brazil and the United States indoctrinating the beauty of style versus style in the west, the sport’s stomping ground in the eastern hemisphere was in Japan.

Japan has a strong history of MMA. The nation has given birth to heaps of legendary fight promotions such as Pancrase, Shooto, DREAM and PRIDE. From fearless strikers to elite submission grapplers, it also provided the sport with a long list of extraordinary fighters.

However, the Japanese MMA scene drastically lost its luster with the fall of PRIDE and DREAM. To restore its former glory, ONE Championship plans to make its first venture into “The Land of the Rising Sun” in 2017.

ONE Championship is presently known as the largest sports property in Asia. Since its inaugural event in September 2011, it has staged 49 fight cards. The organization is set to have a busy calendar in 2017 with the promise of 24 international shows.

ONE Championship’s live events are broadcasted to over one billion homes in 118 countries and has partnered with blue-chip sponsors. In addition, the Singapore-based MMA organization has visited 11 different countries, including United Arab Emirates, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia.

To further cement its position as the frontrunner of MMA in Asia, ONE Championship seeks to set foot on Japanese soil. As the promotion looks to expand its global reach, ONE Championship has appointed Ito as the company’s head honcho in Japan.

With its goal to gain entry to Japan, ONE Championship sees Ito as the key due to his stringent business acumen and undeniable talent that has immensely boosted the performance of every major company he has led.

“ONE Championship continues to seek out the top executives from various fields to become part of our elite senior management team. Yoshiaki Ito is an excellent asset to have on our team,” ONE Championship CEO Victor Cui said.

“He, along with our very capable leadership, will be responsible for taking our organization to the next level and beyond. We are excited at the possibilities and welcome Ito-san to the ONE Championship family,” he added.

Popularly known in inside circles as a business maverick, Ito is the founder of X-TANK Consulting, former CEO of Haier Asia Group, and a former senior vice president at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

During his tenure at Haier, Ito was responsible for US$1.2 billion in revenue and helping over 6,400 employees.

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Ito speaks Japanese, Thai, and English. With over 20 years of professional experience, Ito brings with him a plethora of impressive accolades.

Ito has received various awards throughout his career, including being named among the Top 100 global leaders/innovators of 2015 by Nikkei Business, the Direct to Top Award and Best Leader Award from Dell Asia Pacific, as well as the Money Ball Award and Global Best Leader Award from Sony Pictures Entertainment, to name a few.

With Ito’s involvement with ONE Championship, he becomes one of the most experienced business professionals to ever get involved in MMA.

“I am elated to join ONE Championship, one of the greatest global sports brands. It’s amazing to be a part of the rapid growth of MMA in Asia. I will focus my efforts on developing the Japanese market,” Ito stated.

ONE Championship houses the best and brightest Japanese competitors as they form an integral part of the roster, with exciting combatants such as Koji Ando and Kotetsu Boku, as well as the legendary Shinya Aoki and ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka Naito.

Ito’s outstanding curriculum vitae might be the overwhelming asset to his appointment as ONE Championship President (Japan), but it is his passion and vision for MMA in Asia that makes him fit for the job.

Ito admitted that he is a huge fan of MMA since the sport was initially introduced in Japan two decades ago. According to him, ONE Championship will instrumental in sparking MMA’s resurgence in the country.

“The nation has been waiting for a top global mixed martial arts organization for a long time to revive the scene. I’m going to make sure that ONE Championship’s goal to redevelop Japan into an MMA powerhouse is realized,” Ito vowed.


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