2019 man of the year Chatri Sityodtong

The martial arts gods are smiling down on Chatri Sityodtong and ONE Championship. Either that or Chatri is a genius because what he and his crew are serving up is resonating not only with fight fans in Asia but also with traditional and eclectic martial arts practitioners around the world. As evidence, note that ONE is seeing consistently growing audiences, and it's the subject of weekly stories in mainstream outlets touting its unparalleled success and preaching the gospel of Chatri.

The following quote sums up the philosophy of the man and the org rather nicely: "The word 'MMA' is now synonymous with martial arts, [and] the general public thinks of MMA as blood sport, violence, hatred, controversy. Literally from day one, my mission for ONE Championship [has been] to unleash the real-life superheroes who ignite the world with hope, strength and inspiration."

In a nutshell, that's why ONE is riding a rocket into the stratosphere. Not surprisingly, the path along which Chatri is guiding the promotion grew out of his 34-plus years in the arts. "The biggest misconception about martial arts is that it's about fighting or violence," he observed in a Black Belt interview. "In actuality, martial arts is the warrior way of life, of inheriting these incredible values that allow you to release your potential as a human being. It gives you so many skills, so many values to apply to the rest of your life."

More and more people — martial artists as well as business leaders — are listening to what Chatri has to say on a variety of subjects. As the CEO of Asia's largest global sports entity, he possesses a gravitas that's rare in the martial arts, one that's refreshingly in line with the principles all practitioners hold dear.

Of course his philosophical bent doesn't preclude him from growing ONE. His expansion plans don't stop with MMA, however, and what he has in mind could be even more intriguing for traditional martial artists everywhere. That's because Chatri intends to feature on his cards — and eventually organize events around — other combat sports, including karate, kung fu, taekwondo, lethwei and submission grappling."I view ONE as the bridge between the new and the old," he told Black Belt. "I want to preserve the old in the sense of the history, the culture and the values of what traditional martial arts brings. But I want to present it in a way that millennials can enjoy genuinely, hence allowing martial arts to become truly mainstream."Few are doing more to propagate our traditions in a format that appeals to the next generation of fans and practitioners than Chatri Sityodtong. Which is why he is Black Belt's 2019 Man of the Year.— Robert W. Young

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