• Mitch Chilson was a former ONE Championship fighter before becoming the promotion's commentator
  • Chilson fought at its inaugural event entitled "ONE FC: Champion vs. Champion"
  • The 44-year-old shares his thoughts on the future of ONE Championship

ONE Championship has come a long way since its inception in 2011, and Mitch Chilson is a witness to the promotion’s rise from a startup mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in Singapore to a global combat sports juggernaut.

Most fans these days know Chilson as an announcer, one-half of the play-by-play commentary team alongside Michael Schiavello that adds contexts and insights during a live broadcast of ONE Championship’s events.

But before he became Schiavello’s verbal sparring partner who’s dressed in a suit and tie with a headset every fight night, Chilson started out as a professional mixed martial artist who was front and center on the poster of the company’s inaugural show dubbed “ONE FC: Champion vs. Champion” on September 3, 2011.

Known back then as the face of the now-defunct Martial Combat, which regularly hosted fight cards in the Singaporean island resort of Sentosa, he was one of the 20 men who competed in ONE Championship’s maiden offering by taking on Filipino fighter Eric Kelly.

“I remember it like it was yesterday! Having that opportunity to fight on the first-ever ONE card and now ten years later, calling the fights. It's been a wild ride and I consider myself blessed and grateful to be right there in the mix,” Chilson recounted in an elusive interview with International Business Times sports editor and combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano.

Mitch Chilson
Mitch Chilson is a former professional MMA fighter with a record of 4-2-1NC. ONE Championship

Although the outcome he wanted for his promotional debut didn’t come his way, Chilson had four more bouts under the outfit’s umbrella that saw him pick up victories against the likes of AJ Lias Mansor and Ngabdi Mulyadi.

Now respected as someone who has been there for the organization from the very beginning, the 44-year-old attributed the success of ONE Championship through the years to its ability to maximize the potential of the sometimes-complicated market while going head-to-head with other MMA powerhouses such as the UFC, Bellator, Professional Fighters League and BRAVE Combat Federation.

“I've witnessed ONE transform the martial arts world, not just with action-packed entertainment, but also with a strong vision and mission to promote the values of martial arts,” he said.

“ONE constantly innovates the martial arts scene, not just with the global rule-set which encourages finishes, but also with giving the different martial arts a global platform.”

Since May 2017, ONE Championship had ventured into showcasing other branches of the fight game, starting with submission-grappling wherein multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Garry Tonon faced and prevailed over Japanese legend Shinya Aoki.

The promotion then launched the ONE Super Series in April 2018, which gave full emphasis on striking disciplines such as Muay Thai and kickboxing.

ONE Championship has gone global through the years as it is now being broadcasted in more than 150 countries and has partnered with reputable networks in airing its content such as Star Sports, Beijing TV, iQIYI, TV5, Turner Sports, SCTV, Startimes, Thairath TV, Skynet, Mediacorp, Spark Sport, Match TV and Dubai Sports.

In addition, it has held blockbuster events in various countries such as Singapore, China, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan.

Aside from housing the biggest names in the industry such as Aoki, Eddie Alvarez, John Lineker, Bibiano Fernandes and Brandon Vera, ONE Championship has likewise been pivotal in the development of local and homegrown talents like the Philippines’ Eduard Folayang and Myanmar’s Aung La N Sang.

ONE Championship will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this Saturday, March 26 at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Dubbed as “ONE X,” it is set to feature a total of 20 bouts, including the women’s atomweight championship clash between longtime division titleholder Angela Lee and challenger Stamp Fairtex.

Also slated to be part of the action is the hybrid MMA-Muay Thai showdown, pitting former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson against Thai striker Rodtang Jitmuangnon.

Chilson—who returns to his duties as a color commentator at ONE X—stressed that with all the accomplishments that ONE Championship has achieved for the past 10 years, the only way for the promotion to go is up.

“Every ONE event brings people together, and I can only see this organization with an upward trajectory from here on out,” he stated. “I think ONE is on track to continue to push the boundaries of sports and entertainment."

Joshua Pacio, Mitch Chilson
Mitch Chilson (R) interviews Joshua Pacio (L) inside the cage after a title bout at ONE Championship. ONE Championship