Named the Most Powerful Person in Asian MMA by Yahoo Sports, Chatri Sityodtong talks to Philippine Tatler about his principles in life and what it takes to achieve greatness beyond self-ambition.
A self-made multimillionaire, entrepreneur, and Harvard MBA, Sityodtong owns stakes in sports, retail, technology, and media. He is the chairman of One Championship, the largest sports media property in Asian history today.
We got to sit down with Sityodtong before his inspiring speech at the recently concluded TedxForbes Park. He talks about his very humble beginnings, his passion for Mixed Martial Arts, and why he gave up being a global hedge fund manager on Wall Street to pursue sports.
Philippine Tatler: Tell us about how you first got into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Muay Thai, to begin?
Chatri Sityodong: I started Muay Thai as a child growing up in Thailand and I’ve been doing it about 30 years now. I started picking up Brazilian Jujitsu several years ago. And I have another company called Evolve Mixed Martial Arts that I started in 2009. In addition to One Championships that I started in 2001; so, I’ve been a martial artist my whole life, basically.
PT: How did you get into business (as a career path)?
CS: One of my family went bankrupt in the Asian Financial Crisis and they lost everything. My parents became penniless and homeless; my father eventually abandoned the family. I thought to myself, I never want to be in this situation again. I watched my mom cry and suffer, so I was fortunate enough that she pushed me to apply to Harvard Business School to get an MBA. Thereon, I became an entrepreneur.
PT: How do you apply the things you’ve learned from MMA into Business?
CS: I think there’s a lot of parallels. Martial arts gave me mental strength, integrity, humility, courage, fearlessness[…] so many things I apply in the business world. All those life lessons I’ve learned from thousands of hours of training forged in me a warrior’s spirit to conquer adversity. In the business world, that’s the only way you can deal with obstacles and failures.
PT: You have many other stakes in different fields, how do you choose what to put money in?
CS: Luckily, I spent 10 years on Wall Street as a Global Hedge Fund Manager, so I’m used to buying and selling companies all over the world.
I have that skill set of knowing when to buy. Basically [it] comes down to risk-reward and my belief in the long-term[…] I think, money is very much a by-product of doing good in the world, helping as many people as you can, adding value, and that for me is the most important.
PT: Are you looking into doing something new in the coming months?
CS: New opportunities come all the time, but right now I’m very focused on my Martial Arts Businesses. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity. If you look at every region in the world, there are several multi-billion sports-media properties.
Look at America’s NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, UFC[…] you go to Europe it’s the same thing. EPL (English Premiere League), Formula 1, Bundes Liga[…] they’re all worth several billion to 30 billion a piece. There’s absolutely nothing in a Pan-Asian basis, so that is the genesis of One Championship.
I want to unify four billion people to watch one sports league and have that as my lasting legacy to inspire people. One thing that people don’t realize about world champions in Martial Arts, [is that] even though they’re the toughest guys in the world, they’ve come from (often times) tremendous adversity.
They’re born to poverty, orphanages, and what not. So for me, showcasing their amazing life stories of overcoming incredible odds is something that really ignites me because I know that Asia will be infused with hope, strength, and inspiration just for their own daily lives.
When you watch one of your heroes like Eduard Folayang, [who] was born in a family of 9[…] 5 of his siblings passed away cause they were so poor. His parents were illiterate. And then he became a lightweight world champion – he’s Filipino.
That is an inspirational life story, very much like Manny Pacquiao’s. That for me is the main driving force for One Championship. I use that as a platform to create a better Asia.
PT: How do you see the Philippines as a country that’s a home to MMA?
CS: The reality is that Asia has been home to Martial Arts for 5, 000 years. There’s a martial art that’s home-grown in every single country.
Karate in Japan, Taek Won Do in Korea, in the Philippines it’s very much a big history of Kali, Dumog, Boxing[…] there’s a lot of cultural relevance. Filipinos are warriors by heart if you just look at the history of the Philippines.
I think Martial Arts is not only going to be a growing force in the Philippines but it will be one of the biggest sports [here]. I’m hoping it takes over basketball.