May Ooi

The 18th edition of the Asian Games officially opened this past Saturday, 18 August in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.

The Asian Games, also known as the Asiad, is a pan-Asian multi-sport event that takes place every four years, with the first edition taking place in New Delhi, India back in 1951.

For three weeks, the Asian Games will be celebrating the best athletes and competitors from across Asia as they compete in a plethora of sporting events including basketball, football, tennis, athletics, and many others.

Of course, the Asian Games also celebrates Asia’s greatest cultural treasure: martial arts.

Hundreds of the continent’s best martial artists have flocked to Indonesia to showcase their skills on Asia’s biggest stage with the hopes of doing their home countries proud and bringing glory back home to their motherland.

This year’s Asian Games will feature competitions in Boxing, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Kurash, Pencak Silat, Sambo, Tae Kwon Do, Wrestling and Wushu and will feature practitioners from across 45 nations competing to determine who will be hailed as the best in each discipline.

“The Asian Games is always an exciting time when it comes to martial arts,” shared ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. “The best martial artists from Asia, the birthplace of martial arts, get to display their talents on a massive stage.”

“As a lifelong martial artist myself, I know how massive an opportunity this is for these talented competitors, and I can only imagine the pride and the fulfilment that the eventual medalists get to experience. Just by going out there and representing their respective countries in competition, they’re already heroes.” he added.

Martial arts is a perfect jump-off point to a fruitful career in mixed martial arts, as what a number of ONE Championship athletes have been able to do.

Take former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang for example.

Before reaching the pinnacle of ONE Championship’s 77.1-kilogram division, Folayang was a two-time Asian Games medalist in Wushu, capturing Bronze in the 2002 Busan Asian Games and Silver in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Also taking home a medal in Wushu in the 2006 Doha Asian Games is Folayang’s compatriot and top ONE Championship strawweight contender Rene “The Challenger” Catalan, who bagged the gold medal.

Before making his way into mixed martial arts, Kritsada “Dream Man” Kongsrichai represented his home country of Thailand in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, making it up to the quarterfinals of the men’s Greco-Roman wrestling 55-kilogram tournament.

After representing Singapore in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games and the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games as a swimmer, ONE Championship women’s atomweight contender “Mighty” May Ooi will be making her third Asiad appearance, but this time as a competitor in the newly-introduced Jiu-Jitsu tournament.

“Martial arts is Asia’s greatest cultural treasure, and I personally believe that the best martial artists in the world come from this wonderful continent.” Sityodtong proclaimed. “Everyday, new heroes in martial arts emerge, and some of them have shined in big, big stages such as the Asian Games.”

“Look at Eduard Folayang. He’s a two-time Asian Games medalist, and then he went on to become a world champion in mixed martial arts. Look at May Ooi, who’s competed twice in the Asian Games as a swimmer. 28 years later after her first time, she’s back on that stage, this time as a Jiu-Jitsu competitor and as a full-fledged martial artist. It’s an amazing thing that these national athletes do,” he expounded further.

For Sityodtong, the Asian Games is a possible hotbed of future martial arts champions who can eventually take their talents to the global stage of ONE Championship.

“After winning medals Wushu in the Asian Games, Folayang jumped to mixed martial arts and became a champion there. We have [Rene] Catalan, a former Asian Games gold medalist who’s on the brink of a world title shot after five-straight wins. These guys have continued to showcase their talents, years after their Asian Games stints. We’re always keeping an eye out in those competitions, especially the traditional martial arts like Wushu, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing and Silat. These martial arts are among the pillars of mixed martial arts,” he stated.

“These athletes are the best of the best from their countries in their respective disciplines, and of course, one day, we’d love to have them continuing to represent their countries, hopefully on the ONE Championship stage,” Sityodtong ended.

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