For Chatri Sityodtong, it’s no longer about the money. He once managed a 500-million-dollar hedge fund on Wall Street and has long since obtained a level of financial security that would be sufficient to last for several lifetimes.
At this stage, it is about pursuing goals he is passionate about and prospective martial artists in Singapore are fortunate that one of this Thai entrepreneur’s main dreams coincides keenly with their interests.
Chatri recently launched a third facility of his chain of Evolve MMA academies. It is situated on Orchard Road, in the heart of Singapore’s entertainment and shopping district, and he feels this will help make the sport even more mainstream in one of Asia’s most prosperous countries.
“To draw an analogy, Orchard Road in Singapore is the equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York City. My dream is to make MMA a mainstream sport in Asia, so having an Evolve MMA on Orchard Road is a way for me to demonstrate to the world that MMA is for everyone,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
Evolve MMA has a well-deserved reputation for being the top facility of its type in Asia. Mixed martial artists who have trained for fights there in recent years include Ben Askren, Shinya Aoki, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Tarec Saffiedine.
It’s become something of a flagship for Asian MMA and Chatri says he has ambitious plans for future expansion.
“We are in the process of finalizing two more locations and we also have a big overseas project underway already. Evolve MMA has the biggest brand in Asia when it comes to martial arts. We have over 300,000 fans on Facebook.”
The fight team at Evolve MMA is home to some of the biggest names in the region like Askren and Aoki, but there are also a number of up and coming stars. Chatri says he enjoys both nurturing young talent and seeing elite mixed martial artists take their game to the next level.
“When Shinya Aoki, Asia’s biggest superstar, improves leaps and bounds under the world champions at Evolve MMA, it brings me immense joy. Shinya and I talk all the time and his game has skyrocketed since he joined the Evolve Fight Team, but he still has a long way to go before he reaches his potential. Of course, I also love finding new talent like Amir Khan, who’s going to be a world champion in the future if he continues to work hard and listen to his coaches and teammates.”
Singapore is now firmly established as the epicenter of Asian MMA and is home to the biggest promotion in the region, ONE FC, while the UFC also has offices there. The sport has gone from strength to strength in recent years, but Chatri says that when he arrived seven years ago, it was very much in its infancy.
“The difference is night and day. When I first arrived in 2007, there were only eight Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belts in the entire country of 5 million people. Today, there are probably a few hundred blue belts in the country; if not more.”
Evolve MMA has been in Singapore since the days when ONE FC was a distant dream and the UFC wasn’t even televised there. As such, Chatri is a pioneer, and he thinks his camp has played a small but crucial role in helping the country establish itself as a major force in the region.
“The sport of MMA can only grow with a strong ecosystem of fighters, fans, gyms, students, sponsors, and media. Evolve MMA has definitely played a big role in igniting MMA in Asia, but there are many factors at play when it comes to the tremendous growth of Asian MMA.”
As well as the three physical locations in Singapore, there is also an Evolve University of online tutorials and Chatri says that he plans to expand even further in the coming months and years.
“Actually, I am not happy with Evolve’s growth. We are behind plan, but it is 100 percent my fault, as I have been involved in more non-MMA projects than anticipated and to be honest, I have not spent enough time on Evolve in the last 18 months or so. We have big plans for Evolve in the future and this is really only the beginning of Evolve’s growth story.”
Since its foundation in 2009, Evolve MMA has developed at a remarkable rate, and with the new Orchard Road facility opening up this month and an international expansion in the pipeline, this trajectory of growth is only getting steeper.
There has been a similar surge in interest in the sport itself and, having managed vast amounts of money on Wall Street, Chatri knows a thing or two about identifying trends and sees a very bright future for Asian MMA.
“I believe we are at the beginning of the growth story for Asian MMA. There are 4.2 billion people in Asia and Asia has been the home of martial arts for the last 5,000 years, but amazingly, ONE FC marks the first time in history that a truly world-class management team has tried to commercialize martial arts. We have movie heroes here like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li, but now it is time for real-life heroes.”
For more information about Evolve MMA’s new campus on Orchard Road visit: http://evolve-mma.com/
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