From putting together events in Taiwan and Cambodia to announcing ten shows a year in mainland China, it’s been a hectic few weeks for ONE FC, but even by those standards Thursday’s announcement was a little bit special.
On Aug. 29, ONE FC is heading to the 12,000-capacity World Trade Centre Arena in Dubai for a show that will feature no fewer than four title fights with Shinya Aoki defending his lightweight title against Kamal Shalorus and Ben Askren challenging Nobutatsu Suzuki for his welterweight belt.
Aoki (35-6-1) will be making the first defense of the title he won by submitting Kotetsu Boku at ONE FC: Kings & Champions over a year ago. He faces a tough test against UFC and WEC veteran Kamal Shalorus (9-3-2), who has been in with some of the best in the division and is known for his wrestling prowess.
Aoki is riding a five-fight win streak and is 4-0 for ONE FC, while Shalorus is 2-0 under the banner of Asia’s biggest MMA promotion having claimed unanimous decision wins over Eduard Folayang and Ariel Sexton.
Suzuki (11-1-2) claimed the 170-pound crown with a hard fought decision win over Brock Larson at ONE FC: War of Nations earlier this year, but the once beaten Japanese Karate champion faces a massive test against undefeated Ben Askren (13-0).
Askren made short work of Bakhtiyar Abbasov at ONE FC: Honor & Glory earlier this year and will be looking to cement his belief that he is the best welterweight on the planet by beating Suzuki and winning a second MMA title after becoming Bellator’s 170-pound champion very early in his career.
ONE FC featherweight champion Koji Oishi will also put his belt on the line against an unannounced opponent. Oishi is likely to face the winner of the title eliminator between Eric Kelly and Rob Lisita in Taiwan, if the winner emerges unscathed.
The other belt to be contested will be the vacant middleweight championship. Although the challengers have not been announced, Leandro Ataides is believed to be in line for a 185-pound title shot after stopping two seasoned veterans in impressive style in his two ONE FC fights to date. There are, however, no obvious candidates on the existing roster to face him.
ONE FC: War of Nations next week marks the promotion’s first foray into Chinese territory with an event in Beijing earmarked for September and a card in Phnom Penh confirmed for the same month.
The Aug. 29 event in Dubai will be ONE FC’s first step into the Middle East and with four title fights, which include appearances by marquee stars Askren and Aoki, it looks set to be the most eagerly anticipated card in the promotion’s three year history.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)
© 2014 MMA Weekly All Rights Reserved.