ONE Championship’s ‘ONE on TNT’ debut kicks off busy April on primetime US television

Starting on April 7, ONE Championship will begin to produce consistent primetime content on the TNT network. Bringing to life the network and promotion’s hopes when their partnership for US broadcasting rights was first signed in December 2018.

During a global media conference call held today, the promotion’s CEO Chatri Sityodtong laid out plans for a packed schedule of shows in April, that begins a new series of events airing Wednesday nights on the Warner Media-owned channel.

“We are going to debut in primetime in the US, with a new series called ‘ONE on TNT Primetime.’ Right after [All Elite Wrestling ‘Dynamite’] on Wednesdays. We kick it off every week in April, 9 PM [ET] prelims on Bleacher Report and B/R Live, and the main card goes to TNT to all American fans.”

Chatri Sityodtong on ‘ONE on TNT’

One Championship TNT schedule

The debut episode of the series will be headlined by a long-awaited flyweight title bout between defending champion Adriano Moraes, and flyweight grand prix winner Demetrious Johnson. The event will also feature the return of former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez, following 20-months away from the action, as he takes on No. 2 ranked lightweight Iuri Lapicus.

The busy month of fights includes events on April 14, 21, and 28. Start times for each prelim and main card are as follows:

Apr 7 — 9-10 PM ET – Bleacher Report & B/R Live, 10-11:30 PM ET – Simulcast TNT

Apr 14 — 9-10 PM ET – Bleacher Report & B/R Live, 10-11:00 PM ET – Simulcast on TNT

Apr 21 — 9-10 PM ET – Bleacher Report & B/R Live, 10-11:00 PM ET – Simulcast on TNT

Apr 28 — 9-10 PM ET – Bleacher Report & B/R Live, 10-11:30 PM ET – Simulcast on TNT

ONE Championship fight schedule

In addition, the organization’s co-founder announced the headliners for the two events following the series’ debut and several bits of notable news. On April 14, lightweight champion Christian Lee will defend his crown for the second time, when he takes on #2 ranked Timofey Nastyukhin. While on April 21, light heavyweight champion Aung La Nsang returns to action, after losing his middleweight title in October, to defend his remaining belt in a trilogy fight with Russia’s Vitaly Bigdash. The pair split their two bouts in 2017, with Nsang winning the rematch.

“ONE real bad-ass girl”

A ONE women’s atomweight grand prix is also a couple of weeks away from being finalized, with seven of the eight talents involved already signed. Sityodtong confessed the tournament was not yet official because, “we just need to sign this one real bad-ass girl, and then we’ll announce the atomweight grand prix.”

The organization is also officially shifting away from producing events on Fridays, to accommodate their expanded deal with TNT. Meaning, ONE Warrior Series events are currently in flux. Details on the future of the prospect driven series will be revealed at a later date.

ONE Championship is a big deal

Sityodtong views the organization’s opportunity to air consistently on a major US network, and have a lead-in from a popular wrestling brand in AEW, as a great chance to introduce American audiences to a talent-rich roster they may be unfamiliar with.

“I genuinely believe we have the world’s greatest roster of martial arts world champions. Bar none, full stop. In a single discipline, or mixed martial arts. We would put our world champions against any of the two global organization’s world champions in a heartbeat. We’re out here in Asia, and people just don’t know our roster is filled with monsters and killers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the UFC athletes when they come over here, they’ve all lost. Only [Demetrious Johnson] has managed to come into ONE Championship unscathed, and eke out victories. Just because American fans haven’t heard the names, does not mean these guys haven’t been doing martial arts their entire lives. This is going to be a great introduction for American fans, for sure.”

Chatri Sityodtong on ‘ONE on TNT’

ONE Championship airing consistently in the US, in prime time, is a big deal. It certainly does not guarantee the promotion will pass Bellator, and become the UFC’s primary rival. However, having near-weekly primetime exposure, on a network known for its high-level sports programming, is the sort of branding that goes a long way with American fans.

Will Bellator still be No. 2 in 2024

What’s also key, is having a lead-in from AEW every week. Broadcasting on the heels of programming that has a solid and dedicated audience cannot be understated. A perfect example of this was a December episode of WWE Smackdown scoring its best ratings in over a year, after immediately following a rare Friday afternoon NFL game. Obviously, AEW does not have the audience size of the NFL, but the possibility of 800,000 or more viewers being led into ONE’s content does help with earning new fans. Especially, since there is a great deal of crossover between professional wrestling and MMA fans.

At the very least, ONE Championship now has a legitimate chance for growth in the all-important North American MMA market. This is something that should give Bellator MMA cold sweats about holding on to their place as the No. 2 promotion in the US.

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