Despite ONE’s executives routinely making bold claims stating otherwise, Bloody Elbow has gone over the promotion’s financial filings through the years, showing losses growing at an astronomical rate. ONE’s documents showed that they lost $111 million in one year alone, with accumulated losses of $383 million as of 2021.
Their financial issues seemingly continued in the last two years, with the Singapore-based fight promotion’s runway reportedly “expected to expire” in 2024.
ONE Championship has more layoffs, could run out of money soon
According a report from Kristie Neo of reputable business site Deal Street Asia, “ONE’s runway is expected to expire by Q3 next year” and the promotion is under pressure to secure additional funding.
ONE announced massive staff cuts in 2020, and they’ve reportedly done two more rounds of layoffs this year from March-April and again in July. Their sources noted that 12-15 people were laid off on each of the rounds, or about 10% of their staff.
ONE Championship only generated $5-8 million revenue in 2022?
Apart from the hundreds of millions in losses, another thing that stood out in ONE Championship’s financial documents was the way they reported their revenue and profit.
In their past filings to the Singapore government, ONE Championship used “barter transactions” or non-cash deals, which inflated and accounted for majority of the revenue they’ve reported. As they previously described, these involve “marketing efforts such as promotional plugs provided by the broadcast partner in exchange for the right to broadcast the events.”
Since Bloody Elbow and other news outlets started reporting on ONE’s finances in 2018, these barter transactions have since been folded into broadcasting and sponsorship, making it harder to figure out how much of the reported revenue are cash or non-cash transactions.
In 2021, ONE declared almost $68 million in revenue. ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong now claims that figure only increased greatly 2022 and 2023.
According to Deal Street Asia’s sources, “ONE’s true cash revenue in FY2022 is likely to be just $5-8 million,” but the company is again expected to “attempt to report a higher revenue figure” to retain or raise its supposed billion dollar valuation.
ONE also declared $341 million in “profit” in 2020. This was a result of an internal sale, with ONE selling their IP rights to their own ONE subsidiary for $400 million. Without that curious transaction being counted, they would have a loss of $59 million for the year.
Qatar investors reportedly “embarrassed” about involvement with ONE
Despite years of mounting losses, ONE has impressively found ways to still convince people to invest in their company, selling how they supposedly have surging revenue, billions of viewers, and “imminent” profitability.
They’ve raised over $500 million to date, including $150 million in ONE’s last round of investments in 2021, led by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Guggenheim Investments.
With all that money said to be running out, ONE has made another fundraising pitch to the QIA in recent weeks. It remains to be seen if they reinvest, but the report notes how “the Qataris have been increasingly embarrassed about their involvement with ONE, which has been under the spotlight for its weak financials among other things.”
ONE’s planned event in Qatar has been delayed to 2024, and according to the report, at least two local partners the QIA have brought in — Qatar Airways and Ooredoo — have decided to stop financially supporting the promotion.
ONE declined to address or debunk any of the issues raised on the report, but just decided to announce on social media that the delayed Qatar event will happen on March 2024.
ONE Championship claims profitability within a year, again
When previously asked for comment about Bloody Elbow and other outlets reporting on financial documents that he himself signed and declared, Chatri Sityodtong claimed “fake news” on having record high losses. A year later, and he’s now trying to justify those same figures that he declined to have existed.
“What you’ll see is there’s a downward rate in our burn rate,” Sityodtong said about losing over $100 million in 2021, talking to CNBC soon after the new report from Deal Street Asia was published.
“What you’ll see is revenue actually… this year we will cross north of, a little over a hundred million dollars in revenue. And next year, approaching 200 million dollars, if not a little bit more than 200 million. That would be our biggest incremental jump in revenues I think in the history of the company.”
“More importantly, we anticipate core business profitability by the second half of next year,” Sityodtong claimed.
He repeated these and made more bold claims on social media, saying “ONE has hit escape velocity in terms of business fundamentals,” broken even more records, and is “on track to hit profitability” next year.
ONE has been incredibly skilled at raising money and convincing investors about a bright future, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep doing so moving forward.
Apart from their concerning finances, ONE Championship has also been found to have what could be the most restrictive contracts in the sport. While their former employees complained about these in the past, ONE’s deals have shown to have terms designed to prevent any criticism, along with several strange clauses that extend even if the athletes leave the promotion… or die.
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