How ONE Chairman Chatri Sityodtong survived Ivy League, built a martial arts mega-promotion

ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong was once a cash-strapped kid looking to make the most of his opportunity at Harvard University. 

Before becoming one of the most influential figures in Asian sports, Sityodtong had to scrap and claw his way up the ladder.

“I remember when I got the acceptance letter (from Harvard). I just thought it was a fluke and I thought there’s just no way, they made a mistake,” Sityodtong said.

“And then I said, ‘Mom, how are we going to pay for this?’ and my mom just said, ‘Chatri, I believe in you, you go there, and you’ll figure it out.’”

And figure out he did.

Sityodtong looked for jobs, including teaching Muay Thai, to make ends meet as a student.

He also kept a tight financial plan for himself, often making sure that he did not go beyond his four-dollar-a-day budget.

If saving meant walking a few kilometers to get cheap Thai food in a hole-in-a-wall restaurant just outside campus, then so be it.

“I remember the very first week when I got to Harvard, I had one suitcase with all my life’s belongings, and I was always thinking on how am I going to pay for school fees?” Sityodtong said.

“I’ve got to look for jobs, I’ve got to look for loans, so I taught Muay Thai. And so I created a spreadsheet and I calculated the bare minimum that I could spend was four dollars.

“I would model out every single penny, literally every single penny I spent. If I beat that four dollars and let’s say I came in at $3.57, I would be ecstatic. So that four-dollar number is imprinted in my brain forever.”

That he got out of an Ivy League school despite the predicament is an impressive feat in itself, but more impressive is how he used his position to give back through the very thing that got him by during tough times – martial arts.

“Martial arts is truly about unleashing your potential, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, and at the end of the day, it’s really unleashing your potential as a human being,” Sityodtong said.

“I feel like that’s what I found in both Evolve and ONE Championship.”

In doing so, Sityodtong opened opportunities for martial artists all over Asia to showcase their skills to the world, thus inspiring a whole new generation to dream big.

“At ONE Championship our mission has always been from day one, to unleash real life superheroes who ignite the world with hope, strengths, dreams, and inspiration because all of our heroes have gone through these incredible life stories, conquering poverty, tragedy, adversity to become World Champions on the global stage, on the world’s largest stage in martial arts,” Sityodtong said.

“That can inspire anybody – a street kid in Manila, a doctor to become the best doctor, a young woman in India to become a CEO. All over the world [people] can be inspired by these stories because it’s really about unleashing your greatness in life.”

Topics: Chatri Sityodtong , ONE Championship , Harvard University , Evolve
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