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Brotherhood of arms: How a home appliances company found common ground with MMA

TAGs: Haier Asia, mixed-martial arts, mma, ONE Championship, Video, Yoshiaki Ito

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When a home appliances company and the largest Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) organization met, sparks flew and an unlikely partnership—one that is grounded in a brotherhood of arms—was formed.

Last week, Haier Asia Co. Ltd. announced the brand’s new partnership with ONE Championship, in which the China-based consumer electronics company will creatively utilize the mainstream popularity of MMA to boost the brand’s market presence not only across Asia but across the world. ONE Championship is broadcasted to over 70 countries with a potential of 1 billion viewers.

The alliance may have been perceived as an unlikely move, but for Haier President and CEO Yoshiaki Ito, connecting refrigerators with MMA was a no-brainer.

“ONE Championship is based in Asia. It’s the fastest growing sports contest. It shares the same vision as I have,” Ito told CalvinAyre.com. “I’m trying to be the best in Asia and fostering the local talents, that’s what the ONE Championship is, right? They have the local fighters… I’m doing the same thing. So that alone, the same vision, the same goal is more like a brotherhood.”

An MMA fan himself, the Haier executive believes promoting local talents is the partnership’s winning formula.

“Majority of sports fans, they want to see local heroes they can relate to, and ONE has worked hard to bring up Asian MMA heroes,” Ito said. “Our local TV deals allow the promotion to focus on local fighters and create national, homegrown heroes, which is the key to success.”

The idea of partnering with an MMA organization is nothing new for Ito, who is known for having a unique sense of leadership. After taking the reins in February 2014, the confessed “very, very impatient” man has driven the company to think outside the box in order to distinguish itself from the competition.

“In a traditional industry, in order to come out with one product, it takes about 24 months to sometimes 36 months with 45 to 60 engineers working in one product. I can’t wait that long. I’m [a] very, very impatient person, and as a result, we came out with a new product, which took only six months and a half with three engineers,” Ito said.

Now, Haier Asia’s goal is to penetrate territories with large populations and younger demographics. Enter ONE, which brought live MMA for the first time in Beijing and other new markets, including Dubai, Cambodia and Taiwan, last year.

In Singapore, One Welterweight champion Ben Askren, arguably the best welterweight in the world, will face Luis Santos in a main event rematch on Nov. 13. The pair fought back on April 24 in Manila but the fight was a ruled a no contest after an accidental eye poke from Askren and Santos was unable to continue. .

Then in December, ONE Championship will return for its sixth show in the Philippines since 2012 featuring the clash between local favorite, Brandon “The Truth” Vera, and Chi Lewis Perry for the inaugural heavyweight championship.

“[Haier] leverages the same spirit as ONE Championship’s stable of fighters. We embody the championship mentality of continuous improvement, commitment to excellence, constantly bettering ourselves with Japanese meticulousness and aiming to become an even better version of ourselves,” Ito said.

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