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One Championship announces 1st show in Japan for March 2019

In this July 27, 2018 photo, Aziz Pahrudinov, right, tries to take down former champion Eduard Folayang during their lightweight bout in the One Championship mixed martial arts event at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay city, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

TOKYO (AP) -- One Championship will stage its first live event in Japan next year, extending the Asia-based mixed martial arts promotion's reach into one of the sport's ancestral homes.

The debut show will be held March 31, 2019, in Tokyo, One Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced Thursday.

Sityodtong also unveiled dates and locations of 24 of the 30 events on One's 2019 schedule. The promotion will hold two events in Japan, along with its debut events in South Korea and Vietnam.

One has gradually expanded its reach across Asia over the past seven years from its base in Singapore. Its 21-event schedule in 2018 stretches from Myanmar to China.

Sityodtong has been eager to get One's shows into Japan, where several major MMA organizations have risen and fallen in recent years in the nation's crowded sports marketplace.

Japanese MMA was once led by the internationally popular Pride promotion, but it was purchased and essentially absorbed by the UFC in 2007. The UFC has staged occasional second-tier events in Japan, most recently in September 2017.

After starting in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, One debuted in China in late 2014 and moved into Thailand in 2016. Sityodtong has said he aspires to hold shows eventually in India, along with every significant market in Asia.

One will debut in Vietnam on Sept. 6, 2019, with a show in Ho Chi Minh City. The promotion's first show in South Korea is scheduled for Seoul on Dec. 20, 2019.

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