Update – July 17, 4:18 AM ET: Will Chope has since deleted the Facebook post detailed below.
ONE Championship, one of the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotions, has threatened legal action following a controversial Facebook post.
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On Saturday, UFC and Pancrase veteran Will Chope (38-15) authored a two-paragraph Facebook post regarding ONE Championship and ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong’s January announcement that the promotion would introduce “WADA testing” in 2019.
Citing an article from The Body Lock on the topic, then-titled “ONE Championship drug testing to commence in 2019 through WADA”, Chope began, “If you read the article, you’ll realize the title is bullsh*t.”
The article discussed Sityodtong’s announcements of past and future “WADA testing”, which he made at the ONE: Hero’s Ascent press conference on January 22. Additionally, the article cited Asian MMA’s James Goyder’s report that ONE planned to introduce “WADA standard drug testing in 2019.”
In the article, The Body Lock referenced a January 15 interview with ONE Championship featherweight Garry Tonon in the wake of Goyder’s report, who said of it, “First of all, I don’t think it’s true,” and sourced a January 20 interview with ONE featherweight champion Martin Nguyen and The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko, in which Nguyen said, “I always thought it was mandatory to at least test for any anabolics, testosterone, TRT – just standard testing – in ONE Championship, until I found out that they really don’t test at all.”
In Chope’s now-updated Facebook status, the American wrote, “Supposedly they will be doing tests according to WADA standards. That doesn’t mean WADA is doing them.”
Chope then went on to write, “It means their own officials will be doing the tests. Just. Like ONE hires their own refs, and judges for their shows….. It’s bullsh*t and biased. If ONE wants to ever get to the level of the UFC then they need a 3rd party to sanction their tests and shows….. But I doubt that will ever happen. ONE has an agenda. And as long as they are sanctioning themselves they can favor gyms and fighters.”
In addition to those allegations, Chope, who lives in Asia, added, “I’m going to drop some inside knowledge and tell you the urine tests get sent to a lab in Taiwan. The doctor who tests these is a paid doctor that’s been working with ONE for years. Everyone knows ONE athletes are juiced. But this style of testing will allow ONE to hide results of guys they don’t want to be dirty and to throw guys that they don’t care about that are dirty under the bus. You can’t self-regulate privately and be non-biased and if you do self regulate it has to be public…….which it’s not! #F*ckONE!”
In a reply underneath the original post, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong responded on Sunday to Chope’s claims, writing, “Thank you for your post, Will. I actually agree with most of what you wrote. There are some errors, but I am not here to create beef. Unfortunately, when ONE Championship was started in 2011, there were no referees, judges, doctors, sanctioning bodies, staff, etc for mixed martial arts in Asia. We had to find good people like Oliver Coste, Warren Wang, Rich Franklin, Matt Hume, Ryo Chonan, etc to help out (or Asian MMA would never have taken off again).
“On a related note, WADA has a network of certified WADA labs. Stay tuned for a big announcement as we officially roll out WADA testing through their labs. (We have been doing test runs since late last year). We are far from perfect and we have made a ton of mistakes. I agree 100% with you there. I am also sure we will make more mistakes in the future because we are traveling in uncharted waters in most of Asia. That being said, I know everyone who works for ONE Championship is trying their best for Asian MMA.
“In any case, thank you for representing Asian MMA as the most active fighter in the world in combat sports. Your achievements are genuinely mind-boggling across MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Boxing, etc. Best wishes for continued success and happiness,” Sityodtong concluded.
It appeared as though the matter was addressed following Sityodtong’s comments, but on Tuesday, the situation was reignited. In a reply to his own, original post, Chope added a screenshot of a conversation (seen left) between someone Chope confirmed to The Body Lock is a current ONE staff member and himself, writing, “2nd person from ONE to message me, “recommending” me to delete this post….. ??? Jeremy Deschner Why do you think they care so much about what a hater has to say?? Is it possible they want me to delete it because there is some truth to it???”
Hours later, Chope received an email from Yan Yan Lin, Legal Counsel for ONE Championship. Attached was a formal letter informing Chope that ONE “would like” for him to “immediately remove the Posts and cease all publication of such false and baseless material.” The email, which Chope posted on his Facebook, adds that ONE “would like” to “resolve the issue amicably”, as opposed to “commence legal proceedings against [Chope] in various jurisdictions, including but not limited to Singapore, Thailand, and the United States of America.”
In the letter, ONE argued that Chope’s statements were “false and baseless, and constitutes (sic) serious libel against and disparages us.”
Chope has kept the original post up on his page, as well as the newly-uploaded image of the email sent by ONE’s legal counsel. Speaking with The Body Lock, Chope wrote that ONE might find it “hard to call it slander when the boss [Sityodtong] says he agrees with some things,” in a reference to Sityodtong’s reply from earlier.
“I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong, I’m just pointing things out. I’m just saying, ‘How come one of your staff members is the one doing the steroid tests.’ That leaves a lot of things up for the rumors of how biased they are, especially when it comes to EVOLVE and the gyms they obviously favor. So, anyways (sic), I’m just pointing things out, but apparently, the truth in Asia, or pointing things out in Asia, get[s] you threatened,” Chope told The Body Lock.
As for what Chope plans to do, he says he’s adopted a wait-and-see approach.
“Like I said, I’ll delete the post if my lawyer recommends me to, but I’ll talk to my lawyer [first]. So, the post will be up for at least another 24 to 48 hours. If it is legally slander, I’ll delete them, but that wasn’t my intention; I’m just pointing things out. That’s all I’d like to say,” Chope added.
Chope has since updated his post, the full text of which has been included below:
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.