A Complete History Of The ONE Heavyweight MMA World Title
Throughout the history of combat sports, the Heavyweight World Title has carried an added element of prestige, marking the titleholder as the most feared man on the planet.
In ONE Championship, only three mixed martial artists have enjoyed the honor of wearing 26 pounds of heavyweight gold around their waists – including the division’s brand-new undisputed king.
The main event of ONE Friday Fights 22 on June 23 featured a massive ONE Heavyweight World Title unification bout between reigning king Arjan Bhullar and interim champ Anatoly Malykhin, with the latter ultimately leaving Lumpinee Stadium as the World Champion.
Now that the dust has settled from that monumental fight in Bangkok, we look back at the complete history of the ONE Heavyweight World Title so far.
Inaugural ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera
The organization crowned the first-ever ONE Heavyweight World Champion in December 2015 at ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS when Filipino-American legend Brandon “The Truth” Vera battled surging finisher Paul Cheng.
That evening in Manila, Vera needed less than 30 seconds to etch his name in the history books and establish himself as the baddest man in ONE. An early left hand and thunderous head kick sent Cheng crashing to the canvas to secure the knockout in front of a wild Filipino crowd.
One year later at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION, the newly crowned heavyweight king returned to Manila, where he successfully defended his gold in equally dominant fashion, knocking out Japanese grappling specialist Hideki “Shrek” Sekine in the first round.
Yet again, Vera hardly broke a sweat in scoring a third straight World Title knockout to cap one of the most impressive runs in ONE history.
Arjan Bhullar Dethrones ‘The Truth’
As unbeatable as he looked at the time, an aging Vera eventually ran into a man with the skills, physicality, and willpower to beat him.
That man was Arjan “Singh” Bhullar.
In May 2021, nearly six years after he first captured the ONE Heavyweight World Title, “The Truth” squared off with the former Olympic wrestler in the main event of ONE: DANGAL.
That night, “Singh” put on a masterful display of crispy boxing mixed with powerful wrestling to overwhelm and outclass the defending titleholder, finding the finish with ground strikes in the second round.
With that impressive victory, Bhullar not only became the second-ever ONE Heavyweight World Champion – but also the first-ever Indian MMA World Champion.
Anatoly Malykhin Becomes The Interim Titleholder
Given his incredible showing against Vera, many thought the freshly crowned king was only beginning a dominant World Title reign. However, injuries and other complications forced Bhullar on the shelf for over two years.
In the meantime, the heavyweight division rolled on, as the sport’s heaviest hitters battled it out for a shot at gold.
Eventually, the organization held a ONE Interim Heavyweight World Title fight between a pair of undefeated rising stars – Russian bruiser Anatoly “Sladkiy” Maylkhin and towering Belarusian Kirill Grishenko in February 2022 at ONE: BAD BLOOD.
Malykhin came into that contest with a 100 percent finishing rate, and he would leave with that number intact – and a golden belt over his shoulder – following a highlight-reel, second-round knockout.
That win solidified “Sladkiy” as the sport’s most devastating puncher and also set up a World Title unification showdown with Bhullar.
Malykhin Unifies The Belts
After a war of words between the two heavyweight titleholders, Malykhin and Bhullar finally settled their score in the main event of ONE Friday Fights 22.
In what was among the finest showings of his 13-fight career, the Russian employed a terrifying boxing attack over the course of three-and-a-half rounds to dominate and finish “Singh.” In the process, he unified the belts and became the undisputed ONE Heavyweight World Champion.
With his perfect MMA record and equally perfect finishing rate, “Sladkiy” has all the makings of a long-reigning heavyweight kingpin – but if history is any indication, he can expect a bevy of dangerous challengers heading his way soon.