Money

From dirt poor to multi-millionaire, Asia's top MMA promoter on how to get rich by helping others

ONE Championship founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong at the Asia MMA Summit 2016 in Singapore on September 22, 2016.
ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images
ONE Championship founder and chairman Chatri Sityodtong at the Asia MMA Summit 2016 in Singapore on September 22, 2016.

The path to affluence doesn't necessarily begin with self-interest. Instead of focusing on themselves, those aspiring for affluence should look to help others, according to self-made multi-millionaire Chatri Sityodtong — a powerhouse in Asia's mixed martial arts (MMA) industry.

"Ninety-five percent of people are focused on short-term consumer spending. But millionaires are focused on increasing their usefulness and value to the world so they can get a bigger income," explained the 45-year old, a senior Muay Thai instructor who fought professionally in his native Thailand.

"If you're helping a lot of people, then by definition you're going to make a lot of money."

Sityodtong is a serial entrepreneur whose rags-to-riches story has become well-known in Asia.

After his family went broke during the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis, he earned a Harvard MBA while living on $4 a day to support his mother and younger brother. Sityodtong made his first million at the age of 30 through the sale of his Silicon Valley-based software company, and then founded the $500 million hedge fund Izara Capital Management on Wall Street.

By the time he was 37, he left Wall Street for sunny Singapore, where he returned to his first love of MMA by founding ONE Championship — Asia's equivalent to Ultimate Fighting Championship — and the MMA gym Evolve, which is a training destination for champion fighters.

ONE is now Asia's largest sports media company, according to the company, which claims its valuation is nearing $1 billion. Evolve has expanded to include a digital university, an online fight store and MMA-themed retreats.

Despite that influx of cash, Sityodtong says he's a minimalist who cares little for purchasing material goods. "Through any given year, I will maybe buy five to ten t-shirts that are $20 a piece."

Chatri's second tip for aspiring millionaires is plain hard work.

"If you really want to become a millionaire or a world champion, you have to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. You can't get the rewards without the work."