Chatri Sityodtong, the Chairman/Founder and CEO of One Championship, Asia’s largest mixed martial arts media property, doesn’t watch a lot of TV and movies. When he isn’t running the company, he hits the gym — surprise, surprise — and work on his muay thai moves. “I just love martial arts,” he tells 8days.sg. “It’s my favourite thing!”
These days, the only TV show the Thai-Japanese entrepreneur is concerned with is the reality TV show The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition, where he has spent the last 12 weeks narrowing down the list of 16 candidates vying for the US$250,000 (S$331, 000)-a-year job as his Staff at the global HQ of Group One Holdings in Singapore.
The shot-in-Singapore series comes to a nail-biting conclusion tonight (June 10), with Jessica Ramella, the Singapore-based Venezuelan-American exec, and Louie Sangalang, the procurement consultant and adjunct professor from the Philippines, battling it out for the coveted gig.
Looking back, Chatri says it was nerve-wracking filming the reality show amid a pandemic. “I was worried that every day we would have an outbreak,” he tells us over the phone during his lunch break. (Sorry!) “But luckily, we worked with the Singapore government and One Championship used its event safety protocol and we were able to do everything very safely and securely.”
Chatri, who also owns the Evolve MMA chain of gyms, has so much fun working on The Apprentice, he’s already gearing for season 2. While details are under wraps, he assures us it will be “bigger and better than what we did before”.
Here, he shares with us more about his experiences picking his protege on the reality show.
8 DAYS: The Apprentice is finally coming to an end. What did you learn from being on a reality show?
CHATRI SITYODTONG: First, I was truly blown away by the calibre of the 16 candidates from all over the world. It’s so inspiring to see how hard they work. It’s not easy to come on to a show and risk failure in front of the whole world. Also, one of the biggest lessons is — because we shot the show in October last year in the middle of a pandemic — that resilience and creativity are truly the greatest assets in a crisis. That’s the only way The Apprentice was able to continue production.
Your iteration of The Apprentice not only uses a new catchphrase — “You are not the one” instead of “You’re fired” — but also incorporated a physical challenge component.
We wanted to make this Apprentice very cool, hip, young for the millennials and Gen-Z. We didn’t want to make it purely a business show. When contestants must do something physical, it’s not that we are looking for their physical capabilities, we are actually looking for their warrior spirit — are they going to break and succumb to their fears? Or are they are going to conquer them?
We need to talk about Clinton Tudor. He’s the closest thing to a villain on the show — very self-absorbed, didn’t work well with others. It’s amazing that he managed to stay in the competition as long as he did.
He’s definitely very smart and has a lot of creativity. We were very confused [about his performance]. I think in the end we made the right decision [to eliminate him].
You didn’t keep him on for the sake of pulling in the ratings, right? Because he's the guy everyone loves to hate.
No. We really saw [a side of him that] maybe the audience didn’t get to see. He really is a creative genius.
Your pep talks in the elimination segment are really inspiring. Did you rehearse them beforehand?
I spoke from the heart. There is no script. I didn’t memorise anything. [My ending speech] was shot without a script.
You have one memorable outburst directed at the candidates, “You bombed! You bombed! You bombed!” Are you concerned with how you are portrayed on-screen?
When I agreed to do the show, the most important thing was that I would be the real me. So what you see on The Apprentice is how I really am in real life. You saw a little bit of my temper, my compassion, my tough side, my soft side — you saw 100 per cent of the real me.
If you were to do a celebrity version of The Apprentice, who do you think should be on it?
No, I wouldn’t do a celebrity version. Because it’s not real. The reason I like this Apprentice is that the candidates are real, they are fighting for a dream. I feel like if we are doing a celebrity version, they are not fighting for a dream. A celebrity version seems to me is more like entertainment, not real people chasing real dreams.
A certain CEO recently made headlines when he snapped at the reporter for asking a seemingly difficult question. How would you have handled that situation?
I think it is important to answer questions with authenticity and transparency. Any questions I received in the media, I tried my best to answer with authenticity and transparency.
The season finale of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition premieres tonight (June 10), AXN (Singtel TV Ch 304, StarHub Ch 511) 8.40pm. It will stream on meWATCH on June 17.