Living legend and three-time former world champion Rich “Ace” Franklin’s mission to find Asia’s next martial arts superstar has officially begun.
On Monday, 22 January, the pilot episode of ONE Championship’s original documentary program “Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series” premiered on the company’s YouTube channel. New episodes will be streamed every Monday.
The first 20-minute installment follows Franklin and his crew to Bangkok, Thailand, where their quest to experience Asian culture and discover the region’s most promising martial arts talents begins.
Watch the full episode below:
Adventures In The Floating Market
The episode begins with Franklin and Jonathan Fong, Director of ONE Warrior Series, immersing themselves in Thai culture by taking a ride on a small wooden boat through one of Bangkok’s busiest floating markets.
They enjoy a light-hearted moment, as Fong takes jabs at Franklin’s immense size, and that he is large enough to require his own boat.
As the boat travels into the market, Franklin is particularly excited as he approaches the river eateries and shops. He gets the crew local delicacies like “moo ping,” a barbecued pork dish, and fresh coconuts.
Also, he buys an artisan plate made by a prisoner from a Thai jail, with the proceeds benefiting the reformed prisoner so he is able to support themselves upon their release. It’s another great example of Thai positivity.
The Tryouts Officially Begin
Franklin is excited for the tryouts for ONE Warrior Series, and makes a hearty breakfast for the cast and crew in the morning. They will need that energy, as they head over to the Bangkok Fight Lab, where nearly a hundred hopefuls warm-up.
“Ace” speaks a bit on how the show came about, and introduces two guest judges, ONE heroes Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai and Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige. He explains the goal of ONE Warrior Series is to discover the best emerging martial arts talent, let them showcase their skills, and offer the very best a USD$100,000+ contract with ONE.
As the tryouts get underway, Franklin points out Partho, a boxer and kushti wrestler who flew in from India. He is impressed by Partho’s drive and his fierce hands, but was not satisfied with his ground skills.
Partho requests a round to show off his grappling, which Rich grants. He rolls with Bangkok Fight Lab coach Tommy Hayden, but gets out-grappled within a minute. Franklin offers some constructive criticism and invites him to come back when he has refined skills.
The first competitor shortlisted for ONE Warrior Series is Detch, who caught Fong’s eye immediately because he had “the widest smile” the Director had ever seen. Detch, a Bangkok resident, then impressed the judges with his Muay Thai skills and competitiveness.
Franklin acknowledges Detch’s immaculate striking, but says his ground game is a bit green. However, “Ace” believes he will be able to strengthen his grappling rather quickly, especially since the Thai seems to already have some familiarity with Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Detch, who calls himself a hill tribe kid, is ecstatic to be selected, and that happy-go-lucky attitude shines in his face and body language.
Franklin and Fong take Detch out to the Khao San Road food market to learn more about him, but first the former Middleweight World Champion tries scorpion on a stick.
When they all sit down to eat, we learn that before Detch moved to Bangkok he had a job with his father where they transported the bodies of the recently deceased. And now that he lives in the Thai capital, he holds jobs in different industries, like being a carpenter and a school teacher.
Through the ONE Warrior Series, Detch has a real chance to change the lives of his family, and given his incredible work ethic and drive, has a good chance at succeeding.