As I was typing in that headline, I initially had put "in the United States" for the simple fact alone that I live there, as do virtually all of the contributors on LiverKick.com, outside of EKP who is in the Toronto area, Fletch in the UK and Traveler who is heading to Thailand and China shortly to cleanse his person and kick things.
Yesterday it was announced that Zuffa had purchased UFC's top competitor, Strikeforce. This caused many, many reactions sweeping across the world for MMA fans and pundits. It has become a polarizing topic and has effectively split a community that was merely on the way to being fractured over the course of a few hours. In between anti-Zuffa war cries, pro-Zuffa, anti-free market rants, comparisons to major league sports teams that don't seem to stick and some wait-and-see attitudes, it is clear that something very big happened yesterday. What I really find funny is that somewhere in between all of that, we saw a show happen in Italy that featured four top 25 70kg Middleweights and the rest that are well on their way to being on that list in the world of kickboxing.
On top of that, the #5 and #11 fighters, respectively, were competing in different parts of the world as well. It feels like a foolish distraction to get caught up in MMA while kickboxing makes such a great showing, internationally. Admittedly, I saw Royce Gracie in UFC before I saw Peter Aerts throw the head kick that turned me into a lifelong kickboxing fan. The issue with MMA will sort itself out, that I'm sure of, there needs to be a focus on Kickboxing and Muay Thai right now.
As of me writing this, in the United States there is no one Kickboxing or Muay Thai promotion that promotes on a national basis. To me, that is almost mind-boggling, as there are promotions that run regionally, in areas like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas that all draw incredible crowds for what they do, but there is next to no overlap outside of a few top prospects like Kevin Ross who actually leave their region to fight in other ones as well as other countries.
This is unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination. It isn't like there aren't gyms and there aren't people training kickboxing and muay thai every day in the United States, and not just for self defense, either. There are people training for combat. Then there is talk about why there is no major Muay Thai or Kickboxing promotion, the lack of star power. I've seen local shows and seen the top talents, if they were promoted correctly on a national level, who says that they wouldn't catch on like MMA fighters have? People purchase shows headlined by fighters like Frank Edgar, who by all means does not live up to the tough guy stereotype image of what a fighter should be, nor does he give the most rousing, interesting interviews.
Someone needs to step up to the plate already and take the fractured scene and make something of it. Everyone can keep complaining or being condescending that there is "no market for kickboxing" as long as no one is out there trying and proving the doubters right. K-1 isn't going to do it, they are a Japan-centric promotion, always have been and always will be. Their monopoly on the sport has been both good and bad for it; good as in it created a yearly tournament that shows who is the best in the world, without a doubt, the bad is that no matter where they promote, the end game is to make good television for Japanese audiences, not local audiences. When K-1 promoted in the United States they never bothered localizing the product beyond using a select group of American fighters. The local promoters and men in charge like Scott Coker and Mike Kogan are the whim of what the Japanese promoters and producers want, leaving a scene that I've heard from a few fighters was disarray and confusion for K-1's USA shows.
What we saw yesterday was that kickboxing can grow anywhere that someone is willing to promote it and build stars. It's Showtime has proven that as well, from working with K-1 initially to stepping out on their own, especially this year, 2011, and really making a global footprint for themselves and the sport. By all means, from the people I've spoken to at It's Showtime, they'd love to promote events in the United States, they just need to find a suitable business partner and market. I feel like I've personally done a lot, reaching out to local promotions here in the US and then reaching out to It's Showtime and other international kickboxing organizations to help grow the sport, but for some reason nothing is sticking.
So here is what I propose; if you love kickboxing or muay thai, do something about it. Take it out of the bingo halls and casino arenas without any way for the world to watch it. We need something that people can watch on the internet or on HDnet, G4 TV or any other network willing to take a risk on a sport that has potential to be huge in the US. If you aren't happy with the state of MMA but love kickboxing, do something about it. I can't do it alone, nor can the people that I work with and talk to on a daily basis that want the same thing.
I don't just mean this for the United States. There are other places that are virtually untapped markets for kickboxing and muay thai; Canada, Eastern Europe, MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and parts of Asia like China, South Korea and India. We know there are potential markets out there, so make it happen. Support your local promotions, look them up. If you know someone who runs a gym or local shows, tell them you want more, you want them to stream events online. There are free options like UStream out there, and websites like LiverKick.com that will gladly promote those events and gladly embed them for everyone to watch. Just like we link to It's Showtime events when they happen, just like we linked to Fight Code yesterday, just like we intend to for United Glory and for any show that puts itself out there.
If you know someone that is interested, there is a contact link at the bottom of the page, use that. Let's make this happen instead of wondering why things aren't better.