Today in Texas, Bellator finally announced what we've known for quite a while now: Bellator will be running professional kickboxing shows. The first event will be piggybacked onto the Oktagon/Bellator event in Italy, much like we've speculated. The names that Coker introduced at the press event today were Kevin Ross, Joe Schilling, Keri Melendez, Raymond Daniels and Anastasia Yankova. These will most likely be the banner fighters for the promotion moving forward.
Many have noted that Schilling is fighting on the upcoming GLORY card, but there have been some weird contractual issues between Schilling and GLORY, I wouldn't be shocked if this was simply finishing things out.
Carlo di Blasi was there to discuss rules, regulations and promotional impact worldwide. This event will air immediately after the Bellator event does, meaning that Spike and Bellator are putting their all into making this event seem huge.
So this is finally happening. After almost a year of rumors and false starts, Scott Coker's kickboxing organization is finally happening.
The sport of kickboxing is one that has been around for a while under different rules, names and appearances, but has gone through periods of interest and disinterest alike. Without a doubt kickboxing was at its highest point in Japan from the mid-90’s through the late 2000’s under the K-1 banner. K-1 was an undeniable force in combat sports that wowed fans all over the world and kept up its level of mystique. K-1 was a monolith in the combat sports world, a Japanese organization that seemed to always have a small stable of fighters that it promoted while rarely swapping them out for newer, younger talents.
Throughout the years K-1 earned some scorn and derision from fans and insiders, claims of corruption, fight-fixing and organized crime ties behind the scenes would eventually tear the organization apart, yet fans still came out in droves right up until the final gong. Now here we sit, just shy of five years after FEG’s K-1 imploded and we are watching organizations like GLORY, K-1 Global, K-1 Japan, Enfusion and SuperKombat struggle to gain traction in their respective markets. To many, it is a mystery to mull over why brands like GLORY haven’t caught on with more fans, but it seems clear as day what the key differences were between K-1’s glory days and the current marketplace is; creativity.
If you go back and watch the first K-1 World Grand Prix that was won by Branko Cikatic you can see the roots of what would become the K-1 that we knew and loved, yet something was missing. Branko was a fine fighter, but he wasn’t the type of fighter that the Japanese audience would fall in love with or be featured on television like many future K-1 champions would be. Everything from the lighting to the stage setup and presentation was good but not quite there yet. Then professional wrestling god Akira Maeda helped K-1 founder Kazuyoshi Ishii to meld professional wrestling ideals into the sport and everything changed.
Looking back at K-1’s list of champions and fighters that endured the passage of time as icons you’ll always find something to latch onto about these fighters. A young Peter Aerts was called the Dutch Lumberjack, entering the ring wearing a flannel vest and hat. Ernesto Hoost was called Mr. Perfect because of his immaculate technique and lived up the gimmick whenever he was on camera as the perfect fighter. Andy Hug was the karateka with a profound love and admiration for the Japanese culture so he was always seen in his signature gi in promotional videos and so on.
What I’m trying to say is that K-1 had characters. These characters were of course real-life fighters and maybe just small exaggerations of the fighters’ personalities, but each fighter that K-1 sunk considerate amounts of time and energy into marketing had a larger-than-life personality that when placed on a large stage was able to enthrall fans. Many have written off such things as simply “Japanese” and that they wouldn’t work anywhere else, but a cursory look around the world at the legions of fans of K-1 and those fighters shows just how effective that was.
I’ve heard the arguments as to why this current crop of kickboxing stars can’t be presented in that way, everything from “well, they aren’t as charismatic” to “fans want real, not manufactured hype,” but the proof is in the pudding. Chi Lewis Parry has been one of the fighters that GLORY has been heavily marketing in part due to just how much he can talk. When Chi Lewis Parry opens his mouth people listen, which is part of the magic of Chi Lewis Parry. I’m not sure that he’s ready for Rico Verhoeven just yet, but he’s found himself an audience much like Chael Sonnen did years ago and how Conor McGregor has done in the UFC recently. Chi Lewis Parry’s talent hasn’t been nurtured or curated, though, just thrust at the screen once discovered without much thought put into it.
A large part of what made K-1 so successful has to be on the shoulders of Kazuyoshi Ishii, who had the vision and talent to find these personality traits in his fighters and to amplify them. Peter Aerts was nowhere near the level of a talker as a Chi Lewis Parry or a Conor McGregor, yet he made a ton of money for K-1 and became a world famous personality off of being the “Dutch Lumberjack” and later “Mr. K-1.” In fact, Aerts is rather soft-spoken and is one of the kindest guys that you’ll ever talk to who enjoys laughing and not taking himself too seriously, yet fans were always invested in Aerts.
That was the magic of K-1. You didn’t need to be Bob Sapp to become a star. In fact, while fighters like Bob Sapp who could talk and looked imposing did great business for K-1, they wouldn’t last because of the lack of talent. Where K-1 really shined was finding legitimately talented fighters and building them into something special. In fact, there was one great project near the end of K-1’s run that deserves special attention; Alistair Overeem.
Overeem was a moderately successful MMA fighter with an imposing physique, vicious knees and a great standing guillotine that never seemed to really catch on with fans. Yet, somehow, in 2008 after wins over Paul Buentello, Mark Hunt and a draw against Mirko Cro Cop he was brought into K-1 to fight their golden boy Badr Hari on New Year’s Eve. Badr Hari was coming off of a rather embarrassing display where he essentially imploded under the pressure during the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals against Remy Bonjasky and got himself disqualified, so K-1 thrust him into a New Year’s Eve freakshow fight to defend the honor of K-1 against the MMA world’s Overeem. The thing is, Overeem knocked Badr Hari out and all hell broke loose.
Alistair Overeem is a relatively quiet, soft-spoken guy. In fact, he’s a pretty nice dude for a guy who is as muscular and scary in the ring as he is. The cocky Badr Hari who had just earlier in the month lost the K-1 World Grand Prix via disqualification was there to get his win back, to get back on track and regain face after his in-ring meltdown, but instead a new star was born in Overeem. Overeem tried his hand against the K-1 World Grand Prix Champion of Remy Bonjasky a few months later and looked scary, but ultimately lacking experience against a tactician like Bonjasky and dropped a decision. That wasn’t the end of Overeem in K-1, oh no, not by a longshot.
The K-1 marketing machine quickly went to work with Overeem, producing perhaps one of the most amazing hype videos that I’ve ever seen for a fighter leading into the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16. This video showed Overeem on the streets of Holland with his signature mallet that he used to bring to the ring with him smashing a bike into pieces. It encapsulated the fury that we saw in the ring from Overeem, the raw power and emotion that he brought into fights without him having to cut an eloquent interview. After smashing a bike and a camera tripod he pointed to the camera, took a few deep breaths and uttered “Everybody’s gonna die.”
It was beautiful. I remember seeing it at the time and just being awestruck by it. Alistair Overeem held a victory over Badr Hari and nearly defeated then-champion Remy Bonjasky and was going to fight the legend Peter Aerts in the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16. Overeem was being billed as the outsider, the invader who was looking to usurp the throne that was always held by the best kickboxers in the world for his own. It was a simple, effective narrative that was only exacerbated when he defeated Peter Aerts in the Final 16, securing his spot in the K-1 World Grand Prix.
K-1 did a series of vignettes with Overeem leading up to his entry into the K-1 World Grand Prix, focusing on his raw strength and his crazy, unorthodox training in Holland. While all of that was good, perhaps what was the most effective was showing him eat. Sounds weird, right? But Alistair Overeem is a huge dude who needed a lot of protein and when they sent a camera crew to show him cooking his own food and talking about how he ate horsemeat for its protein value, well, everyone went nuts. Alistair Overeem filmed inside of a tiny Dutch kitchen that he could barely fit inside of cooking horse steaks to prepare for the K-1 World Grand Prix was an image that endures to this day as one of the defining moments in the career of “Ubereem.”
His first fight was to be against the Kyokushin fighter from Brazil that was popular in Japanese karate circuits in Ewerton Teixeira. Teixeira was always a skilled guy who wasn’t the most exciting fighter to watch, but he connected well enough with fans and filled an important role for the organization by representing Kyokushin. The video package that they created leading into that fight hammered home their narrative of Overeem being an “invader” from MMA, showing highlights from his fights with Badr, Remy and Aerts. The visual of Overeem literally bullying around the K-1 legend Peter Aerts and tossing around Remy Bonjasky was a powerful one, so was the interview footage of Badr Hari talking about his loss to Overeem. They also sowed the seeds of Overeem vs. Badr Hari meeting again in the tournament in a rematch for the ages, which played a big role in the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix.
Overeem scored an absolutely brutal knockout on Ewerton Teixeira with a clinch knee, which helped to lead to the legend of the UBERKNEE and only made Overeem look that much stronger heading into the semifinals against Badr Hari. The rematch with Badr Hari was the story of the show, by far, which overshadowed what would become another Semmy Schilt victory. The real story of the show was that Alistair Overeem’s stock was on the rise and that it was part skill and talent and part marketing and narrative-building. This fight was the culmination of a lot of work and storytelling where a lot of credit should go to Michael Schiavello’s absolutely brilliant narrative-driven call throughout this event.
I’ve heard many a fan decry Schiavello, Sefo and Kogan’s call during that match, or their celebration on-camera after the fight as “cheesey” or “unprofessional,” but the reality was that they were genuinely excited and engaged in the narrative, as was the entire crowd. That finish still gives me chills to this day because of just how perfect of a moment it was. The thing is, I’ve heard a lot of people say that narratives in combat sports are “impossible” because of the unpredictable nature of people getting hit in the face, but the truth is that a deft storyteller will find a way to weave a complex narrative that can be altered along the way to be just as effective.
Due to Badr Hari once again losing his cool in the ring in 2010 he was on a bit of a sabbatical from the sport, leaving the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix wide open for new blood. The tournament saw a lot of top names involved, including newer names like Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki becoming dark horses to win the entire tournament and to bring new blood into the K-1 lineage. K-1 continued their push for Overeem, though, pushing the narrative of Overeem more focused than ever on K-1, but still slightly arrogant and the outsider heading into the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix.
They focused on his raw strength as one of his selling points. We know in combat sports that raw strength and physique aren’t what makes a fighter “good,” but by pushing this narrative they kept building up Overeem as a larger-than-life character, even having him talking about how he grew up watching Hulk Hogan in WWF.
Overeem, of course, would go on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix, becoming one of the most famous fighters in Japan. His stock also rose within the United States as well, with more and more fans calling for him to step back into the Strikeforce cage to defend the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship, maybe even go to the UFC and challenge Brock Lesnar in a dream match. In fact, Overeem now had an aura about him when he stepped into the ring. He was the K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and that not only meant something, it meant everything at the time.
Regardless of your opinion of Alistair Overeem, K-1 took a fighter that was talented and driven and helped to push him beyond the level that he was at the time. They helped to make him a star and a featured attraction that they were drawing money off of up until scandal struck and the company lost their television deal and ultimately disintegrated.
Alistair Overeem is simply the last example of starbuilding that K-1 did and how that work that they did on pushing Overeem’s larger-than-life character was able to carry over after his K-1 career and help to build him up to be a living legend in combat sports. Anything that happened after is immaterial, of course, but he was still elevated in part by K-1’s huge push that endeared him to fans across the world. If you were to ask me what is missing from modern kickboxing that K-1 was able to do the answer is simple; they built stars. They made fans care about their fighters while transforming them into characters and building narratives around their fights.
It didn’t matter if these characters won or lost, they were still verifiable draws for K-1 and vital parts of the K-1 ecosystem. Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Jerome Le Banner, Andy Hug, Ray Sefo and many other fighters won and lost in the K-1 ring but it never mattered because they’d come back and get another chance. They’d get another chance and K-1 would weave stories about these fighters and their upcoming fights that made fans genuinely interested in seeing what came next. These narratives didn’t need to be perfect, they just needed to exist.
That doesn’t exist today. Instead we get training footage, cut-and-dry interviews and a focus on who won and who lost, not the humanity behind who won or lost. Not the story. If you treat a fighter who lost like a human being and tell their story the chances of fans being interested in their next fight is only going to increase. This is why fighters like Aerts and Hoost could have thirty year long careers that included crushing losses but still attract fans to this day.
The sport of kickboxing drew on not just the physical aspect of the sport, but it drew and thrived off of the creativity of the sport. Kickboxing thrived not just by having a good, rock ‘em, sock ‘em product, but by molding fighters into larger-than-life characters that played off of their personalities. It thrived by created narratives for each and every fight to appeal to fans and didn’t rely on fighters to sell their own fights. Kickboxing helped to build these fighters into box office and television attractions and was never left with cards that delivered in action but drew no eyes.
So my answer to the question that is floating around right now as to “Why aren’t fans attracted to kickboxing?” Simple, nobody is doing anything to make fans care.
Tonight's Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1 was a bit of a strange night, to say the least. Dynamite was billed as a hybrid show being thrown by Scott Coker, the brainchild of the former K-1 and Strikeforce promoter. Dynamite was the culmination of his vision to bring that Japanese feel into the world of American combat sports. The problems started mounting almost immediately, even before the show was announced.
Rumors flew that Coker wanted it to include kickboxing, but that GLORY's name was not in the equation until pretty late in the planning of the event. The question was why would Scott Coker want to run his own kickboxing fights when he is in charge of Bellator, Spike TV's MMA promotion? Using GLORY's roster, production, brand and identity for the show made a whole lot of sense, so by the time the show was unveiled it was going to be a huge Bellator event featuring GLORY kickboxing.
Many fans saw this as GLORY's chance at being in front of a huge audience on Spike TV. Bellator's ratings have been increasing since Coker took the wheel and started promoting shows that were more his style, so some of that Midas Touch could wear off on GLORY, right? As the event approached it appeared that GLORY's role in the event would indeed be lesser than imagined. Their name wasn't attached to the event, as Bellator's staff was quick to correct, the event was Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1, not Bellator and GLORY: Dynamite or any other derivative of that.
The event was going to be loaded with Bellator MMA fights, too. A one-night Light Heavyweight tournament, a Light Heavyweight Championship bout, even the debut of former UFC and Strikeforce fighter Josh Thomson. GLORY was going to get four slots to fill, which seemed fair. Joe Schilling's name was originally attached to the event, but the knockout from a few months back and subsequent suspension saw that go up in flames, but at least Bellator was loaning Paul Daley to GLORY for the night, right?
Wrong. Paul Daley would be fighting another Bellator fighter by the way of Fernando Gonzalez. Gonzalez is not a kickboxer, but instead a Bellator welterweight. In fact, the only fight that was actually booked by GLORY involving GLORY opponents on the entire main card was the Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Zack Mwekassa and Saulo Cavalari. The other "GLORY kickboxing fight" that would air would be Bellator's new signee in Keri Melendez against a 1-4 MMA fighter named Hadley Griffith. If it feels like a stretch to blame GLORY for this fight you are probably connecting the right dots.
The undercard saw TJ Arcangel vs. Jose Palacios, a fight which was planned before GLORY's involvement, then Serhiy Adamchuk vs. Anyar Boynazarov, originally supposed to be a main card fight of Adamchuk vs. Varga until Varga had to pull out due to injury.
What's clear is that both Bellator and GLORY didn't exactly mesh well together. Bellator was protective of the card being their show and GLORY was trying to protect the integrity of their own brand and put on a strong showing on their biggest platform. Instead what we got was everything feeling half-cocked. We got two Bellator fights contested under GLORY rules and we got a GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship fight that saw MMA fans turning their noses up at the prospect of having to sit through it for who knows what reason. All of this happened without a single advertisement or mention of GLORY 24 outside of from the lips of Mauro Ranallo and Stephan Quadros.
That fun feel of kickboxing vs. MMA that happened at Dynamite shows of the past was missing in a big way here. Opportunities were seemingly boundless for interpromotional fights. Paul Daley and Nieky Holzken even worked social media angles against each other hyping up a potential fight, only for that fight to never amount to much because one promotion would end up "losing." The final result was the fans lost and the sport of kickboxing was treated like an afterthought.
MMA sites everywhere are tsking and shaking their heads at how GLORY could fumble such an opportunity, or dismissing them entirely after the show. I find it hard to really point the finger at GLORY for what was essentially one fight that they presented on the main card. Their only crime was wanting to show their product to the world, which in the end was not what happened. No one can really walk away happy from this show. The concept of the Dynamite show might have felt special and different at the time, but this was not the caliber of show that anyone was expecting, nor did it even attempt to deliver on that level. Instead it gave everyone a little bit of what they might want and a whole lot of what they didn't want.
On February 6th Joe Schilling makes his return to the GLORY ring after successfully making his Bellator debut back in November. In the past few months Joe Schilling has been everywhere, not just endearing himself to the kickboxing world, but also making a huge impact on the MMA world as well. His knockout of Melvin Manhoef was one for the record books and quickly became one of the most talked-about knockouts of the year. From there he went on to train with Nick Diaz to help him prepare for his UFC 183 bout against Anderson Silva.
It’s safe to say that things are different for Joe Schilling now in 2015 than they ever have been, even if it just comes down to the sheer amount of activity. “I was always kind of jealous of these guys that would fight like five or six times a year when I was always struggling to scrape up three fights. I mean, tournaments, yeah, but that’s still one night. This year is really shaping up to be a lot different and between both GLORY and Bellator I plan on being extremely active and making a name for myself in both sports.”
It’s not hard to imagine, either, with Schilling already having two fights scheduled for 2015. The first is on February 6th where he’ll enter the GLORY ring against the tough Middleweight prospect Robert Thomas in the co-main event on Spike TV. The other was just announced today as a fight in Bellator with MMA slugger Rafael Carvalho. A lot has changed for Joe over the past few years and he’s learned a lot about both himself and how to handle himself in the ring.
“Yeah,” he joked. “You know all of these years I’ve been just trying to punch someone’s head off, but now I’ve actually been aiming at their chins. I think that’s something new that you’ll see from me; I’m actually aiming for a knockout now, not just to hurt my opponents.” Joe’s maturity and not fighting with so much rage has helped him out immensely, though.
“I used to into fights just raging mad, just boiling over,” he explained. “I was just trying to smash people. I’d get super tired by throwing these huge shots and then have nothing left. Look at the Eddie Walker fight, I could have cruised through that fight and won a decision, but there was so much pressure for me to finish him so I pushed too hard and lost focus. If I’m angry it’s not like I’m going to punch any harder or any better. Emotion is kind of a bad thing in a fight. If you look at Last Man Standing that was the first time that I went into a fight really composed, I got into the ring that night and I was 100% calm. I just thought, ‘It’s me, it’s Joe Schilling, I’ve worked hard to be here, let’s see what I have.’ It worked out really well for me and the same thing with the Melvin fight.
“Both of these situations,” he continued. “They just really helped my confidence out. I’m not just getting lucky, I’m not catching people with lucky shots or anything. I’m performing and using my skills. It’s a really good feeling to know that I really am as good as I always thought that I could be. It’s not a fluke, it’s not luck anymore, I’ve worked really hard. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years.”
His success is starting to become real to him now, like he mentioned, he isn’t getting lucky anymore, he’s executing what he wants to do and finding success. “I find comfort now when things go wrong. When I used to get sick before a fight I’d get upset, ‘Oh my god I’m sick, what am I going to do? My dad died three weeks before the fight, what can I do?’ I’ve found comfort in this stuff now, this is just a part of preparing for a fight. Of course my weight isn’t where I want it to be a few weeks out from a fight, it never is, but it works out because I put the work in. Going into the Melvin fight my dad passed away a few weeks out and I’m crying my eyes out with my family and I get, I’m having some drinks with my brother, my sister. My uncle calls while we are doing that, and I thought ‘well that’s nice, he’s upset about my dad.’ He’s balling his eyes out and he’s like ‘Cody,’ his son, ‘just fell off a balcony and died.’ It was hard having all of this stuff going on especially that I had to be in the ring with a killer in two weeks, but Vinny helped me get back on track a little bit.
“I said, ‘well, I’ve got two weeks to get back in shape because I was just not training at all,’ I had some really good sessions with Lorenz Larkin and in one session he kicked me and he hit me right in the hip and I thought, ‘I bet that hurt, you fucker,’ then my whole side from my ribs to my quad seized on me and my hip was messed up. I spent the last week of my camp unable to run or kick, going to therapy everyday. Then I went and had one of my best performances.”
It wasn’t just in the gym where he got beaten up, though. Joe went on to explain one of his sessions with Vinny Shoreman and how Shoreman was able to help break him out of his funk. “He was talking to me and was just really being mean, I thought. ‘Oh, your dad died. I bet you feel like shit, huh? Your cousin died, that’s awful, isn’t it? I bet you feel terrible right now, don’t you?’ I was starting to get pissed off, just giving him one word answers and he knew that he was getting to me, then he told me ‘Well now what? Well you are still alive and you’ve worked hard to get where you are, are you just going to give up?’ It all just clicked for me at that moment.”
These are the kinds of setbacks that would make anyone reel, but Joe was able to find peace with his father, with whom he had a rocky relationship for most of his life with, which helped him to be more at peace with the situation. He was also able to work through a lot of his frustration and anger that he held due to his strained relationship with his father, which he attributes as one of the reasons why he feels so mentally clear now; he’s finally been able to release that anger and to move forward with his life. “We were doing timeline therapy and he really didn’t know what he was uncovering, but it was all moments about my dad. Afterwards I literally couldn’t tap into that hatred or anger about my dad, it just wasn’t there anymore. Shortly after that I was able to really 100% forgive him, like no need for an apology, it just was what it was. I was happy that I got to see him and that he got to meet his grandchildren.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Schilling is starting to be more well-known and respected. He talked about how this past weekend at UFC 183 how he was cornering Nick Diaz and he had well-known UFC fighters coming up to him to take photos with him and how they all knew who he was, which was a strange moment. That being said, his high-profile friendships and newfound fame haven’t changed his focus, he’s still ready for Robert Thomas on Friday.
“He’s a tough kid with nothing to lose,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of myself at that age, I mean, his first fight in GLORY was against Artem Levin and he was swinging for the fences. If Artem didn’t duck at the right moment there a few times he would have been laid out by him. It’s going to be a tough fight for me, I never look past an opponent. He’s got a muay thai style and starts slow, but he hits hard and stuff like his spinning backfist is no joke and he can hit that from anywhere at any time, like it almost doesn’t make sense when he does it. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and fighting.”
On Friday, April 16th Bellator Kickboxing will hold their first event in Italy, the event will air on April 22nd at 11pm Eastern, directly following Bellator 153, which sees the debut of former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. With one month to go there have been questions as to what sorts of rules and weight classes the new promotion will be using and today they are announcing just that.
Bellator Kickboxing will be adhering to MMA weight classes, a smart move that keeps uniformity between both brands and helps to make kickboxing less confusing to newer viewers. According to Bellator, the weight classes that they plan on featuring are listed below.
Heavyweight: 265 pounds
Light Heavyweight: 205 pounds
Middleweight: 185 pounds
Welterweight: 170 pounds
Lightweight: 155 pounds
Featherweight: 145 pounds
Bantamweight: 135 pounds
Flyweight: 125 pounds
Much like MMA, there will be a one pound allowance, although that will be different in title fights.
The fights will be following the general ruleset that we've known for a long time now as "K-1 rules," which means that regular fights will be contested in three rounds with each round clocking in at three minutes. In case of a draw there will be an extension round, but only one. For world title fights there will be five rounds. As for the actual rules, here is what they sent us in regards to how the fights will take place.
The competitors will attack and defend using punches (including spinning backfists), kicks and knee strikes.
Each non-title fight is scheduled for three, three-minute rounds with the potential for an extra sudden victory round if the bout is scored a draw. Title fights will be scheduled for five, three-minute rounds.
Prohibited techniques include: elbow strikes, throws, takedowns, and submission attempts or striking a downed fighter. Fighters may only clinch if they immediately attack with a knee strike.
Three judges will score Bellator Kickboxing using the “10-Point-Must” system applying a prioritized criterion that values knockdowns, impact on the opponent and clean scoring strikes.
The debut card currently looks like this:
Updated “Bellator Kickboxing: Torino” Fight Card:
Bellator Kickboxing Middleweight Main Event: Melvin Manhoef (49-12) vs. Alexandru Negrea (8-2)
When we spoke with GLORY CEO Jon Franklin he told us that 95% of their fights had kept with them through the lean times. There were, of course, outliers, though. The biggest of which was Gokhan Saki, the GLORY Light Heavyweight Champion. He won the championship in a battle against Tyrone Spong that saw Spong's leg break in a freak accident and has left him in boxing and MMA since then. Saki, on the other hand, was not about to take a pay cut.
Saki has not competed for GLORY since GLORY 15 back in April of 2014. Instead he has competed one time for the UAE's GFC back in April against an overmatched Sebastian Ciobanu. The word on the street was that Saki was not happy with GLORY and while he was open to negotiations he would not return until his demands were met. GLORY has been negotiating with him ever since, acting on good faith and not vacating the championship, even after a year of inactivity.
The final straw for GLORY was trying to negotiate for Saki to fight on September 19th in the Bellator Dynamite event to defend the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship. They were unable to come to terms in time and GLORY has been forced to vacate the championship for the time being. They haven't given up on Saki just yet, but for now the title is vacant.
With GLORY's Light Heavyweight division being one of their deeper divisions it made no sense to hold up the title any longer. Hopefully this means that Danyo Ilunga and Saulo Cavalari can clash again, this time with the title on the line. Make it happen, GLORY.
The past few months have been filled with rumors, upset fans and fighters looking for opportunities outside of the GLORY banner. The best example of that would have to be Joe Schilling, who made his return to MMA after years away competing in muay thai and kickboxing, to knock out Melvin Manhoef in one of the most exciting KO's of the year. Schilling was one of the stars of GLORY's Last Man Standing tournament back in June, making it to the finals where he rematched Artem Levin with Levin walking away the victor this time.
Afterwards it seemed that a rift had grown between GLORY and Schilling, which became public when Schilling publicly signed with Bellator.
It seems that everything is in working order now, though, as it came out today that Schilling has a new contract with GLORY and will be fighting at GLORY 19 against Robert Thomas. This is a big move for GLORY considering that Joe Schilling was their most popular US-based fighter and that a rubber match between Levin and Schilling should be a major attraction in their 2015 schedule. First up is Robert Thomas at GLORY 19 on February 6th though, which should be fun.
GLORY Middleweight Joe Schilling is no stranger to the world of Mixed Martial Arts, dabbling in the sport early on in his fight career before he found his home in the worlds of muay thai and most recently kickboxing. His success and popularity in the GLORY ring is undeniable, with him being one of the few breakaway stars that have come from GLORY's march onto Spike TV over the past year. It's no surprise that there are other people interested in Joe's services, especially the team of Rich Chou and Scott Coker in Bellator.
Coker's experience with making stars out of kickboxers can be traced back to current UFC star Cung Le, who Coker promoted as a San Shou star in the Bay Area, then in kickboxing fights and ultimately MMA bouts. Coker and Chou pushed a lot of kickboxers heavily in Strikeforce and look to be continuing the trend with additions like Melvin Manhoef and Paul Daley. Now GLORY's star Joe Schilling is set to move into the Bellator ring, the first time that a GLORY star will appear in the Bellator cage to represent GLORY. It turns out that Joe Schilling will be fighting fellow GLORY Middleweight slugger Melvin Manhoef.
We spoke with GLORY's CEO Jon J. Franklin about the historic fight and it seems like there have been some discussions between GLORY and Bellator and that we can expect to see more cooperation between the two organizations in the future.
"Glory embraces our athletes competing in Bellator MMA. We are entering a new era for Bellator and for us. There is the obvious overlap in our athletes and fan base and we anticipate that several of our kickboxers will compete in Bellator and that Bellator MMA athletes will test themselves in GLORY. We are both part of the SPIKE family and see this as a great opportunity to share our world class talent in both organizations. "
Add this in with Franklin talking about possibly running GLORY events the same night as Bellator events on Spike TV and the move to Friday nights and it looks like there is some synergy between the two brands, which is a good thing for combat sports fans.
Joe Schilling vs. Melvin Manhoef is scheduled for November 15th.
There has been some speculation as to where we'll see Joe Schilling fight next; the GLORY ring or the Bellator cage. Today that was answered when Bellator announced that Joe Schilling will return to the cage on June 26th against Japanese Middleweight slugger Hisaki Kato. Kato is 4-1, all of his professional bouts happening in the Japanese promotion Heat, all four of those wins coming via knockout, only one fight making it to the second round.
Schilling is coming off of a decision loss to Rafael Carvalho in April in a fight that turned out to be a lot tougher than anyone had ever imagined it would be. Schilling is looking to bounce back inside of the Bellator cage and a battle against a slugger like Kato could exactly be that chance to make fireworks happen. GLORY fans are still waiting with baited breath for a rematch between Joe and Artem Levin, but after Levin drew against Marcus it looks like it might be a while before the GLORY Middleweight Champion is available to fight Schilling.
Last night's Shoot Boxing event in Japan is looking to be one of the better shows coming from Japan recently, and it featured Toby Imada's return to the Shoot Boxing ring. Many will remember that Imada made his way into the S-Cup last year and surprised the world by making it to the Finals against Buakaw Por. Pramuk, with Buakaw able to overcome him. Imada squared off with two-time champion Hiroki Shishido last night, with the first round being Shishido's superior standup giving Imada trouble. In the second round Imada was able to execute a great slam, and continued to use his Judo to pull of the decision victory.
The other big upset of the night was for the Shoot Boxing Ladies Championship, a vacant title that was brought about by the recent rush in popularity for Shootboxing at the hands of RENA. RENA had a rematch with Ai Takahashi, who was able to best RENA this time in the Shootboxing ring. It was Takahashi's jabs and throws that were enough to exhaust RENA and lead to a decision victory.