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.
Kickboxing deserves so much better than this.