Kickboxing's rise in popularity can almost entirely be thanked on behalf of Japan, K-1 in particular. Sure, lots of talent came from (and still comes from) Europe, but the shows never quite reached the level that K-1 did in Japan. Therefore, K-1 was kickboxing for a very, very long time. The death of FEG led to the fracturing of the sport. Now we have GLORY, K-1 Japan, K-1 Europe, SuperKombat, WGP, Kunlun and many other promotions in its wake.
The reality here is that there are people who believe in kickboxing as a sport and all want to make it big again, but under their own terms. Would it take a rising in Japan for the sport to boom again? That's what KRUSH has been hoping for with their K-1 Japan. KRUSH originally began as a joint venture between the All Japan Kickboxing Federation and K-1, then when AJKF fell to the wayside KRUSH split off on its own. Ironically, KRUSH now is the brand keeping the K-1 name alive in Japan. But that doesn't mean that everyone has always relied upon the whole K-1/AJKF mindset when it comes to kickboxing.
There was the New Japan Kickboxing Federation as well, which split off from AJKF in the mid-90's. The promotion No Kick, No Life rose in the ashes of the whole "anti-K-1" brand of kickboxing, instead focusing on muay thai rules. Now, replacing NKNL is KIXROAD, a collaboration between NKNL and Bushiroad with their show KNOCK OUT. Confused yet? KNOCK OUT takes over No Kick, No Life's television slot on Tokyo MX starting in 2017 and is being backed by Bushiroad. If you are unfamiliar with Bushiroad they are a trading card company based out of Japan. In 2012 Bushiroad acquired New Japan Professional Wrestling and has since made the once-great Japanese wrestling promotion flourish with the help of placing New Japan's biggest stars in Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura (now in WWE), Kazuchika Okada and Togi Makabe (what?!) back into the national spotlight.
That is exactly what Bushiroad is looking to do with KNOCK OUT. Our pal karaevfan on Kakutougi (the best kickboxing message board, period) gave a full report and translations from their first press conference and they have huge plans. They noted that kickboxing has yet to have a global leader since FEG's K-1 disappeared. MMA has the UFC, pro wrestling has WWE (although Kriyama of Bushiroad notes that New Japan is 'working on that'), but kickboxing is fractured.
Famed former New Japan Kickboxing champion Onodera Riki will be producing KNOCK OUT and looking to once again make kickboxing flourish. This will be straight-forward, traditional kickboxing, which means three minute rounds, three rounds for normal fights, five for title fights. As for the rules? It sounds like muay thai, but they are calling it kickboxing. Why muay thai? Because they mentioned elbows.
The first event is scheduled for December 5th at the Tokyo Dome City Hall (formerly JCB Hall), which seats about 3,000 people. The card is threadbare for now, but they aren't focusing on exclusive talent acquisition for now, just partnering with RISE and taking freelancers.
Yuichiro 'Jienotsu' Nagashima vs. T-98 (Takuya Imanari)
Haruaki Otsukivs. StarBoy KwaythongGym
Tenshin Nasukawa vs TBA
Genji Umeno vs TBA
They plan on running shows every other month and don't plan on making money for two years. Everything seems ambitious, with them wanting to expand the kickboxing market and overtake their competition. I guess we'll have to wait and see what they do.