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Kickboxing and the Curious Case of Eternal Fatalism

We are, as they say, at a bit of an impasse in the sport of kickboxing right now. It’s difficult to avoid, difficult to make eye contact with and not look away. We’ve been at this place before, though, which is why it feels so awful this time around. Back in 2010 it looked like the sport of kickboxing was heading for imminent doom and destruction. FEG was a sinking ship and they were taking on water -- fast -- faster than they ever wanted to publicly admit. 

Things were looking bleak for the sport of kickboxing at that time, but there was still hope. There were still people who were passionate about the sport, who wanted to do everything that they could for it. You had Simon Rutz and Bas Boon at each other’s throats, but both men were passionate and willing to do what it took to keep the sport afloat. You had Romanian promoter Eduard Irimia ready to expand beyond Romania. You had men with vision. Followed by the men with money to go with that passion.

As I stated before, we are at an impasse at the moment. The Japanese fight market has shrunk, shrunk to the point of almost being dead, but not quite. It doesn’t exist like it did what feels like a lifetime ago. What exists now is a facsimile of the grandeur that we knew before. Simulacra, a copy of a copy of a copy with adjustments made for degradation. Europe and America were always the wild west for kickboxing; that was clearly where the money was, but would it be able to reach the great heights that were achieved in Japan and Asia? 

Enter GLORY. GLORY took a gamble, filtering millions of dollars into the sport that was on its knees after losing its king. Without a doubt the K-1 name held the prestige, it had done things that no one thought possible with the fringe sport of kickboxing. The rise of K-1 meant making the rest of the sport of kickboxing look silly in the process. The end result is that kickboxing rules aren’t kickboxing rules anymore, they are K-1 Rules. The name K-1 is intrinsically linked with the sport of kickboxing even to this day, for good or for bad. 

So GLORY was set to fill the hole that was left by FEG’s bankruptcy with big promises, fireworks and a roster of capable production crew and the best fighters in the world. Sights were set on America, on taking on the leviathan market where the UFC rose from obscurity into a sport appearing regularly on Fox programming and had weaseled its way into becoming a household name. This was kickboxing’s white whale and, for a while, things were looking good.

Spike TV was hungry for the next big combat sport after they lost the UFC to Fox Sports, scooping up Bellator and then K-1. K-1 withdrew their name from the hat to restructure, leaving Spike TV ready to accept GLORY into the fold. Kickboxing had finally made it, it was on cable television in the United States. The first show happened and the ratings were in. They weren’t great, but they weren’t bad, either. There was promise. 

Since then there have been the good times and the bad times, but what became increasingly clear was that there was no competition for GLORY anywhere out there. GLORY was doing things right, it was paying the fighters what they deserved to be paid, treating them with respect and doing everything right. Growing pains are real, though, especially when the anticipated growth doesn’t live up to the reality. Kickboxing was, for all intents and purposes, a new sport to many fans out there. It was a part of the whole that is Mixed Martial Arts, thus, it was fringe. There has been growth, but the growth is slow, it is costly and it is frustrating. 

GLORY’s last event was GLORY 17/Last Man Standing on June 21st, which, as of the time that I write this, was two months ago. Since then there have been rumors, whispers and public decrees from fans; GLORY is dead. If you read forums or comment sections on websites you’ll hear all about it, you’ll hear that so-and-so’s trainer said that the company is bankrupt, you’ll hear that shows have been canceled, that members of the board are ready to depart, that payments have been filtering in late. For the kickboxing faithful these are all triggers, things that will bring back that long-forgotten PTSD that came with the dissolution of FEG’s K-1 back in 2010 and 2011.

Then there are those that like to watch the world burn, who are calling for the end. These are the fatalists. We’ve had private assurances from many within GLORY that right now is simply a time of restructuring, of regrouping, of changing strategies. Yesterday’s announcement of a new CEO was the first step. But, let’s give in to hysteria, to fatalism. Let’s say that GLORY has a few shows left and then, just as quickly as they emerged, they disappear into the ether of kickboxing history.

Who is there to pick up the pieces this time? Where are the Bas Boons looking to find anyone, to compromise his own visions and brands, to make things work? Where are the Simon Rutz’s running the #2 promotion and ready to take on the financial burden of being the de facto #1? Where are the Pierre Andurands, Ivan Farnetis, Scott Rudmanns and others who are willing to take a risk with their own personal money to invest in the sport? Where are your GLORY replacements where these now out-of-the-job fighters have to find work with?

The market right now is a mess. In a way, you can blame GLORY for the mess. GLORY was looking to be the alpha and omega in kickboxing, which meant exclusive contracts, which meant paying what others couldn’t pay, treating fighters unlike they were used to be treated. So you’ll tell me LEGEND Fight Show, the same promotion that put on three events thus far, only one in 2014 with nothing scheduled yet. So you’ll tell me GFC, the guys that are paying Badr Hari a mint to compete for them, because you were able to watch that last show from your couch, right? Because outside of Badr Hari they are stacking cards with expensive talent, right?

So you’ll say Enfusion, K-1 or SuperKombat. I’ll say that all three are great promotions in their own right, each one growing in their own way, with their own unique business plans and markets. How many of them see a broad market as their audience right now? K-1 is focused on Asia, Enfusion is focused on the UK and SuperKombat is focused on Romania. You might say that if GLORY simply disappears like Criss Angel in a stunt that they’ll be able to bolster their rosters with big names, but where does that money come from? The end of It’s Showtime came from overreaching and hiring top talents. 

Right now nobody has what FEG’s K-1 had in a television partner that was willing to sink millions of their own money into each event and, realistically, we might never see that again. GLORY doesn’t even have that right now. Instead, GLORY has a good deal with Spike TV, but one that bears little fruit for either side right now and might take years to build up properly, to build an audience and really start making money. 

The rise of GLORY was both beneficial and detrimental to the sport of kickboxing. If GLORY ceases to be, then the sport of kickboxing is set back even further than when FEG’s K-1 ceased to be. If you consider yourself a fan of kickboxing then at this moment the sport will require something of you. The sport will require your faith. If GLORY says that they aren’t done yet, then, well, they aren’t done yet. In the meantime we can only hope that Enfusion, K-1, SuperKombat and others continue to grow and find themselves in better positions to provide stability for both fans and fighters alike.

For now, let's save our eulogies and instead focus on the sport that we all love. 

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LiverKick Throwback: Kohi vs. Nitta K-1 World MAX Japan Finals 2005

The world of kickboxing has a rich history to fall back upon so we here at LiverKick figure, why not? Why not give a glimpse into some of the fights from the past that have made up this wonderful sport and tie it all in to the present. The kids on the Instagram and Twitter like to call Thursdays "Throwback Thursdays," I'm just going to say that this is a LiverKick Throwback.

Today we go back to 2005, we go back to a time when Japan was the undoubted home of kickboxing and K-1 was king. K-1's MAX division was on fire and K-1 had a legitimate star in Masato. The past few weeks I've been thinking about how much I miss the days when Japan was the epicenter for the sport of kickboxing and the best way to sum up what is missing is to look at the K-1 MAX Japan tournaments. Masato was K-1's MAX star, but there were a host of other Japanese fighters who got a big push from K-1 to be that big star. There was Kozo Takeda, Taishin Kohiruimaki, Yuya Yamamoto, Yuichiro Nagashima, Yasuhiro Kido and Yoshihiro Sato.

Each fighter had varying results, some showed more promise than others, while you had guys like Kozo Takeda who just went down swinging as a cult hero that nobody had huge expectations for in the end. If there was ever one guy who had that chance, it was Taishin (also known as Takayuki) Kohiruimaki. Kohi won the K-1 World MAX Japan tournament a whopping three times, in 2004, 2005 and 2009, but still failed to really catch on with Japanese fans. In fact, he was often-times booed by fans. 

Kohi had the look, the ability, but his personality and fighting style just weren't up to snuff when compared to Masato. Masato was exciting, personable and charismatic, while Kohi fit more into the mold of a Remy Bonjasky in the ring and he wasn't that great of an interview or public figure. 

All of this being said, Kohi was still an awesome fighter and while he may have "choked" a bit whenever he got to the big stage, he really was one of the kings of the MAX Japan tournaments. What better way to highlight that than his awesome, awesome fight against Akeomi Nitta in the K-1 World MAX Japan 2005 Finals?

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Malaipet Dominates at Lion Fight 17, Shows Power Still Left In Body Kicks, Right Hands

Heading to the ring for his main event rematch with Justin Greskiewicz at Lion Fight 17 Friday night, Malaipet Sasiprapa, the decision winner of the first encounter, strode easily and confidently. There was one thing for me to wonder coming in, if he was going to knock him out this time. I am not always clear on expectations.

Perhaps it was obvious.

Malaipet didn’t knock him out, though. He came close, for damn sure. A right hand landed in the first round that crumpled Greskiewicz. The punch did its part. Greskiewicz did not. He got up.

Then the body kicks worked themselves in.

The stakes for the fight were dramatized by “the Voice” Michael Schiavello who relayed Malaipet’s comments that following two consecutive losses if he lost three he would complete the final obligation on his Lion Fight contract and retire.

He won. Number 145.

The conversation then is not about retirement. Thank god! I don’t want to write that shit. The conversation isn’t about title contention, either.

He didn’t have much for Pinca past the second round. Kevin Ross paved over him, even in the earlier rounds when he wasn’t just backing up.

The conversation is about Malaipet, about those punishing kicks, about those right hands that can still put fighters down.

He looked good Friday night. There are still a lot of guys he can beat.

Upper level-elite fighters will put him on his back foot and work his defense. That was true years ago.

Come forward, leave space under your elbows and Greskiewicz did, Malaipet will open shop.

The Victor Saravia-Andy Singh was the high watermark of Lion Fight 17, though the Rami Ibrahim-Carlos Lopez and Cyrus Washington-Brett Hlavacek bouts were entertaining. Pedro Gonzalez could continue to win as long as his opponents don’t even try to counter him up the middle.

Saravia can be a contender.

Malaipet was a contender. Now it’s fun to just watch what he has left.

Sometimes it looks like a lot. 

 

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As Glory Content on Spike Expands, It’s Time to Start Thinking Bigger

Glory has long accumulated enough content to provide regular programming on SpikeTV, but the extent of its presence has largely been limited to 2-hour live or tape delayed events as well as 30 minute countdown shows. Ratings, while stable overall, have varied the most between long hiatuses with Glory finding it difficult to sustain the momentum generated by a successful event. This is why we’ve maintained that having Spike air Glory content on a more regular basis would help keep the product on the radar of combat sports fans.

Well, it seems like this may be coming to fruition. On July 25, SpikeTV aired a one hour-long special consisting of some of the best Glory fights and highlights thus far. If you tuned in, you might have noticed a small caption reading that the Glory Last Man Standing tournament will be airing Friday, August 8, at 10/9c. In case you missed it before, Glory and Spike are going to bring you the greatest combat sports PPV event of the year for FREE on August 8, filling a relatively quiet night of programming (unless Cops and Jail is your idea of quality prime time entertainment) with must-see TV. While we’re waiting to hear more about Glory’s plans for the second half of 2014, airing the historic LMS event on free TV is more than enough to satisfy Kickboxing fans in the meantime. By the way, if you have friends or know someone who would be interested in Kickboxing, this is the event they need to see.

Could these programming changes possibly signal deepening ties between Glory and Spike? While we don’t know for sure, it is likely. Consider that the once-known “First Network for Men” has lately struggled with its identity as more original programming has been replaced by syndicated content. Its association with the UFC once provided hours of original daytime programming as well as an exclusive live sports entertainment product for primetime. However, it has yet to convincingly compete in this space again, with Bellator achieving only a fraction of the UFC’s former presence. TNA, while not considered a leading brand, has provided steady ratings for Spike with an average of 1-1.2 million viewers every week (as reported on wrestling sites). However, by ending its relationship with TNA, Spike will need to rededicate its efforts to making its original sports programming successful. Bellator and Glory have yet to perform strongly enough on their own, but with the combined strength of these two brands in a co-promotional arrangement, Spike may able to reestablish itself as an outlet for combat sports.

What would be the next step for Glory and Spike? I would personally like to see the 17 or so unaired Super Fight cards that Glory has taped make their way to cable TV. This is ready-made content that could fill any weekend or weekday with solid combat sports action. While The Ultimate Fighter was a breakout promotional vehicle for Spike and the UFC, I would argue that the afternoons full of UFC Unleashed were equally as important because it gave casual and incidental viewers the opportunity to discover the product. The possibility of doing a reality show depends on the viability of the format today; for Glory, I see greater value in developing a television platform for Eldar Gross’s excellent documentary filmmaking than I do for a game show with an uninspired gimmick (Enfusion Reality included). If you doubt this, just consider the star-making impact of Eldar’s documentaries on Alistair Overeem and Tyrone Spong and imagine this in the format of a serious multi-part series with AMC/HBO-style marketing--there’s a chance to reach a wider audience here. This would be the type of promotion that Glory has been looking for with a cast of excellent subjects who have already been chosen.

We’re at a point now where the Glory product itself is in need of no further major refinement. The challenge now is making a connection with a television audience, and while this is a daunting task, there are a few things that we might consider. Let’s think about a time in combat sports when big fights made big news and big names mattered to little people. We talk about combat sports legends like the often-named boxers of bygone generations--men who became icons not only because of their accomplishments (after all, what cultural value do these accomplishments have if no one knows about or appreciates them?) but because of how they were sold to the public. The legend of Muhammad Ali had as much to do with the man as the people who promoted him and publicized him. Television in the cable era is far more fragmented than it was in the broadcast network era, but every now and then, when talent, interest, and marketing come together at the right time, a figure is able to transcend the boundaries of their medium. Far less well-spoken people who compete in sports more obscure than kickboxing get made into national heroes every Olympics; what stops our champions? Is the story of some dopy middle class suburban kid who spent all of their free time swimming more compelling than that of Zack Mwekassa? NBC sells the hell out of stories like that. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for the mainstream to find us--let’s go after their hearts. This product and the people who compete are just as compelling as anything that could get sold on TV; it’s time to market the product with inspiration and creativity. It’s time to think bigger.

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LiverKick Throwback: Ramon Dekkers and Rayen Simson Double Knockdown

The world of kickboxing has a rich history to fall back upon so we here at LiverKick figure, why not? Why not give a glimpse into some of the fights from the past that have made up this wonderful sport and tie it all in to the present. The kids on the Instagram and Twitter like to call Thursdays "Throwback Thursdays," I'm just going to say that this is a LiverKick Throwback.

This week we head back to 1997 when "The Diamond" Ramon Dekkers was already over ten years into what would be one of the most storied careers of any Dutch Kickboxer and he went against the very tough Dutch fighter Rayen Simson. Simson was on the rise at this time, qualifying for the 1997 Shoot Boxing S-cup, which he went on to win after his bout with Dekkers, but that's neither here nor there. What we are talking about now is Dekkers vs. Simson.

This was a classic Dutch style fight with both men showcasing stylistic nuances that we see to this very day. Of course, it is no shock due to Ramon Dekkers training with Cor Hemmers for many years, but it's still interesting to note how his style has led to so many other fighters' utilizing a similar style to his and seeing great success. Most of this fight is Dekkers in control, but when things get wild, well, they get really wild. This fight is perhaps best known for the crazy double knockdown that happens, with Simson fighting to his feet first.

Dekkers was forced to stop fighting due to an eye injury and the corner stopping the bout, but damn, what a slugfest. 

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Where Does Glory Go From Here?

I made a pretty big deal about PPV buyrates and their impact on the future direction of Glory, but in fact, I didn’t have lofty expectations as to how the Last Man Standing tournament would perform. Modest results were anticipated, although putting a number on that and interpreting its significance is hard to do. This event was a picture-perfect example of a combat sports PPV done right, but some might be wondering: in light of the projected numbers, where does Glory stand? I would argue that Glory stands on perfectly solid ground and in arguably a position better suited to take on the American combat sports market.

We’ve learned a number of important things from following the TV ratings and watching the fight cards themselves: 1) Glory is a consistent performer on SpikeTV, generating ratings on par with or slightly below Bellator and better than WSOF. 2) Glory has found a consistent formula for their 2-hour time slot, staging 4-man contender tournaments, co-main title fights, and a main event SuperFight--that’s a lot of quality kickboxing in one night. 3) Glory has developed a stable of marketable talent that could headline future events. Joe Schilling and Joseph Valtellini are superstars tailor made for SpikeTV with the skills to sell a fight and the exciting styles to deliver on fight night.

For the two and a half years that Glory has spent trying to establish an identity and a consistent product to deliver to American audiences, it seems like the end result has finally been achieved, and it is 100% solid. Each card features a couple of well-known headliners and a contender tournament with prospects who are still making their name. This keeps costs low by not breaking bank on a mega card full of 6-figure talent, and it allows Glory to book and sell-out smaller venues that it can continually revisit. This model has been successfully followed by Strikeforce, It’s Showtime, and now Lion Fight.

Does this mean that Glory won’t stage big PPV shows anymore? No, but it does mean that Glory will need to be strategic and creative in how it plans future events. The SpikeTV formula will work well in the United States when Glory must necessarily operate in 2,000 to 3,000 person venues, but if places like Istanbul can really put more than 10,000 butts in seats, then there are greater possibilities. Co-promotion with Bellator would also be a major boon to Glory. While Glory may not have the muscle right now to be a PPV success, it could easily enhance the marketability of a Bellator PPV. Bellator/Glory Dynamite 2014 on PPV, anyone? Bellator and Glory could not be in a better position to attempt something like this, especially with Scott Coker in the driver’s seat clearing the way to stable co-promotion. Having multiple smaller shows with only a couple of big shows per year is the right step to sustainability long-term.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves of where Glory truly stands. In terms of its success, Glory is nowhere close to being the UFC, and neither is it close to being Bellator. It is a big, international organization that does slightly better than or about the same as a regional fight promotion. It has shouldered substantial loss to get to where it is now. However, it is unequivocally gaining momentum. The combat sports community is interested in Glory and wants to see more, and every event is gaining more traction in the hearts of fight fans. The ratings, while not a skyrocketing success, are stable. The stage is set for Glory to have its breakthrough moment with the right talent, the right broadcast deals, and the right formula in place. Glory needs to keep putting itself on TV with more small shows while waiting for the right moment to bring out the big guns. It may not happen this year, but that moment will come eventually. Until then, it’s up to us to keep tuning in, to keep supporting the sport, and to keep spreading the word. Kickboxing is alive, and it is finally here.

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Liverkick Throwback: Changpuek Kietsongrit vs Ivan Hippolyte

This fight took place in Nagoya, Japan at the K-3 Grand Prix '95 Quarter-final, Ivan Hippolyte went on to beat Toshiyuki Atokawa and Taiei Kin to win the tournament. Changpuek was one of the first Thai's to go abroad and fight in all types of disciplines, he was often taken advantage of and put against much bigger fighters. He was only between 70 and 80kilos (154-175lbs) but yet he has fought most of the k-1 heavyweights like Ernesto Hoost, Branko Cikatic and Andy Hug.

Ivan Hippolyte is a Dutch kickboxing pioneer, as you can see in this fight he still has a very Muay Thai style stance but his hands were amazing. He is still known as one of the best kickboxers to come out of Holland. Hippolyte is now the trainer at Vos Gym, one of the best gyms in Amsterdam, Netherlands and has trained champions like Remy Bonjasky, Mirko CroCop, and Warren Stevelmans.

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Washing Away the Myth of the Eurocentric Kickboxing Machine

I want to preface this by saying that without a doubt the sport of Kickboxing owes a lot to its European roots. Without some of the pioneers in Europe the sport of Kickboxing would absolutely not be what it is today. That being said, I feel like after GLORY 17 and Last Man Standing we can effectively say that Kickboxing belongs to no one country or continent. Sure, some of the all-time greats are Dutch and yes, the original home of K-1 was without a doubt Japan, but it’s 2014 and the world has become a smaller place. Talent is no longer concentrated to secretive gyms or trainers, instead it is being spread out and being found across the world.

For the longest time fans had to hear that American Kickboxers sucked. The history that came with American Kickboxing, the fighters like Benny Urquidez, Don Wilson, Rick Roufus and the many other who cut their teeth across the world against the best of the best was somewhat washed aside. I mean, why not? Names like Rob Kamen, Ramon Dekkers and Cor Hemmers carry a lot of weight with them, as do the names of fighters like Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Semmy Schilt and many others. How could American fighters compare?

At GLORY 17 and Last Man Standing North America got to show the world just how seriously Kickboxers from this continent need to be taken and should leave fans open to talent from other nations as well. Joe Schilling once again found himself in a tough finals against Artem Levin, this time Levin walking away victorious, with North American fighters Wayne Barrett and Simon Marcus having incredibly strong showings as well. Joseph Valtellini showed the world what a kid from Canada can do when given a chance, bringing home the GLORY Welterweight Championship in a tough fight against Marc de Bonte. Then on GLORY 17 Canadian Gabriel Varga proved himself to be one of the best Featherweights in the world, ready to take on the best of the best and vye for the GLORY Featherweight Championship. 

At this point it’s hard to argue that America and Canada aren’t producing top talents, because both nations are producing some of the very best that the world has to offer. Is Europe still producing some of the absolute best talents in the world in Kickboxing? Absolutely. It’s impossible to argue against the talents we are seeing coming from the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany and many others, but it’s no longer a monopoly. For a while Dutch Kickboxing was the alpha and omega and while Dutch Kickboxing is still very strong, it would be crass to ignore the talents coming from all across the world to prove themselves as the best of the best. 

Kickboxing is a global sport and the name on the gym or the prestige of the nation are no longer deciding factors alone. The amount of work put in, the quality of the training, the talent and the desire are what matter at the end of the day. I, for one, look forward to continue to watch fighters from all corners of the world stepping up their game on a regular basis.

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Glory 17: Glory Prepares to Distinguish Itself As a Combat Sports Brand

Glory 17 is a turning point for Glory in many ways, marking its entry into the American PPV market by staging the largest, most significant kickboxing tournament on American soil in decades. But even more noteworthy than that, this event signifies the opportunity for Glory to truly distinguish itself as a unique combat sports product that is capable of delivering where other brands may falter, particularly the UFC. The UFC’s present difficulties are well known: problems with a ballooning roster, complaints about “boring” fights, and problems marketing fighters have led to great inconsistency in the quality of UFC events. Glory, on the other hand, has experienced few to no difficulties in this regard--and for very interesting reasons. In this article, I will talk about some of the things that I think make Glory a fairly unique entity in the combat sports world.

1. Each Glory weight class has more elite fighters than a single card can accommodate.

The Last Man Standing tournament is essentially a display of the entire Middleweight division, and it is a scary division, featuring Artem Levin, Joe Schilling, Simon Marcus, Wayne Barrett, Filip Verlinden, and Melvin Manhoef as well as dangerous contenders like Alex Pereira--all of these men are either champions, former champions, or fighters who have distinguished themselves against championship-level competition. Whereas some promotions might struggle to fill fight cards with less accomplished talent, Glory has the unique problem of struggling to fill fight cards with overqualified talent, bumping the likes of Levin to the non-televised SuperFight Series. If you ever find yourself wondering why a fighter like Giorgio Petrosyan gets to occupy the fourth slot on the Glory main card, it’s frequently because any Glory card could offer you a choice of several main event fights.

2. Glory has complete control of the rules of the sport.

No matter how many three or four-letter-name sanctioning bodies Glory will claim accountability to, the fact remains that Glory, as an organization in today’s combat sports market, is unique because of the complete control that it has on the rules of the sport. By frequently changing its clinch rules, its knockdown rules, and its 8-count rules, Glory has crafted and refined a viewing experience that is more fast-paced and exciting, producing a high volume of memorable fights and highlight reel moments. This is an ability that neither the UFC nor any other MMA organization possess, and the end result for them is a perpetual struggle to reconcile the Unified Rules of MMA with the type of fights that UFC wants to sell. Glory, by contrast, can eliminate any rule that negatively affects the viewing experience.

The flipside is that we also don’t have to talk about drug testing in the sport of Kickboxing. Glory is in a peculiar position here as well, operating between the lines of an oversight structure that is very dated and arguably unequipped to handle a multimillion dollar professional sport. Indeed, WKA’s official rules, published in 2011, leave drug testing up to the discretion of the “WKA supervisor, tournament promoters, and the official doctor,” who “can and may perform tests” but don’t necessarily have to do so unless directed by local law, making WKA’s actual responsibility very unclear. The procedure, standards, and logistics of testing are either mentioned in vague terms or not outlined at all. Glory, for its part, hasn’t forced the issue, leaving us to enjoy the fruits of ambiguity. In other words: don’t ask, don’t tell, and Pride never die.

3. Glory is learning how to market its fighters.

This is an issue that we’ve discussed several times here on LiverKick and which Dave Walsh expounded on in his excellent piece comparing kickboxing to the history of regional pro wrestling promotion. Behind every fight is an evolving narrative with at least two central characters, and as viewers, we’re interested in not only the fight itself but also in how the fight will determine the next chapter of the story. The promoter’s job is to build anticipation and interest in the fight and to illustrate what it means in the grand scheme of the division. With Glory 17, Glory has been proactive in producing media which tells us the story, including an excellent video on the rivalry between Rico Verhoeven and Daniel Ghita. The authenticity of this rivalry (for the critics’ sake) is as irrelevant as the authenticity of the 2009 rivalry between Badr Hari and Alistair Overeem--it felt real at the time and it electrified the atmosphere at the Saitama Super Arena. As Glory gains screen time on television and PPV, promotional efforts like this will be increasingly vital to its success.

While Glory got off to a rough start, it seems like the organization has found its identity as a kickboxing promotion and major combat sports brand. It is undeniably a unique presence in today’s sports entertainment market. If this event is a success and the Glory audience continues to grow, I think that Glory could become a leading company. Until then, you will have to join me in keeping fingers tightly crossed.

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Why Kickboxing Fans Should Rejoice About Bellator's Changes

In case you haven’t heard already, it was announced today by Bellator that Bjorn Rebney has departed from the organization and that his replacement is former Strikeforce head Scott Coker. Coker was restricted under his deal with Zuffa from competing with them until March of this year, which was when Viacom began making a play to push Rebney out and to replace him with Coker. The rumors are no longer rumors and it is indeed now fact; Scott Coker is the new head of Bellator and Bjorn Rebney is out.

Now, I’m sure that you are asking yourself; why does this matter to Kickboxing. The answer is a long one, which you already knew because I only give long answers. GLORY is on Spike TV and in case you haven’t noticed, GLORY has had problems gaining much power with Spike TV since they joined up with the network. GLORY’s ratings have been just as good as Bellator’s have been and they’ve done so with a whole lot less backing compared to Bellator.

See, Bellator had a majority share sold off to Viacom a few years ago, making them not only a part of the Spike TV family, but embedded into the very essence of the network. Viacom now had a stake in not only Bellator’s survival, but its growth and prosperity. While I can’t speak firsthand of Bjorn Rebney, there have been reports for years about how he does business and that the way in which he handled Bellator wasn’t much different. I remember balking at the leaked Bellator contracts when the promotion first began, then we all remember the contract disputes with guys like Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren.

It’s safe to say that not many in the fight world are big fans of Bjorn Rebney. Kickboxing fans shouldn’t be, either. You’d think that with GLORY under the Spike TV umbrella that there were natural crossover appeals for Bellator and GLORY, in fact, better crossover appeal than between Bellator and TNA Wrestling. Yet the crossovers that we saw were between Bellator and TNA Wrestling, TNA being a distant second place to the WWE and has been in constant financial and creative turmoil for years now. Not even pro wrestling fans like TNA Wrestling (you could argue that MMA fans don’t like Bellator, either, but that’s another story). 

So why not work with GLORY?

The answer is simple; GLORY is a great, polished and professional product. It offers something exciting and if people watch it, they fall in love with it. Bellator on the other hand has had to struggle for any gains in viewers and at times had to sacrifice their “vision” of tournaments to even attract marginal attention from the MMA press and fan base. We’ve had many reports that Rebney considered GLORY as the competition for Spike’s and Viacom’s affections, not something that he could work with and form mutually-beneficial deals with.

GLORY is on the rise and is doing so through rather modest means, while Bellator has had to dip into Viacom’s coffers to push expensive stars like Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz as real competition. While I can’t speak to boardroom affairs or meetings that happened behind closed doors, there has been a sense that a reason why we haven’t seen more GLORY programming on Spike TV or more support for the GLORY brand had a lot to do with Rebney’s attitude towards Kickboxing and GLORY. 

This is why the inclusion of Scott Coker is like a beam of light through a cloudy day for GLORY and Kickboxing fans right now. Scott Coker’s history is one that is rich not only in Mixed Martial Arts, but Martial Arts in general. Scott Coker was a longtime Kickboxing promoter, even working for K-1 on their US events. Before you rag on those events, remember that K-1 gave him extremely limited resources for those events and that any of the good that came for K-1 USA came through Scott and his very talented and motivated team (later on Mike Kogan had similar struggles but did an admirable job as well).

Scott Coker isn’t afraid of Kickboxing, in fact, Scott Coker loves Kickboxing. Kickboxing is how he broke into the world of promoting fights and nobody in the United States did it as successfully as Coker did it. Scott Coker also isn’t afraid of working with other brands on mutually-beneficial arrangements. Strikeforce came into prominence through a landmark deal with EliteXC that brought Strikeforce’s fighters, following and respect to PPV with some of EliteXC’s big names that they had signed, making for truly memorable events. It later led to Strikeforce absorbing EliteXC and becoming the #2 promotion in the world overnight. 

Now, do we think that things are going to immediately get better? Probably not. In fact, it might take a while. Scott Coker might bring about change, but Scott Coker still has to answer to Viacom at the end of the day and without a financial stake in GLORY they might not see the value in pushing it too hard. Then again, there is a contract in place and they are paying GLORY for the programming, so it makes sense to maximize the brand to its fullest and I see no reason why Scott Coker and Bellator would turn away a chance at working with another successful, unique brand to help build credibility for both. 

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