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Francois Ambang's Struggles and Humble Beginnings

If you've ever been poor it's a situation you will probably never forget. Especially as a child, seeing those around you take for granted the things that we look upon as basic is something that can have a tremendous effect on that individual. For most who have experienced any form of deprivation, generally one vows to make things different, to have a better future. All, however, are not successful for an escape, depending upon the route one may experience very detrimental consequences. In this situation sometimes, a beautiful flower can sprout in a field that was once thought barren. That flower is humility.

Humility is defined as the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people; the quality or state of being humble. The definition, however, is deceptive in that there is an implication of weakness, self-deprecation or meekness. In reality, however, someone who truly exhibits this quality embodies great strength. When I think of Francois Ambang, humility is one of the first qualities that comes to mind. He is a man who has known great adversity but through those times he has persevered. He has never forgotten from whence he came. His story begins in west Central Africa in Cameroon where he grew up in poverty with his parents and six siblings. Despite having certain disadvantages, Ambang has faced his challenges with confidence, a confidence that brought him to the United States with little knowledge of the language and/or customs. What Ambang did bring with him to the steps of the Combat Sports Center in Virginia was a natural athleticism and strength. He also has had a long held desire to constantly improve himself as a fighter and make not only his family but his fans proud as well.

Ambang cites that he first began his combat sports training in karate, boxing and savate. Following his move to the United States, Ambang expressed that his primary interest was in boxing. In short time, however, he was able to easily establish himself in the kickboxing arena, learning to throw the sharp combinations of punches and brutal leg kicks for which he is now famous. With an overall 12-5 record, Ambang continues to hone his craft now on the Glory stage where he currently is ranked at number 10 in the welterweight class with a 1-2 record. To date he cites as one his most memorable fights the bout with Joseph Valtellini at Glory 9 in New York.

One thing has been clear since his arrival on Glory's stage, Ambang's potential for greatness is ever present. Beginning with his participation in the ‘Road to Glory’ welterweight tournament in 2013, where he beat three opponents in one night to score a GLORY World Series contract. Ambang is confident that his time as a champion in this organization is sure to come. Those who watch the promotion should believe as well as this confidence is not braggadocio but a true love for his family and fans.

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Andy Hug, The Freebirds and the Von Erichs: What Kickboxing is Missing Right Now

I want you to visualize what is one of the most iconic knockouts in the history of Kickboxing. Visualize Andy Hug landing that spinning back kick on Mike Bernardo’s knee in the K-1 World Grand Prix 1996 Finals and the gravity that came from that kick. It was a tremendous story; Andy Hug, the undersized fighter who had lost to Bernardo twice before had finally overcome the odds when everything was on the line. It was hard to not feel something from that knockout. 

The concept of sport at its best and most effective is when there is an emotional bond between the athlete and the spectator. Without a doubt there is a magical spark that happens when an athlete achieves a lifelong dream while a spectator, one that is emotionally invested in the athlete, watches on and cheers. In part it is due to living out a fantasy vicariously through the athlete; being able to see someone achieve their dream, to, if even for just a brief moment, be able to see someone reach those great heights that always seem out of reach. 

In combat sports, which are about the individual and not a team, the ultimate goal is usually to win a World Championship. It’s a story that writes itself, a story about climbing to the top of the mountain and becoming the best, then defending that title and continuing to be the best. When the fans have an emotional investment in the fighter it is just amplified and the journey is all-the-more satisfying.

It’s these things that make combat sports the most fulfilling ones to spectate in the world, but it is also what makes them so inherently frustrating to be a fan of. Conventional wisdom points towards acquiring the most talent, to toss them into the ring against each other and hope that not only a World Champion emerges, but that a star will be born as well. The problem with this is that the more names that are involved, the more individuals with their own stories, personalities, strengths and weaknesses are in play and after a while they begin to get lost in the shuffle.

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Why Daniel Ghita vs. Rico Verhoeven II is Such a Big Deal

GLORY

On June 21st live on PPV Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven will square off for a second time within the GLORY ring, this time for the GLORY Heavyweight Championship. The last time that they met they were vying for the GLORY 11 Heavyweight Tournament crown, this time it is for a tangible Championship, one that will be worn and defended with pride. At GLORY 11 the promotion made their Spike TV debut with Daniel Ghita vs. Rico Verhoeven as the explosive main event, possibly one of the best Heavyweight fights in GLORY’s brief history thus far.

Of course it is not without controversy. Gokhan Saki has decried the referee in his opening round bout against Verhoeven for counting a controversial down against him, which mentally “broke” him and led to Verhoeven picking up the victory. Regardless of that, Verhoeven earned his spot in the Finals against Daniel Ghita, but even then everyone assumed that Ghita would coast to victory.

He didn’t. In fact, Verhoeven vs. Ghita was so closely-contested that when you look at the stats for the fight, they have Ghita winning by a small margin. Daniel Ghita was quick to point this out on social media recently as both men traded barbs digitally before their fight next month. Do the numbers tell the story? I’m not quite sure. After another viewing of Rico vs. Ghita I I had scored the bout the same way that I did the first time; Daniel Ghita won the first round and Rico Verhoeven won the last two rounds. Round two was up for debate, sure, but round three was very clearly Rico, especially with how he ended it.

GLORY 11 was, in a way, a historic event and was seen by more fans in the United States than GLORY has ever had watching before. What they walked away with was an understanding and respect for both Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven as the top Heavyweights in the world. Many longtime fans would be quick to point out fighters like Badr Hari, Gokhan Saki and Tyrone Spong could and might break into GLORY’s Heavyweight scene and make a huge impact, but GLORY made their Spike TV debut and two stars were born.

Verhoeven and Ghita is the first real rivalry to be built up by GLORY since their Spike TV debut, making this rematch the first in GLORY’s post-Spike TV history and their biggest fight to date. It doesn’t hurt that both men are well-spoken, educated and easy to get along with, important traits for combat sports stars in the United States. I was impressed with how Rico Verhoeven handled the press at GLORY 16, with Verhoeven not only more comfortable in the ring but also comfortable out of the ring as well. 

GLORY is taking a chance by promoting Verhoeven vs. Ghita as the headliner on their first PPV event, but in a way it is symbolic. Both of these men helped to christen the new era for GLORY and will be an integral part of GLORY’s next big step to prominence. The best part about it is that both men are tremendous talents and that this fight not only appeals to those newer fans that GLORY has recently won over, but to fans who have been following the sport of Kickboxing for years now. 

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Pat Barry's Knockout Loss Tells a Different Story About GLORY

Pat Barry

To many fans, Zack Mwekassa's brutal knockout on Pat Barry was a surprise, including the thousands in attendance on Saturday night. Mwekassa had made a name for himself for the fans who were watching, but he also proved a point; Kickboxing is a very different sport than MMA. Pat Barry voluntarily left the UFC after two brutal knockout losses to lesser opponents, Shawn Jordan and Soa Paleli. The big story, though, was that Pat Barry had chosen to fight for GLORY over fighting for the UFC.

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Sign Up For LiverKick's Kountermove GLORY 16 Tournament

GLORY

My my, isn't Kickboxing growing into something that people can really sink their teeth into? If you've been following MMA online you've probably heard of this Kountermove thing. Right? I mean, it's pretty much everywhere right now, with it being one of the top MMA Fantasy sites out there in the ether of the internet. Well, they've branched out a little bit and will be running GLORY 16 tournaments. When I heard about this I knew that it was time to immediately hop onto this and get all of the awesome LiverKick readers out there in on this.

So here we go, the first LiverKick Kountermove tournament for GLORY 16.

This is, what we call, a "free roll" tournament, which means that it won't cost you anything to enter. Pretty cool, right? That means it won't cost you anything to sign up and play. The way the game works is simple; you have a salary cap and each fighter costs x-amount of dollars to draft onto your team. You try to pick the best team with your money.

If you are curious about the current odds for GLORY 16, check out MMA Oddsbreaker for the opening lines on the fights (also my own betting preview will be up there shortly).

So don't forget to sing up now and check out Kountermove for the LiverKick GLORY 16 tournament, winner takes home $50.

Now, if you want my opinion on who your must-picks are for your Kountermove choices, you are probably in the right place for that.

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Can Pat Barry Move the Needle For GLORY?

GLORY

This weekend at GLORY 16 we'll see the GLORY Kickboxing debut of Pat Barry. Pat Barry is perhaps best known from his run in the UFC, where he was involved in some truly memorable fights, some of the most memorable in UFC history. Of course, part of the problem with being a UFC fighter is that the UFC promotes the brand first, Dana White second, their shows third and somewhere along the way the fighters. This creates an atmosphere devoid of individual stars.

Pat Barry's jump to GLORY is a huge win for GLORY, seeing as though Pat Barry is a marketable personality and a talented striker. The question is, will he give them an immediate injection of credibility? The data from Google Trends tends to say "no."

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GLORY 16 Primer: Heavyweight Tournament Predictions

GLORY

This Saturday in Broomfield, Colorado GLORY will return to the United States with GLORY 16 Denver. The event, headlined by Marc de Bonte vs. Karapet Karapetyan for the GLORY Welterweight Championship, will feature a Heavyweight contender’s tournament featuring four of the best talents at Heavyweight. Those names are Errol Zimmerman, Anderson Silva, Ben Edwards and Sergei Kharitonov.

Anderson Silva vs. Sergei Kharitonov

This is an interesting fight for a variety of reasons. The first is that Anderson “Braddock” Silva doesn’t get the respect that he deserves as a Heavyweight Kickboxer. His recent losses are to Badr Hari, Remy Bonjasky, Gokhan Saki and Daniel Ghita, which is nothing to be ashamed of. He’s coming off of a win over Remy Bonjasky in December heading into this tournament and will be looking to make a big impact.

Sergei Kharitonov is a name that MMA fans remember well from PRIDE and Strikeforce who has been dipping his toes into the Kickboxing world over the past few years with mixed results. He scored a win over Jerome Le Banner at GLORY 13 and since then has fought under MMA rules in Russia. Many will see him as a favorite in this tournament, but the reality here is that Kharitonov has had problems against top level Heavyweights.

I think this is power vs. skill and it could go either way. Anderson Silva is a tremendously skilled fighter but is still a bit undersized at Heavyweight. That being said, Kharitonov won’t be able to match him in the skill department, but hits incredibly hard. Braddock has had problems with brawlers in the past, like his fight with Catalin Morosanu.

I think that Braddock Silva ultimately takes it, but wouldn’t be shocked by Kharitonov winning, either.

Errol Zimmerman vs. Ben Edwards

This fight just screams wild brawl where someone is getting knocked out. Ben Edwards has been in the spotlight since 2010 now, having mixed results against top names but never quite committing to Kickboxing. In the past few years he has worked a lot on his technique and cardio, making him not only a heavy-hitter, but more of an actual Kickboxer now, as opposed to a Boxer with some kicks.

Errol Zimmerman is a case of a guy who can be incredibly disappointing, losing fights that he shouldn’t be losing, or not coming into the fight in shape. He’s got a ton of power and potential, but many feel that he has had problems living up to that. A fight against Edwards should be a wild brawl, but a wild brawl could also make him end up on the mat, so he’ll need to keep his wits about him.

This fight is anyone’s game and the fighter with the best preparation will most likely walk out victorious. Edwards has been focused and kept busy with Boxing in Australia in the past year, while things have been a bit less stable for Zimmerman. Zimmerman is coming off of a quick loss to Daniel Ghita, while Edwards has the momentum with his KO win over Jamal Ben Saddik.

Errol Zimmerman should win this, though.

Finals

If things were to play out as I’ve seen them, we’ll have Anderson Silva vs. Errol Zimmerman in the finals. Zimmerman tends to thrive in situations like this and I think that we’ll see him turn up the heat on Braddock, head hunting for the KO. Braddock is a solid, technical fighter, but a focused Zimmerman is going to give him a lot of trouble, leading to Errol Zimmerman walking away the winner.

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K-1 Signs Former UFC Fighter Paul Daley

Paul Daley

Today we got word from K-1 Global that they were going to be announcing a huge signing. As we saw in the past with their signing of Buakaw Banchamek, when they say that they've signed someone big, they usually mean it. This time was no different, as they announced today that former UFC and Strikeforce fighter Paul Daley. Paul Daley has been focusing on Kickboxing thus far in 2014, with three Kickboxing fights and three knockouts under his belt.

These knockouts aren't just against local boys, either. Two of those knockouts are against big names in Kickboxing, one was Alexander Stetsurenko, the other against Alexander Surzkho at LEGEND 3: Pour Homme. So needless to say, this guy has looked super impressive in Kickboxing and there has been a lot of speculation about him making the move into either K-1 or GLORY. This is a huge win for K-1 in this case, because Paul Daley has chosen to go with the most recognized name in the sport of Kickboxing by the way of K-1.

Daley will be fighting at 80kg (about 176lbs) and will make his debut for K-1 in their July outing in Thailand, which will be the K-1 World MAX Finals featuring Buakaw Banchamek vs. Enriko Kehl. Paul Daley will be fighting next on April 25th in Slovenia at FFC12 against Miran Fabjan.

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Badr Hari Claims Ernesto Hoost Tried to 'Fix' a Fight

Badr Hari

According to Dutch site at5, Badr Hari has made claims in his upcoming autobiography that Ernesto Hoost had attempted to "fix" a Badr Hari fight in 2008. In typical Badr Hari fashion, this is mildly controversial.

'He once tried to make a deal with me, it was on Hawaii in 2008. He proposed I take it easy for the first two rounds and really see who's the best in Round 3. Hoost, the coward.'

Ernesto Hoost denies the accusations. 'I did talk to Badr about fighting at one time, but this is completely made up by him. Total nonsense.'

The fight in question would be from the 2008 K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii against Domagoj Ostojic. I'm not sure that Ernesto Hoost would have much of a reason to ask Badr Hari to go lightly on Ostojic, so yeah, the story makes little sense. If it was about a fight with Hoost, well, he was retired but possibly planning on a comeback at that point. If Hari is claiming that Hoost approached him about a future fight where Hari takes it easy on him in the future, only Badr really knows.

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Gokhan Saki Won More Than GLORY's Light Heavyweight Championship

Saki

Respect. Respect is what Gokhan Saki earned at GLORY 15 Istanbul.

Going into Saturday’s GLORY 15 Istanbul I found myself concerned. Not concerned over how Spike TV’s ratings would be or that any fighter was in any danger, but I was concerned that the Gokhan Saki that we saw in Chicago at GLORY 11 would resurface again. I was concerned that the local fans in Istanbul would not only give him a pass, but cheer him on. The Saki that I’m referring to is one that found it prudent to shove a referee and let his emotions get the better of him. The Gokhan Saki that had lost his way.

The months following GLORY 11 were a bit frustrating for long-time fans of Gokhan Saki. Saki was angry, very angry, because he lost a fight that he felt that he should have easily won and that he was wronged by the official. All fighters have tough nights and that night Saki had one. The problem was that Saki, whom had endeared himself to fans for years for not only being a scrappy, talented fighter, but a guy who loved his fans and wouldn’t let them down, was letting people down. I know that he let me down with the talk about lawsuits, being robbed and even potentially leaving GLORY for another organization because of a referee’s missed call. We’ve seen referees make the wrong call in the past before and know that the organization has no control over it and that referees have a very tough job.

What was tough to stomach was that Rico Verhoeven worked very hard for his tournament victory and that night that helped to define his career. That night was forever tainted and in a way, taken away from him, due to Saki’s words and actions post-fight. Now legions of fans would view Verhoeven’s big night as “tainted,” something that a guy like Saki should understand all-too-well from all of his battles. Saki has had nights with controversy in them before, just like he’s had disappointment and heartbreak before.

This is why at GLORY 15 Gokhan Saki was able to not only prove himself to be the great fighter that he is, but the great sportsman that we all knew that he always was. Saki found himself against two of the best fighters in the world, with both fights ending via stoppage due to injury. Those injuries, without a doubt, came from Saki’s work. In the case of Nathan Corbett, Corbett took a left hand to the ear that almost tore his ear off, requiring him to have plastic surgery to repair it. Saki was graceful in his victory and was legitimately concerned and supportive of Corbett after the fact.

Then came the main event against Tyrone Spong. This was the fight that we were all waiting for and that we all wanted to see something that we didn’t end up getting. We wanted a war, we wanted a classic, we wanted the rematch. Instead, Saki went to check a leg kick and Tyrone’s kick was a bit high, connecting on his knee and instantly snapping his shin. Saki didn’t run around celebrating, even though he had just won $200,000 and the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship. Saki didn’t cut an interview saying how he meant to do that, or that he knew he could have broken Tyrone’s leg. No. Saki immediately ran to check on Tyrone and remained humble throughout the rest of the night.

Gokhan Saki wanted the win and will remain proud of his victory, but he didn’t want to win in that way. He knows that an injury like that isn’t common and that the fans wanted to see Saki pick up a clear-cut victory over Spong. Saki also knows that his fellow competitors are human beings just like him, especially after he moved from the Netherlands to Abu Dhabi due to personal reasons and needing to clear his head. What we saw from Gokhan Saki at GLORY 15 was enough to remind us that Gokhan Saki is not only a skilled, powerful and talented guy, but that he’s a fighter that fans can be proud to be a fan of.

Kickboxing and GLORY didn’t need an angry, resentful Gokhan Saki, they needed this Gokhan Saki. This Gokhan Saki as one of their champions can only help GLORY and the sport of Kickboxing in the long run. This Gokhan Saki is the guy that I’m a fan of and will always be excited to watch step into the ring. I'm proud to consider myself a fan of Gokhan Saki.

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