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K-1's Lull in Action, A New Outlook on Weight Classes in Kickboxing?

sahak

 

You may be familiar with K-1's format. They hold two World Grand Prix tournaments a year, a heavyweight one and a 70kg one (K-1 MAX). Recently they've started a -63kg tournament as well. With K-1 being the pinnacle of the sport in past years up until this year, every fighter had a goal to compete in K-1 and win a world grand prix. The problem? With only 2 weight classes and the -63kg tournament pretty much being all Japanese, where does everyone else in between fit in? Where do the fighters in between get exposure from? We'll go over just how K-1 has influenced fighters and how the recent lull in action from them has created a new outlook on weight classes.

With K-1's recent lull in action, many other promotions are stepping up to the plate and putting on big cards. Many fighters that fight in K-1 are appearing on these big cards. With K-1 not paying fighters and with no one having a clue if they'll do any heavyweight or -70kg MAX GP this year, fighters have to find a way to make money. The great thing about the rising promotions like It's Showtime and Ultimate Glory is that more weight classes are being utilized. K-1 only uses two 2 weight classes and everyone in between those two are a bit stuck.

We've seen many fighters fighting way above or way below their natural weight class because of K-1's format. Melvin Manhoef has been fighting Super Heavyweights when his optimal weight class is -85kg. Manhoef did fight in It's Showtime's 85MAX division and won the title. The thing is, the big money and most exposure was in K-1. Despite winning the 85MAX Title in It's Showtime, Manhoef never defended it and continued to fight in K-1. You have to wonder, if K-1 was not around or it used more weight classes, just how different would Melvin Manhoef's career be? For giving up so much weight, Manhoef was quite successful. It would be interesting if he would've had all his fights at 85MAX instead of fighting Super Heavyweights.

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It's Showtime and K-1 Go to War: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

There is no doubt that there are two big kickboxing organizations in the world today; K-1 and It’s Showtime. One of them has existed for almost 20 years while the other for around 12 years. One of them started off with a bang and continued to grow without restraint while the other took a slower approach to growth. K-1 started off strong, creating the mold for those to follow when it comes to promoting championship kickboxing, with glitz, glamour, international fighters and creating a set of rules that would be used worldwide.

Much like UFC has become synonymous with MMA, K-1 is with kickboxing. You don’t fight kickboxing, you fight K-1, just like you don’t fight MMA, you fight UFC. The problem is that there were no checks and balances for K-1, just growth. The first real problem that could have derailed the train came with founder Kazuyoshi Ishii’s legal problems; tax evasion, money laundering and so forth. This led up to 2006 where the company almost completely went bankrupt, but was able to divert attention away from the problems and founded FEG, an umbrella company to handle their finances and be the new faces of K-1.

It was in 2010 when things really started to fall apart, as K-1 was being publicly called out for late payments to fighters, shows were simply not happening according to schedule and everything felt last minute, rushed and like there were some major, major problems. There were talks of shows being canceled possibly and FEG might go out of business, then there were talks of a Chinese investment bank, PUJI, assisting FEG in restructuring and solving some debt issues. It is almost June now and K-1 has yet to run their first show of the year, nor have they completed their restructuring.

It’s Showtime began as a show running MMA and Kickboxing fights before taking a sharper focus on just kickboxing. Seeing as though there is a wealth of talent in the Netherlands, with some of the best trainers and legends of the sport residing there, it made a lot of sense for kickboxing to become a focus for the Dutch company. Their growth in popularity eventually led for a partnership with K-1 for K-1’s European shows, with both companies working together rather seamlessly.

It’s Showtime also has a management branch that handles a lot of top fighters, with many of them also fighting for K-1. As I said, both companies had always worked together and had a beneficial relationship. Then things got ugly, when certain It’s Showtime fighters were publicly discussing not being paid by K-1, something that comes as a shock to the Japanese company who generally keeps their dealings very, very quiet. The final straw for It’s Showtime was when K-1 stopped returning their calls in regards to the It’s Showtime Amsterdam ArenA show in May, a show which was to be co-promoted between the two.

This comes after a rather public argument about Sem Schilt taping up a cut on his leg against Hesdy Gerges in 2010, with It’s Showtime and Simon Rutz calling for the decision to be overturned and for Gerges to take Sem’s place in the K-1 World Grand Prix. Gerges was given a gift of a bout by K-1 to showcase himself at the Finals, but still wasn’t physically in the tournament.

There is no doubt that It’s Showtime is expanding at a rapid-rate, as they’ll put on over eleven shows before all is said in done in 2011, with four shows to date in the books as K-1 is finally gearing up to put on one smaller show. It came as no surprise that It’s Showtime had given up hope on working with K-1, but that they still saw an opening in the Japanese market, which is one of the strongest markets for kickboxing in the world. When It’s Showtime announced a few days ago that working in conjunction with REBELS and a few governing bodies in Japan that they would start It’s Showtime Japan, alarms went off in my head.

As much as I love the idea of It’s Showtime expanding, moving into K-1’s turf while they are down is a move that will clearly create even more friction between the two. Simon Rutz’s public outcry for his fighter’s not getting paid led to Tanikawa a few months ago proclaiming that “Simon Rutz killed K-1,” so It’s Showtime promoting fights in Japan would without a doubt send K-1 over the edge. Right on schedule, K-1 fired back at It’s Showtime calling for a rushed press conference to announce their first show. While this is only a guess, it is an educated one, the press conference was most likely planned for the future but moved up to respond to It’s Showtime’s Japan announcement.

More after the break.

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K-1 Announces Two Reserve Bouts for MAX 63kg Japan Tournament

Regardless of It's Showtime's legal action and other looming beasts, K-1 has announced two reserve bouts for the upcoming June 25th K-1 MAX 63kg Japan Tournament. This brings the card up to a full ten bouts and has built it up nicely. Full story is here.

The first of these fights is Yuto Watanabe vs. Toshiki Taniyama. Kyokushin Kaikan trained Watanabe has some of the fastest and most deadly kicks in his weight class. He has only fought in MAX twice so far, and gone 1-1 Taniyama came up in K-1 Youth, and won both of his MAX fights last year, including a win over one of the Urabe brothers.

The second reserve bout is Shohei Asahara vs. Koji Yoshimoto. After winning the RISE KAMINARIMON 60kg Tournament 2008 Champion Asahara entered K-1 MAX and went 1-1 last year as well. Yoshimoto on the other hand has 37 fights under his belt, as well as a handful of MMA bouts. He is experienced, but hasn’t had a win since defeating Yuto Watanabe by the smallest of margins at RISE 71 late last year.
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It's Showtime Takes Legal Action Against K-1

Hot on the heels of K-1's reaction to It's Showtime Japan, announcing the K-1 MAX 63kg Japan tournament and Tanikawa mentioning anyone that fights for It's Showtime Japan will no longer be able to fight for K-1, It's Showtime has once again fired back. It's Showtime's head, Simon Rutz, posted today on the It's Showtime homepage that It's Showtime's fighters are still owed around $400,000 from FEG, and while they have been patient, they have decided with K-1 organizing shows to take legal action.

Until now, we have never contacted a lawyer to claim our credits because we granted K-1 the time they need to financially recover. However, we were very surprised to hear that DREAM and K-1 want to organize a number of smaller events. In our opinion that isn’t possible before K-1 first pays its debts to fighters which already have fought. Therefore, now is the time for us to hire a lawyer.

Also, fighters are even receiving phone calls from Mr. Tanikawa with a threat to not fight for IT’S SHOWTIME JAPAN. If fighters would fight for IT’S SHOWTIME JAPAN, they can wave their money goodbye. Mr. Tanikawa is not in the position to act this way, and subservience would fit him a lot better. Mr. Tanikawa doesn’t understand that K-1 has to pay their debts because the fighters have already delivered their service to K-1.

The second paragraph is extremely interesting, as Rutz claims Tanikawa has contacted fighters possibly working with It's Showtime Japan and threatening to not pay them for past due balances. If this is true, this could be big. Part of the problems It's Showtime could now face in regards to Japan could be huge, as most of us know how the fight industry in Japan works (and how the fight industry everywhere works, let's be honest here), It's Showtime could encounter problems putting on shows in Japan if FEG still has enough pull. Full press release after the jump.

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