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.