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Giorgio Petrosyan Returning to Italy for November 6th Fight

  • Published in Kickboxing

Just hours after Giorgio Petrosyan defeated Xu Yan in China the Italian media are already abuzz about the next bout for Giorgio Petrosyan and it looks like that next bout will be on November 6th in Monza, Italy. While there hasn't been an opponent announced just yet there might be some headway as to which banner Petrosyan will be fighting under. There have been rumors abound over the past few months at Giorgio Petrosyan fighting in Italy once again under the GLORY banner.

That is not official just yet but this seems like a very good sign that Petrosyan will indeed be fighting in the fall in Italy, now the rest of the puzzle just has to come together and fans might just get their wish of seeing Giorgio Petrosyan back among the GLORY elite on his quest to once again be known as the top 70kg kickboxer in the world.

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Gabriel Varga vs. Serhiy Adamchuk Pulled from Dynamite 1

  • Published in Glory

After rumors were abound yesterday that the GLORY Featherweight title fight between Gabriel Varga and Serhiy Adamchuk was off it has come out today that Adamchuk and Varga will indeed not meet at Bellator MMA Dynamite 1 on September 19th in the GLORY ring. While not one of the headline attractions it did help to bolster the GLORY portion of the card with a second title fight between the two Featherweights.

According to our bud Michael Stets GLORY officials informed him that the fight was indeed off but wouldn't clarify on where the injury was. From our own reports we've heard that the injury was on Varga's side, although the specifics of the injury remain unclear. Gabriel Varga was forced to pull out is all that we know. Here's hoping to a formidable bout replacing it.

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Card for Hero Legends Featuring Petrosyan vs. Xu Yan

  • Published in Kickboxing

Tomorrow evening in the West, tonight in the East Giorgio Petrosyan will return to the ring against Chinese star Xu Yan in the Hero Legends ring. Xu Yan is a local legend who has seen success internationally and has been one of China's greatest exports. Sure, it isn't the fight with Yodsanklai but such is life, right? There will absolutely be demand for it and people will work hard to make that fight come together in the future.

For now Xu Yan is a fantastic measuring stick for Petrosyan to see if he's still, indeed, the best in the world. A win here just makes us want to see him against Ristie again even more. There should be a live stream for this so we'll keep you posted.

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Yokkao Heads to Argentina for Yokkao 16

  • Published in Muay Thai

South America has long been an interesting incubator for talent in combat sports and Yokkao is looking to bring their unique brand of muay thai to Argentina this year. Yokkao announced that Yokkao 16 will take place in Argentina on November 13th in Rosario, Argentina. 

The focus of the show will be fighters from Brazil and Argentina as well as the inclusion of fighters from the Yokkao's UK team. The card will be announced shortly as well as the full, complete card for the upcoming Yokkao 14 and 15 in the UK that is set to take place on October 10th in Bolton. 

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RIP Andy Hug 15 Years Ago Today

  • Published in K-1

So much has changed in the past 15 years in the world and in kickboxing that it's almost impossible to think of how different both would be if Andy Hug were still around. Hug was a rare ambassador for a sport that likes to kick itself when its down continually. While we only had a brief amount of time with Andy Hug he provided us with some of the most memorable moments in kickboxing history and taught us all that hard work, dedication, belief and spirit can get you very far in the world.

RIP Andy Hug. 

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VIDEO: Badr Hari Scores TKO Victory Over Ismael Londt in Grozny

  • Published in Kickboxing

It was an interesting night in Chechnya for kickboxing fans around the world as Badr Hari returned to the ring yet again, fighting under the Akhmat FC banner for his good friend and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov was shown on screen multiple times throughout the fight, pumping his fists when Badr was in control and looking upset when Badr went down. The fight opened with a rather strangely-subtitled full version of the video that we posted the other day that saw Badr Hari detained and questioned only to be saved by a Chechen SWAT team.

That same SWAT team then led Hari to the ring while Ismael Londt stood and watched. Then the announcer read off both men's resumes while they stood staring at each other in the center of the ring for what felt like a solid five minutes. It was a very, very long stare down, everyone agrees on that. 

The first round started off with a bang with Hari connecting with a sneaky short right straight that put Londt down onto the canvas early. Londt flopped over and it looked like that might've been the end of the fight right there, but Londt got up. From there Londt looked unsteady on his feet and walked into another short right in what was a slip that was ruled a down by referee Joop Ubeda (no comment). Londt was able to weather Hari's relentless attack and survive to the second round, but it was already looking like doom for him without a knockout.

Crazily enough that almost happened in the second round. Badr was looking to finish things and when Badr goes too hot and heavy he opens himself up. Londt scored a right hook to the temple and Hari was down, stunned silence washing over the arena. Hari was up, though, and if you've seen Hari fight before you know that if you knock him down he gets mad. The only problem is that he looked a bit punch drunk. Luckily for him Londt was hurt as well and he was able to put Londt down. Londt got back up to his feet and kept fighting, scoring a series of rights that had Hari in the ropes only for Londt to not be able to capitalize on it before the bell rung. 

This had turned into a fight when most were expecting Hari to walk through Londt. They were both hurt and tired going into the third but Badr was perhaps just a bit fresher. Hari scored another short right straight and it sent Londt flying across the comically large ring, with Ubeda administering a standing 8-count only to then wave the fight off under the pretense of a third down. Technically it's four downs in a fight and that's it, so it was the correct call, but was announced as a third down.

Regardless that was the best competition that Hari has faced since Samedov in 2013 (who knocked him out) and a solid win for the Bad Boy.

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This Badr Hari Promo Video is Downright Insane

  • Published in Kickboxing

Has Badr joined the special forces? Is he an action movie star? Neither, but this weekend he'll be fighting Ismael Londt in one of the more anticipated heavyweight bouts of the year for Akhmat FC in Grozny. We've already documented that Akhmat's links to Ramzan Kadyrov, whom many believe to be a war criminal, and that Badr Hari is good buds with Kadyrov. If you were curious what kind of money was being sunk into promoting this fight look no further than this super high budget promo video featuring Badr Hari.

But of course this isn't the full video. Oh no. The full video will be his entrance when he fights Londt. Is this even going to be a fight? 

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Joe Schilling vs. Artem Levin III Scheduled for GLORY 24 Denver

  • Published in Glory

There has been some trepidation when it comes to GLORY 24 being able to deliver on the rumors of a huge card, but today's announcement seems to assure that GLORY 24 will indeed be an event to remember. Today it was announced that GLORY 24 will see the third bout between rivals Joe Schilling and GLORY Middleweight Champion Artem Levin. According to our friend Michael Stets over at MMAMania the trilogy between the two will indeed go down on October 9th in Denver, Colorado. 

Levin is coming off of a draw with Simon Marcus while Schilling is coming off of a win over Robert Thomas. Of course, it is difficult not to mention that Schilling has been active in Bellator as well and is coming off of a knockout loss which prevented him from fighting on the Bellator MMA Dynamite event in September. The rubber match between Schilling and Levin has been talked about for well over a year now after they met for a second time in the finals of the GLORY Last Man Standing Middleweight Championship tournament in June. Schilling previously held a win over Levin in the GLORY 10 Middleweight tournament.

Many fans were calling for an immediate rematch between Simon Marcus and Artem Levin but it feels like the right decision to have the rematch between Levin and Schilling first. All three men have unfinished business with each other and any combination of the three is a tremendous fight. 

According to GLORY this event will also host a GLORY Heavyweight Contender's tournament with the winner going on to face Rico Verhoeven for the GLORY Heavyweight Championship. No names have been announced yet, but one would have to assume that Xavier Vigney, who qualified via a tournament win followed by a win over Daniel Sam, will be in, as well as Jamal Ben Saddik who recently picked up a win over Anderson "Braddock" Silva. Braddock would be another no-brainer as would possibly tossing Benjamin Adegbuyi back into the fray. Of course, if Daniel Ghita were to return nobody would complain, either.

Also, for those wondering, Simon Marcus is currently injured.

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Ewerton Teixeira Making Bellator Debut at Bellator 143 on September 25th

  • Published in Kickboxing

Former K-1 and GLORY fighter Ewerton Teixeira has spent the past few years away from the limelight, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been training. In fact, Teixeira has been dipping his toes into the more lucrative waters of MMA since the collapse of FEG's K-1 all of those many years ago. Teixeira appeared at GLORY 13 Tokyo where he squared off against Hesdy Gerges, losing that fight via decision and since then hasn't done much in the way of kickboxing. 

It came as a surprise a few months ago when Bellator announced that they had signed Teixeira and it's even stranger that he'll be fighting for them on a show that isn't Bellator MMA Dynamite under kickboxing rules, but that's just life, isn't it? In an already diluted Heavyweight kickboxing field it's a bummer to see a fighter who was once in the top ten and could easily be again opting for a career in MMA, but these are the times in which we live. 

Teixeira will make his Bellator debut at Bellator 143 on September 25th against Vinicius Queiroz. 

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Yokkao Launches Revamped Online Shop

  • Published in Muay Thai

For those of you out there looking for some new gear for the gym or just for whatever you choose to do at home in your muay thai and kickboxing-filled lives you know how much of a bummer it can be shopping for gear. Yokkao has heard what people want and totally revamped their online store at http://www.yokkao.com/shop/. The new, easy to browse and purchase from store has everything that you are looking for broken down into sections.

So check out the new Yokkao store at http://www.yokkao.com/shop/.

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VIDEO: A Return to Form for Petrosyan vs. Xu Yan

  • Published in Video

\When talking about Giorgio Petrosyan it is difficult to not devolved into hyperbole at times. Petrosyan is one of the most astounding talents that we've seen in the sport of kickboxing yet and back in 2013 we were reminded that he's human. Since Petrosyan's return to the ring from that knockout he's looked good but many had wondered if Petrosyan had perhaps lost a step or some confidence in himself. After last night's performance against Xu Yan at Hero Legends in China I believe that any of those doubts need to be washed away.

The Petrosyan that we saw last night was a return to form in many ways. Everything from his movement to how he would utilize angles to slip strikes and avoid Xu Yan's offense was exactly what we've come to know and expect from a Giorgio Petrosyan fight. Xu Yan is an absolutely formidable opponent and proved as perfect vehicle for Petrosyan to show just how "back" he really is. Anyway, without further ado, here is Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Xu Yan.

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August 2015 LiverKick Rankings Update

  • Published in Rankings

(C) GLORY Sports International/James Law

It's August heading into September and the time felt right to give the Official LiverKick Rankings an overhaul. There has been movement in quite a few weight classes while some of the others (Light Heavyweight and most of Featherweight) have seen no real movement at all. The first thing to mention is that there was a bit of housecleaning on the rankings, which happens when fighters have been inactive for over 12 months. The two big omissions this round are Daniel Ghita at #3 in Heavyweight and Joseph Valtellini at #2 at Welterweight. Both have been inactive for a year and we were forced to drop them from the rankings. 

For them to be re-included in said rankings can be a long road. That means beating someone else on the top ten or winning a tournament featuring top ten fighters to get back near the top. 

So let's get down to some of these changes then, shall we? Heavyweight has seen some movement, some of which was the removing of Ghita, the rest of due to stuff happening. Jamal Ben Saddik returned from his suspension with a win earlier this year, but not a top ten win. Beating Braddock Silva, though? That's huge and secures him the #4 spot. Jahfarr Wilnis makes his way to the Heavyweight top ten with his Kunlun tournament victory, the win over Gerges front and center. Gerges beat Gerasmichuk, which bumps those two around. Sergei Kharitonov is no longer with GLORY and seems focused on MMA. It hasn't been a year yet but it seems safe to remove him for now. 

No movement at Light Heavyweight for now. Saki was a tough call, but simply leaving GLORY does not disqualify him from the rankings. He had one fight this year which was at Heavyweight, but he's still active. If he plans a full-time move to Heavyweight then he will leave the Light Heavyweight rankings. Middleweight saw very little movement. Sahak Parparyan's poor performance in the A1 World Cup pushed him out in lieu of others and Dmitry Valent makes his debut on the rankings in a tough decision. This is a very tough division to rank and Valent has faced some of the top names in the division and just barely fallen short while picking up wins over everyone else. Bogdan Stoica was considered, but losses to unranked competition sent him to the back of the line. 

Welterweight saw a new GLORY Champion crowned in Nieky Holzken, but he was already the top ranked fighter. Hicham El Gaoui returns after a long absence on the LiverKick rankings with a win over Karapetyan and Bai Jinbin from China earned his way into the number eight slot with a crazy win in Kunlun over Stetsurenko. There was some movement at Lightweight, but most of it makes a lot of sense. Sitthichai won the contender tournament, bumping him up further while everyone else dropped down to accommodate that. Petrosyan might still be the most talented, but neither wins over Varol or Kehl were going to push him up any further. Yodsanklai decides to confuse us even further by competing in Kunlun under kickboxing rules, making him a must-rank fighter. Oh yeah, and Dzhabar Askerov is back after a win over Kehl. Big congratulations go to newcomer to the world rankings in Josh Jauncey for his performance in the GLORY contender tournament.

Featherweight only saw movement within the top three thanks to K-1 Japan's awesome shows. Kaew is back to being king again and Soda drops down to a more comfortable 3. 

Heavyweight (Per 8/15)

1 Rico Verhoeven
2 Errol Zimmerman
3 Benjamin Adegbuyi
4 Jamal Ben Saddik
5 Anderson Silva
6 Jahfarr Wilnis
7 Hesdy Gerges
8 Andrei Gerasmichuk
9 Zabit Samedov
10 Ismael Londt

Light

Heavyweight (Per 8/15)

1 Gokhan Saki
2 Saulo Cavalari
3 Danyo Ilunga
4 Artem Vakhitov
5 Mourad Bouzidi
6 Igor Jukovic
7 Michael Duut
8 Andrei Stoica
9 Zack Mwekassa
10 Reduon Cairo
Middleweight (Per 8/15)

1 Artem Levin
2 Simon Marcus
3 Joe Schilling
4 Filip Verlinden
5 Jason Wilnis
6 Alex Pereira
7 Wayne Barrett
8 Israel Adesanya
9 Fang Bian
10 Dmitry Valent
Welterweight (Per 8/15)

1 Nieky Holzken
2 Artur Kyshenko
3 Hicham El Gaoui
4 Karapet Karapetyan
5 Raymond Daniels
6 Karim Ghajji
7 Paul Daley
8 Bai Jinbin
9 Alexander Stetsurenko
10 Jonatan Oliveira
Lightweight (Per 8/15)

1 Robin van Roosmalen
2 Sitthichai
3 Davit Kiria
4 Andy Ristie
5 Giorgio Petrosyan
6 Yodsanklai Fairtex
7 Marat Grigorian
8 Dzhabar Askerov
9 Enriko Kehl
10 Josh Jauncey
Featherweight (Per 8/15)

1 Kaew Fairtex
2 Minoru Kimura
3 Yasuomi Soda
4 Massaro Glunder
5 Masaaki Noiri
6 Yuta Kubo
7 Gabriel Varga
8 Mosab Amrani
9 Hiroaki Suzuki
10 Zakaria Zouggari
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Let's Relive Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels II

  • Published in Video

To many this fight was a forgone conclusion. Of course Nieky Holzken was going to win and finally capture the GLORY Welterweight Championship. Why wouldn't he? After a defeat of Raymond Daniels at GLORY 19 it all seemed academic. Holzken, who is a notoriously slow starter at times, was going into this fight with all of the momentum in the world it seemed. In his post-fight interview he talked about how his game plan revolved around letting Daniels do his thing early on and tire himself out.

Of course, what's interesting here is that Daniels didn't care about the ongoing narrative and he didn't care about Holzken's plan, he had one of his own. This was an almost entirely different Raymond Daniels than we've seen in the past who was keeping out of corners, mixing his kicks with his punches, piecing together combinations with his hands and actually scoring on Holzken, which was obviously not a part of Holzken's game plan.

Holzken of course looked great when he turned up the heat, but damn, this is quite a fight. So let's watch it again, shall we?

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The Waning Relevancy of Heavyweights in a Changing Kickboxing Landscape

  • Published in News

Throughout the history of modern professional kickboxing there has been one lynchpin holding it all together, that has been heavyweights. There has always been an odd fascination with two goliaths, larger-than-life titans, stepping into the ring and throwing giant shots at each other. Smaller fighters have risen in popularity, but under the narrative of a David vs. Goliath, not usually within its own division. That isn’t to say that there aren’t staunch fans of two fighters of the same weight competing, because there are, but heavyweight fights have always been the featured attraction and appealed to the widest audiences. But these days it seems like heavyweight kickboxing is less and less relevant, with lighter weight classes taking center stage. You still can't deny that heavyweights are an attraction, though.

We are living in the wake of K-1’s glory days in heavyweight kickboxing. Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt, Remy Bonjasky, Ray Sefo, Ernesto Hoost and Jerome Le Banner are all retired. This generation of heavyweights has been rather thin thanks to a downturn in business and the advent of a viable light heavyweight weight class that has attracted some of the lighter heavyweights that would usually just tough it out with the bigger guys. The lack of huge paydays and giant backing like FEG had with Fujii TV in Japan has meant younger stars turning their attention to boxing or MMA where there are more assurances. 

There was temporarily a glimmer of hope on the horizon when GLORY kicked into high gear, as we saw in GLORY 4’s Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament. Of course, four of those fighters went on to drop in weight (Jurkovic, Bouzidi, Verlinden, Saki), three have since retired (Schilt, Aerts, Bonjasky), some faded from view (Guidon, Raoumaru) while others just haven’t fought in a very long time in the spotlight (Ghita, Kharitonov). In fact, if you were to look at the 16 fighters involved in that tournament only four of them are still active in GLORY’s heavyweight division (Verhoeven, Zimmerman, Braddock and Jamal Ben Saddik).

From a narrow view those are without a doubt four of GLORY’s top heavyweights at the moment. When browsing through GLORY’s rankings the only top contender that has been added in the years following GLORY 4 has been Benjamin Adegbuyi. A cursory look through their rankings is actually kind of depressing. Ben Edwards has decided to focus on boxing, older gatekeepers like Freddy Kemayo and Mladen Brestovac aren’t about the set the world on fire, nor will the new additions of the monotone Xavier Vigney or the spirited but still not quite there Chi Lewis Parry.

Looking at our own top ten (which will be revised as soon as Jay is done with his Hollywood responsibilities), for fighters outside of GLORY there is Hesdy Gerges, Andrei Gerasmichuk, Zabit Samedov and Ismael Londt. Gerges just lost to Jahfarr Wilnis, who oddly enough hasn’t been seen in a GLORY ring in quite some time. Most of these fighters are competing wherever they can draw a paycheck from and fighting infrequently, hardly moving up the ranks of the division.

Other bigger name heavyweights out in the wild are the ever-unpredictable Badr Hari, the young, still not in shape Ismael Lazaar and SuperKombat’s stable of Heavyweights including the part time Catalin Morosanu and the recently-returned Raul Catinas. The picture that I’m painting here is that of a heavyweight landscape that does little to inspire. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good heavyweights out there, but there has been a disconnect between the generations where there was very little overlap between them. The last K-1 World Grand Prix Champion was Alistair Overeem, who quickly hopped back to MMA after the fall of FEG’s K-1 and the last big heavyweight tournament champion was Semmy Schilt, who never fought against after GLORY 4. 

Rico Verhoeven has had impressive performances and is without a doubt the dominant world champion for the division right now, but the GLORY 11 tournament being a four-man and lacking in older, more established stars only hurt everyone involved. There wasn’t much of a narrative of Verhoeven overcoming greats to claim his top spot, just questionable downs against Gokhan Saki and a disputed win over Daniel Ghita. Even in winning the championship at GLORY 17 it was in a rematch with Ghita where Ghita fans are still crying foul after all of this time that Rico didn’t “do enough.” To no fault of Verhoeven’s there are not many top contenders left for him. The Zimmerman fight had that big fight feel to it, but Zimmerman’s freak injury took some of the shine off of it, and the rise of Benjamin Adegbuyi happened largely on non televised undercards, giving fans little reason to believe in or care about him. 

Heavyweight kickboxing right now is at a crossroads, living in a post-FEG era that can only be defined as fragmented and getting worse. So I want to ask you a question; who do you think will be the next big heavyweight kickboxing star? Is Rico Verhoeven the star that is slowly growing, or will the relative lack of competition hurt him in the long run? Or, has the rise of the smaller, more technical weight classes made the heavyweight spectacle a relic of the past now?

Right now it feels like while there are solid fighters in the heavyweight division, some of the talent that would usually prop it up has been dispersed to light heavyweight and even middleweight. That being said, fans still want to see heavyweights rumble.

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Raymond Daniels is Out to Prove Himself Against Nieky Holzken at GLORY 23

  • Published in Interviews

At GLORY 23 Las Vegas there is a tall task laid out for Raymond Daniels, one that many fans and insiders have proclaimed to be impossible: defeat Nieky Holzken and take the GLORY Welterweight Championship home with him. Back at GLORY 19 during a contender’s tournament the two men met for the first time in a fight that Holzken largely dominated with his smart cutting off of the ring and use of his experienced hands to keep Daniels from getting comfortable and doing what he does best, which is kicking from a distance. Since then the champion Joseph Valtellini was forced to vacate the championship due to complications from a concussion and GLORY has placed Holzken against Daniels in a rematch, the winner taking home the title.

Many see it as a foregone conclusion for Holzken. To them he’ll clearly be walking away with the championship, but there is just one thing that they are forgetting in this equation: Raymond Daniels. Daniels is known throughout martial arts circles as one of the best competitive martial artists of all time. That isn’t an exaggeration, if you look through the worlds of sport martial arts you won’t find anyone quite like Daniels. His record is immaculate, his accolades could fill a warehouse, yet he still looks for further challenges and his ultimate challenge is in the GLORY ring right now, his ultimate challenge is taking on Nieky Holzken. 

Their first fight was a tough loss for Daniels, but he reflects on the fight as a positive learning experience for him. “It was a learning experience for sure,” he explained. “I get to watch that fight and see what I need to do to fix the holes in my game and to make myself a better fighter. That’s how you improve as a fighter and a person, by learning from your mistakes.”

When analyzing Daniels as a fighter and his game, it’s difficult not to see where his weaknesses lie. His background in Karate meant less of a focus on using his hands, but since turning professional in kickboxing there has been a marked improvement. “There’s always a learning curve, there’s always something that you can do better. I’ll never be perfect, even if I strive for perfection. You can see the maturity of myself as a fighter, you can see the evolution of my style over my last few fights. It’s a great feeling, I’m just so much more comfortable, so much more calm and collected in that ring now. I used to be really excited, hopping around a lot and trying to get things over quickly. Now I’m able to get my energy out in spurts.”

Daniels is a living legend in the world of sport karate, so the question has to be raised why he would even make such a transition to professional kickboxing. “I’ve been very fortunate in my sport. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve met great people but I’ve accomplished everything that I possibly could a few times over. The next realm with a similar system is kickboxing and GLORY is that vehicle that gets me out there, just like the World Combat League did before. Now GLORY is the biggest league on the planet, so they give me the opportunity to use my skillset. Everyone looks at my sport and says ‘oh it’s pitter patter, it’s Karate Kid, it’s Best of the Best’ or something. This gives me a chance to go out there and show that just because my sport is about control and technique, that I’m able to translate that technique into kickboxing and add speed and power to it. That’s what I love about this, I get to test my skills against guys with different skill sets and style and show them what my sport is capable of doing.”

The World Combat League, organized by Chuck Norris, was dismissed at the time for it’s relatively strange rules and team format, but it’s undeniable that they produced a ton of talent. WCL’s roster included not only Daniels but Uriah Hall, Jarrell Miller, Pat Barry, Anthony Njokuani, Lyman Good, Carlos Brooks, Rick Cheek, Felice Herrig and more.

“What was great was that my sport was dismissed in combat sports, written off as impractical or too old fashioned, but then you look at the WCL and some of the fighters that came from there,” Daniels said. “But you got to see the athletes from the WCL start to blossom afterwards.”

This quickly brought us to the topic of being dismissed and how Daniels has been dismissed by kickboxing fans and pundits almost across the board. “You know, I find it kind of comical in a way. I look at it like; the people that don’t understand a burning desire couldn’t understand what it is, what I want and how I feel. Just because you fail or you fall short on something that you want to accomplish doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is defined by those moments. I lost a fight, but that doesn’t define me. I see people who have that outlook as very close-minded individuals. Everybody has a setback in life. If this wasn’t challenging to me, why would I do it? If I wasn’t fighting world class athletes like Nieky why would I be doing this?

“This gives me an opportunity to grow,” he continued. “Not just as a fight, but as a person. It allows me to step outside of my comfort zone. It allows me to strive to be better, to learn more about myself. I see people who will dismiss a fighter as people that would probably give up as soon as they have a setback in life as opposed to finding a way to make it work, finding a way through and to persevere. I have a fire underneath me and am more motivated than ever. I have an opportunity to go out there and fight someone who has beaten me before, there aren’t a lot of people that can say that they’ve beaten me before in my career. With that being said, people that are overlooking me, I have that knock-it-out-of-the-park ability with every move that I throw. So I always find it funny. Don’t get me wrong, Nieky himself is a great fighter, but he’s a flawed fighter. He’s lost before and he has holes in his game -- just like I do -- that I can exploit. Nobody's perfect. I’m looking forward to going in there and being able to silence people. If you don’t believe, just watch. I want to show people what it is to have faith in myself, in my skillset and to prove these people wrong.”

There is another side to GLORY’s push of Raymond Daniels, though, one that is hard to explain. Daniels possesses a magnetism that many fighters don’t. His ability to do things in the ring that no one thought was practical and not only land, but score crazy knockouts with has earned him a reputation among fans as a can’t miss fighter. I got to see this first hand live at GLORY 16 where fighters like Rico Verhoeven, Errol Zimmerman, Andy Souwer and Ben Edwards were walking around throughout the night and went relatively undisturbed, but Daniels was a different story. He was being stopped for selfies, autographs and high fives throughout the night. He’s fought on some of the most-viewed GLORY cards of all-time on Spike TV and has been one of their featured attractions. 

“That’s my whole goal at the end of the day, outside of fighting, I want to give fans something to talk about. I want to be able to give back to them,” he explained. “I want them to look at something that I did and say ‘my god, I saw that in a movie last week and he did it,’ you know what I mean? I also want the die hard fans to say ‘that stuff doesn’t work in a fight, Nieky has this Dutch style that’s gonna light him up’ and say, okay, come watch. As long as people want to come to watch, that’s cool. At the end of the day I don’t believe my own hype. You know, that’s not who I am. I have a Martial Arts school and I don’t even advertise what I do. Most of my students don’t even know that I’m going to fight for the world title right now.

“Some of my students will see some of my fights later,” he jokes, “and they’ll be like ‘oh my gosh that’s my sensei in there? He’s not like that when he’s in the karate school.’ It’s a different persona, you know, like wrestling. Wrestling isn’t real, but how many people follow that, watch it -- I mean people have tattoos of it. People watch it because they put on a show.  What I’m doing is real, but it’s still entertainment. If I go out there and I can knock a guy out with a kick that you’d only see in the movies, how much entertainment value does that bring? That’s how I look at my fighting.”

Daniels brings all of this and more to the table, also bringing with him one of the gaping holes in the combat sports world of late by the way of traditional martial arts. Martial Arts are indeed about self-defense and technique, but are centered around improving the self and becoming a better person. “I feel that is missing from sports right now. The focus isn’t on that, the focus is on who is the best, who is the flashiest and who is making the most money. It’s absolutely missing from combat sports right now and I’m just glad that I can help bring some of those values with me into the ring.”

It is a monumental task for Raymond Daniels at GLORY 23 against Nieky Holzken, but Daniels seems ready for whatever might come his way. Tune in this Friday at 11pm Eastern time on Spike TV to witness Raymond Daniels vs. Nieky Holzken vying for the GLORY Welterweight Championship and see for yourself who comes out victorious. 

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Video: Jahfarr Wilnis vs Hesdy Gerges Kunlun Super Heavyweight Final

  • Published in Video

We have been waiting for over a month to see this fight and it has finally been uploaded. Hesdy Gerges and Jahfarr Wilnis met in the finals of the Kunlun super heavyweight tournament on June 7th in Chongqing, China. This was both of their second fights for that night, Wilnis got a 2nd round KO over Asihati and Gerges won a split decision over the man that beat Verhoeven, Andrey Gerasimchuk.

The pace in this fight is just insane for anyone, let alone two huge men. I don't think either of these two could even fit in a phone booth yet they managed to fight in one for 3 rounds non-stop until they looked exhausted, but of course it was a draw and they had to fight one more round. I felt the fight was very close and even after the extra round I couldn't choose winner.

Let us know your opinion on who won.

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GLORY CEO Talks About Preparing for a Bright Future with GLORY 23 and Dynamite on the Horizon

  • Published in Interviews

James Law/GLORY

GLORY’s next event is August 7th in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Las Vegas is known for being one of the fight capitals of the world and GLORY will finally make their debut there in the historic Hard Rock. The main event of the show is a GLORY Welterweight Championship bout between Nieky Holzken and Raymond Daniels, two men that have fought before and will meet for the newly-vacated championship. 

In a way, Daniels vs. Holzken is a perfect way to sum up GLORY as an organization at the moment. GLORY began with a bang, pushing out nothing but star-studded cards with fights between top names from K-1 and It’s Showtime, but things have changed quite a bit since then. Some would say the changes were unwelcome, while others would argue that the health of the organization and the sport in particular should come before glitz and glamour. Chief among them would be GLORY’s CEO Jon J. Franklin.

Franklin was involved with GLORY previously, but his role was in assisting them with television rights deals and not running the entire organization. After some reshuffling after GLORY Last Man Standing failed to deliver in PPV sales last year Franklin was placed into the unenviable position of the CEO of GLORY and basically just told, “fix it.” GLORY started off big, just as big as the shows it was replacing from Japan, but the problem was there was really no market for it anymore and the shows, while impressive, helped the organization to bleed money for the first few years. 

“You know,” Franklin explained to me when talking about the difficulties of taking over. “First thing I thought was that I was going to come in and trim the fat. Just come in and cut out everything that we didn’t need, make the whole operation leaner, more profitable and to ensure that we’ll still be running shows down the line. You can’t just cut everything, though, which I learned the hard way early on. There are contracts in place and if you don’t honor those contracts things can get messy in a hurry, even if those contracts were expensive for us at the time.”

That included some of the older, bigger name fighters who have now mostly retired or moved on to what they consider greener pastures for the time being. There was a marked change in direction for the organization after Franklin joined, which he is willing to admit wasn’t always perfect, but has been adjusted with some fine tuning. “Was the Oklahoma show maybe a bit of a stretch for us? Probably, in hindsight, yeah. That might have been a bit too far in the other direction, but if you look back at our recent shows I think that we’ve really found the right mix for us that keeps the fans in the arena happy and is enjoyable to viewers.”

Part of the change was removing some of the more costly aspects of the production, which meant cutting back on production staff that were attending events and even scaling back on travel expenses. “As cool as the ramp was to have, it was an expense and due to how tight our shows are on Spike TV, you’d never really see them anyway. On top of that, most of our more memorable entrances were fighters interacting with the crowd more, like Gokhan Saki at GLORY 15 Istanbul.” 

As for the travel? “I travel coach now, which a few of the older guys were kind of shocked by. ‘How does it look that our CEO is traveling coach?’ They asked me, just not understanding it, still worried about image. I think that it shows that we are very serious about our organization and for its longevity that we aren’t spending frivolously or concerned about things like that. I don’t mind doing it and I believe that it sets a good example for everyone else.”

In a way, Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels is the perfect GLORY title fight under Jon J. Franklin’s leadership, especially in the Hard Rock, a venue that as a boxing promoter he had worked to put on shows numerous times in the past. Holzken is one of the most renowned and revered kickboxers in the world while Raymond Daniels is an American fighter who might not have the same level of credentials as a professional that Holzken does, but has worked tirelessly to transfer his skills in karate to the sport of kickboxing. His work has resulted in some of GLORY’s most spectacular knockouts and for Daniels becoming one of the more viral and notable stars for the organization. 

“He’s incredible,” he said about Daniels. “I think that showcasing a fighter like Daniels helps to set us apart and really stand out. Nieky is an incredible boxer and Daniels is an incredible athlete who does things that nobody else does inside of the ring. The two-touch kicks, spinning back kicks, just everything that he does takes your breath away and leaves an impression.”

Many older fans see the fight between Daniels and Holzken as a forgone conclusion, but Franklin isn’t worried about a loss for either man hurting their image, instead noting that fighters with heart and personality tend to stand out. “I know that I’ll take some flak for this, but how can you not love a fighter like Dustin Jacoby? He’s still learning the ropes in our sport, but he entered the Road 2 Glory tournament on a day’s notice and won the whole thing, he fought Mourad Bouzidi on short notice and in Bellator stepped into the cage against King Mo on short notice. The guy is a fighter and he’s exciting to watch. I don’t think that losses define a fighter at all and I think that fans have certain connections with fighters and that doesn’t just fade away after a loss or two.”

GLORY is, of course, involved with the big Dynamite event in September that will showcase Bellator fights in a cage and GLORY fights inside of the GLORY ring. The event was in the works for quite a while and Franklin talks about how pleased he has been in the whole process. “How can you not like working with Scott Coker? I’d say he’s one of the top promoters in the world. He’s been a pleasure to work with and we are looking forward to putting on a great show. I mean, Bellator has an amazing platform that they’ve grown since Scott came in and we get to be a part of that with Dynamite.”

The inclusion of GLORY seems almost academic considering the caliber of events that they’ve produced in their short tenure and how Franklin and crew have been able to work miracles out in the previous few events with their reduced budget. Franklin does credit the fighters for sticking with them through the transition, as well. “What people don’t realize is that 95% of our fighters stuck with us through lean times. That is incredible, they really believe in what we are doing and believe that this is where they belong. Look at guys like Errol Zimmerman or Rico Verhoeven who stuck with us through everything and are just excited to get out there and fight.”

The card isn’t settled yet for Dynamite, but GLORY has promised to bring their A-game for this. There was talk of the event possibly happening without GLORY’s assistance, but the reality here is that GLORY’s stable of fighters are some of the very best in the world. The Dynamite event is a huge stage for kickboxing in general and GLORY has top talent in healthy supply to wow both old and new fans alike. It also speaks further for the health of the relationship with Spike TV, which Franklin feels strongly about.

“I was just out there at the Bellator show and I walked away from my meetings with Scott and everyone at Spike TV feeling very positive about it,” he explained. “We have a longterm deal with Spike with extension options and everyone who see GLORY programming feels strongly about it. Could the landscape change in the future, could our relationship change? It could, but that is the nature of television. We aren’t concerned, though, we have a healthy relationship and a lot more shows that we are planning right now.”

The market is ever-changing for combat sports but what is clear is that GLORY is in this for the long haul and is looking to help to grow the sport worldwide as well as the United States. While Spike TV is usually the hot topic, Franklin made sure to mention that they don’t plan on abandoning their international markets any time soon. They have healthy television relationships all throughout Europe and Asia and he notes how it is easier to fill up arenas throughout Europe with their top talent, like in Lille, France where Rico Verhoeven defended his GLORY Heavyweight Championship against Benjamin Adegbuyi.

In a way, it is refreshing to speak with Franklin and to hear him be so candid about the past and future of the organization. They are very aware of their product and aware of any possible missteps that may have happened in the past and are always looking for ways to provide quality entertainment to all of their fans across the world, all while spending responsibility and ensuring that the company has a bright future. Because, as Franklin told me, having less opportunities for fighters to work and make money is good for no one, so all of the fighters are invested in the future of both the sport and the organization.

GLORY 23 is Friday, August 7th live on Spike TV from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

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Creativity in Kickboxing; or, K-1's Forgotten Formula to Building the Future

  • Published in News

The sport of kickboxing is one that has been around for a while under different rules, names and appearances, but has gone through periods of interest and disinterest alike. Without a doubt kickboxing was at its highest point in Japan from the mid-90’s through the late 2000’s under the K-1 banner. K-1 was an undeniable force in combat sports that wowed fans all over the world and kept up its level of mystique. K-1 was a monolith in the combat sports world, a Japanese organization that seemed to always have a small stable of fighters that it promoted while rarely swapping them out for newer, younger talents.

Throughout the years K-1 earned some scorn and derision from fans and insiders, claims of corruption, fight-fixing and organized crime ties behind the scenes would eventually tear the organization apart, yet fans still came out in droves right up until the final gong. Now here we sit, just shy of five years after FEG’s K-1 imploded and we are watching organizations like GLORY, K-1 Global, K-1 Japan, Enfusion and SuperKombat struggle to gain traction in their respective markets. To many, it is a mystery to mull over why brands like GLORY haven’t caught on with more fans, but it seems clear as day what the key differences were between K-1’s glory days and the current marketplace is; creativity. 

If you go back and watch the first K-1 World Grand Prix that was won by Branko Cikatic you can see the roots of what would become the K-1 that we knew and loved, yet something was missing. Branko was a fine fighter, but he wasn’t the type of fighter that the Japanese audience would fall in love with or be featured on television like many future K-1 champions would be. Everything from the lighting to the stage setup and presentation was good but not quite there yet. Then professional wrestling god Akira Maeda helped K-1 founder Kazuyoshi Ishii to meld professional wrestling ideals into the sport and everything changed. 

Akira Maeda (L) and Kazuyoshi Ishii (R)
Akira Maeda (L) and Kazuyoshi Ishii (R)

Looking back at K-1’s list of champions and fighters that endured the passage of time as icons you’ll always find something to latch onto about these fighters. A young Peter Aerts was called the Dutch Lumberjack, entering the ring wearing a flannel vest and hat. Ernesto Hoost was called Mr. Perfect because of his immaculate technique and lived up the gimmick whenever he was on camera as the perfect fighter. Andy Hug was the karateka with a profound love and admiration for the Japanese culture so he was always seen in his signature gi in promotional videos and so on.

What I’m trying to say is that K-1 had characters. These characters were of course real-life fighters and maybe just small exaggerations of the fighters’ personalities, but each fighter that K-1 sunk considerate amounts of time and energy into marketing had a larger-than-life personality that when placed on a large stage was able to enthrall fans. Many have written off such things as simply “Japanese” and that they wouldn’t work anywhere else, but a cursory look around the world at the legions of fans of K-1 and those fighters shows just how effective that was. 

I’ve heard the arguments as to why this current crop of kickboxing stars can’t be presented in that way, everything from “well, they aren’t as charismatic” to “fans want real, not manufactured hype,” but the proof is in the pudding. Chi Lewis Parry has been one of the fighters that GLORY has been heavily marketing in part due to just how much he can talk. When Chi Lewis Parry opens his mouth people listen, which is part of the magic of Chi Lewis Parry. I’m not sure that he’s ready for Rico Verhoeven just yet, but he’s found himself an audience much like Chael Sonnen did years ago and how Conor McGregor has done in the UFC recently. Chi Lewis Parry’s talent hasn’t been nurtured or curated, though, just thrust at the screen once discovered without much thought put into it. 

A large part of what made K-1 so successful has to be on the shoulders of Kazuyoshi Ishii, who had the vision and talent to find these personality traits in his fighters and to amplify them. Peter Aerts was nowhere near the level of a talker as a Chi Lewis Parry or a Conor McGregor, yet he made a ton of money for K-1 and became a world famous personality off of being the “Dutch Lumberjack” and later “Mr. K-1.” In fact, Aerts is rather soft-spoken and is one of the kindest guys that you’ll ever talk to who enjoys laughing and not taking himself too seriously, yet fans were always invested in Aerts.

That was the magic of K-1. You didn’t need to be Bob Sapp to become a star. In fact, while fighters like Bob Sapp who could talk and looked imposing did great business for K-1, they wouldn’t last because of the lack of talent. Where K-1 really shined was finding legitimately talented fighters and building them into something special. In fact, there was one great project near the end of K-1’s run that deserves special attention; Alistair Overeem.

Overeem was a moderately successful MMA fighter with an imposing physique, vicious knees and a great standing guillotine that never seemed to really catch on with fans. Yet, somehow, in 2008 after wins over Paul Buentello, Mark Hunt and a draw against Mirko Cro Cop he was brought into K-1 to fight their golden boy Badr Hari on New Year’s Eve. Badr Hari was coming off of a rather embarrassing display where he essentially imploded under the pressure during the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals against Remy Bonjasky and got himself disqualified, so K-1 thrust him into a New Year’s Eve freakshow fight to defend the honor of K-1 against the MMA world’s Overeem. The thing is, Overeem knocked Badr Hari out and all hell broke loose.  

Alistair Overeem is a relatively quiet, soft-spoken guy. In fact, he’s a pretty nice dude for a guy who is as muscular and scary in the ring as he is. The cocky Badr Hari who had just earlier in the month lost the K-1 World Grand Prix via disqualification was there to get his win back, to get back on track and regain face after his in-ring meltdown, but instead a new star was born in Overeem. Overeem tried his hand against the K-1 World Grand Prix Champion of Remy Bonjasky a few months later and looked scary, but ultimately lacking experience against a tactician like Bonjasky and dropped a decision. That wasn’t the end of Overeem in K-1, oh no, not by a longshot.

The K-1 marketing machine quickly went to work with Overeem, producing perhaps one of the most amazing hype videos that I’ve ever seen for a fighter leading into the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16. This video showed Overeem on the streets of Holland with his signature mallet that he used to bring to the ring with him smashing a bike into pieces. It encapsulated the fury that we saw in the ring from Overeem, the raw power and emotion that he brought into fights without him having to cut an eloquent interview. After smashing a bike and a camera tripod he pointed to the camera, took a few deep breaths and uttered “Everybody’s gonna die.”

It was beautiful. I remember seeing it at the time and just being awestruck by it. Alistair Overeem held a victory over Badr Hari and nearly defeated then-champion Remy Bonjasky and was going to fight the legend Peter Aerts in the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16. Overeem was being billed as the outsider, the invader who was looking to usurp the throne that was always held by the best kickboxers in the world for his own. It was a simple, effective narrative that was only exacerbated when he defeated Peter Aerts in the Final 16, securing his spot in the K-1 World Grand Prix. 

K-1 did a series of vignettes with Overeem leading up to his entry into the K-1 World Grand Prix, focusing on his raw strength and his crazy, unorthodox training in Holland. While all of that was good, perhaps what was the most effective was showing him eat. Sounds weird, right? But Alistair Overeem is a huge dude who needed a lot of protein and when they sent a camera crew to show him cooking his own food and talking about how he ate horsemeat for its protein value, well, everyone went nuts. Alistair Overeem filmed inside of a tiny Dutch kitchen that he could barely fit inside of cooking horse steaks to prepare for the K-1 World Grand Prix was an image that endures to this day as one of the defining moments in the career of “Ubereem.”

His first fight was to be against the Kyokushin fighter from Brazil that was popular in Japanese karate circuits in Ewerton Teixeira. Teixeira was always a skilled guy who wasn’t the most exciting fighter to watch, but he connected well enough with fans and filled an important role for the organization by representing Kyokushin. The video package that they created leading into that fight hammered home their narrative of Overeem being an “invader” from MMA, showing highlights from his fights with Badr, Remy and Aerts. The visual of Overeem literally bullying around the K-1 legend Peter Aerts and tossing around Remy Bonjasky was a powerful one, so was the interview footage of Badr Hari talking about his loss to Overeem. They also sowed the seeds of Overeem vs. Badr Hari meeting again in the tournament in a rematch for the ages, which played a big role in the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix. 

Overeem scored an absolutely brutal knockout on Ewerton Teixeira with a clinch knee, which helped to lead to the legend of the UBERKNEE and only made Overeem look that much stronger heading into the semifinals against Badr Hari. The rematch with Badr Hari was the story of the show, by far, which overshadowed what would become another Semmy Schilt victory. The real story of the show was that Alistair Overeem’s stock was on the rise and that it was part skill and talent and part marketing and narrative-building. This fight was the culmination of a lot of work and storytelling where a lot of credit should go to Michael Schiavello’s absolutely brilliant narrative-driven call throughout this event.

I’ve heard many a fan decry Schiavello, Sefo and Kogan’s call during that match, or their celebration on-camera after the fight as “cheesey” or “unprofessional,” but the reality was that they were genuinely excited and engaged in the narrative, as was the entire crowd. That finish still gives me chills to this day because of just how perfect of a moment it was. The thing is, I’ve heard a lot of people say that narratives in combat sports are “impossible” because of the unpredictable nature of people getting hit in the face, but the truth is that a deft storyteller will find a way to weave a complex narrative that can be altered along the way to be just as effective.

Due to Badr Hari once again losing his cool in the ring in 2010 he was on a bit of a sabbatical from the sport, leaving the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix wide open for new blood. The tournament saw a lot of top names involved, including newer names like Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki becoming dark horses to win the entire tournament and to bring new blood into the K-1 lineage. K-1 continued their push for Overeem, though, pushing the narrative of Overeem more focused than ever on K-1, but still slightly arrogant and the outsider heading into the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix.

They focused on his raw strength as one of his selling points. We know in combat sports that raw strength and physique aren’t what makes a fighter “good,” but by pushing this narrative they kept building up Overeem as a larger-than-life character, even having him talking about how he grew up watching Hulk Hogan in WWF. 

Overeem, of course, would go on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix, becoming one of the most famous fighters in Japan. His stock also rose within the United States as well, with more and more fans calling for him to step back into the Strikeforce cage to defend the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship, maybe even go to the UFC and challenge Brock Lesnar in a dream match. In fact, Overeem now had an aura about him when he stepped into the ring. He was the K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and that not only meant something, it meant everything at the time.

Regardless of your opinion of Alistair Overeem, K-1 took a fighter that was talented and driven and helped to push him beyond the level that he was at the time. They helped to make him a star and a featured attraction that they were drawing money off of up until scandal struck and the company lost their television deal and ultimately disintegrated. 

Alistair Overeem is simply the last example of starbuilding that K-1 did and how that work that they did on pushing Overeem’s larger-than-life character was able to carry over after his K-1 career and help to build him up to be a living legend in combat sports. Anything that happened after is immaterial, of course, but he was still elevated in part by K-1’s huge push that endeared him to fans across the world. If you were to ask me what is missing from modern kickboxing that K-1 was able to do the answer is simple; they built stars. They made fans care about their fighters while transforming them into characters and building narratives around their fights. 

It didn’t matter if these characters won or lost, they were still verifiable draws for K-1 and vital parts of the K-1 ecosystem. Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost, Jerome Le Banner, Andy Hug, Ray Sefo and many other fighters won and lost in the K-1 ring but it never mattered because they’d come back and get another chance. They’d get another chance and K-1 would weave stories about these fighters and their upcoming fights that made fans genuinely interested in seeing what came next. These narratives didn’t need to be perfect, they just needed to exist.

That doesn’t exist today. Instead we get training footage, cut-and-dry interviews and a focus on who won and who lost, not the humanity behind who won or lost. Not the story. If you treat a fighter who lost like a human being and tell their story the chances of fans being interested in their next fight is only going to increase. This is why fighters like Aerts and Hoost could have thirty year long careers that included crushing losses but still attract fans to this day. 

The sport of kickboxing drew on not just the physical aspect of the sport, but it drew and thrived off of the creativity of the sport. Kickboxing thrived not just by having a good, rock ‘em, sock ‘em product, but by molding fighters into larger-than-life characters that played off of their personalities. It thrived by created narratives for each and every fight to appeal to fans and didn’t rely on fighters to sell their own fights. Kickboxing helped to build these fighters into box office and television attractions and was never left with cards that delivered in action but drew no eyes. 

So my answer to the question that is floating around right now as to “Why aren’t fans attracted to kickboxing?” Simple, nobody is doing anything to make fans care. 

 

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Exclusive Interview with Mike Zambidis Prior to June 27th Retirement Bout

  • Published in Interviews

On June 27th in Greece the K-1 legend that is Mike Zambidis will step into the ring one last time in his retirement fight. The 34-year old fighter will cap off a long and storied career by fighting one of the world's toughest Lightweights in Steve Moxon. In a way, Zambidis fighting Moxon for his retirement fight is a very Zambidis thing to do; he didn't have to fight someone as tough and relevant as Moxon. Zambidis is going out on his own terms, which is rare for many fighters, it also meant that he could choose someone that he could just easily plow through for a memorable knockout for his retirement. Instead Zambidis chose a challenge.

I think when we all look back on Mike Zambidis it should be that fighting spirit that we all remember. We had a chance to talk to Zambidis prior to his big fight this coming weekend and a reflecting Zambidis had a lot to say about his career, his fans and even his most memorable fights. Mike Zambidis fights Steve Moxon on June 27th in Athens, Greece under the Iron Challenge banner.

LK: First of all, thank you for all of the great memories in the ring. I'm not sure that there are many fighters out there as entertaining and full of heart like you. 

MZ: Thank you very much for your kindness.  It is very important for an athlete to be respected by the audience and especially by the insiders of his field with such great experience.

LK: After a successful 15-plus-year career you are retiring, what was the decision making process like for this? What finally pushed you to move into retirement?

MZ: I am involved in kick boxing for 24 years and in times that kick boxing was not popular in my country but I dreamed and looked up with my head down and after huge sacrifices and endless hours of training, I have achieved 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 Kos. I had the honor to compete during the golden years of kick boxing in major events and with the best athletes worldwide.

After all this wonderful and demanding journey , I feel enormous gratitude that I manage to finish my career healthy and in high competitive level. Now, I feel full inside so as to go on with the next chapters of my life. 

LK: How important is it for you to be able to retire in front of your friends, family and fans in Greece?

MZ: There is nothing better than to give my last battle in Greece, although there have been ​​several interesting proposals by others countries, but my decision was the only way.

The Greeks support me in many ways, either daily out on the street, on social media, or filling each stadium where my battles are organised and transfer their energy, which is very valuable for me.

LK: Reflecting back on your career, what was your favorite fight?

MZ: I have many favorite fights … But I will pick the first that came to my mind.  It was the first time I stepped my foot in Japan and my first battle there with the champion of K-1 in 2003. For a long time, I was dreaming to participate in K-1. I won the eight-fold in the K -1 Oceania Australia and John Wein Parr in the finals and so I found myself opposite to the Dutch Albert Kraus.  In the beginning of the second round, I managed to knock him out, diving in the deep sea of K-1. A shocking experience for a young unknown Greek athlete back then.

LK: What made you select Steve Moxon as a final opponent? Moxon is an incredibly tough, top-ranked opponent. Is this just the Mike Zambidis warrior spirit that wouldn't accept an easy fight for his retirement?

MZ: I respect Steve Moxon and he has provoked me many times in the past. As he said in the past, I was his idol due to the similar fighting style and I think that it is very interesting for the audience to see. The experts of martial arts predict a spectacular battle between two strong athletes that are chasing the knock out.  As you said, I could accept an easy fight at this moment but I love challenges a lot. I am not just an athlete, I am a warrior and I learned in my life to fight, aiming high. This is a challenge I would like to take, as I think it will be a Titans’ battle.

LK: What do you think that your legacy will be on the sport after you retire?

MZ: The fights I have given in K-1, my wins over the world’s greatest champions of kick boxing, my «iron» fists and my fighting style, I think will be my legacy. Also, the fact that I was a Greek warrior fighting alone in the biggest kick boxing events worldwide, I think is going to be a nice thing to remember about me.

LK: What kind of plans do you have for your retirement? Do you plan on working with fighters and training them, running events, running a business or are you just planning to relax?

MZ: In Greece I own two fighting clubs where I give kick boxing lessons, so I will continue to run them giving more time and train athletes. In parallel,  I plan to offer kids seminars for nutritional education, sports education, self-defense, in order to strengthen their self-confidence and any other important experience I can offer.

LK: Is there a fighter out there that you believe could help the Mike Zambidis legacy continue on, or do you think that you are retiring as a one-of-a-kind talent?

MZ: I believe that every athlete is unique; no one can be the same with the other. Of course nowadays, there are many good athletes in the world who can offer many things to kick boxing and achieve great things. On the other hand, I believe that the Golden Era of kick-boxing has ended and strong teams like the ones gathered in Japan or in heavyweights like Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hust, Le Banner, Bernado, Loginidis, Andy Hug and in K-1 max 70 kg with Masato, Kraus, Kyshenko, Drago, Buakaw, Souwer and many others won’ t exist again for 2 reasons: Firstly, it is rare to have good fighters in their best physical condition to compete in the same event and secondly the global economic crisis which dissolves dreams and shrinks everything. 

LK: Are there any regrets from your career, or are you satisfied with your accomplishments?

MZ: After 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 KOs, I would be ungrateful if I said that I am not satisfied with my accomplishments. Thank God,  I don’t have second thoughts and I am happy. I would be ungrateful if I was not happy with what I have accomplished. Definitely, there were a lot of difficulties, frustrations , injustices and  injuries during all this wonderful trip but I keep the good moments, that were definitely more and I am glad because I used all the bad ones to become more mature and get myself in the next battles more «angry» in a creative and investing way and complete human and fighter.  

LK: Is there anything that you'd like to say to your fans and supporters all throughout the world?

MZ: I would like to thank them personally, one by one. Their support, energy and love are precious for every step I take. I’ ve always felt very honored for the  people who supported me in my fights around the world. That’s why I was training and I gave 100% of  my soul and body in my battles so that I could please them.

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Video: Behind the Scenes of Glory 22 by Benini Stephane

  • Published in Video

I was lucky enough to actually be behind the scenes at Glory 22 in Lille so watching this video made by Benini Stephane just brought back the intensity in Stade Pierre-Mauroy that evening. It was a beautiful venue and Glory did a great job dealing with its size. Each dressing room only had about 4 fighters in it, and they were chosen appropriately according to when they were fighting so that everyone had time and space to warm up.

Stephane has made a black and white and a color version of the video and he really captured some wonderful moments.

GLORY 22 from Stephane B on Vimeo.

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K-1

RIP Andy Hug 15 Years Ago Today

  • Published in K-1

So much has changed in the past 15 years in the world and in kickboxing that it's almost impossible to think of how different both would be if Andy Hug were still around. Hug was a rare ambassador for a sport that likes to kick itself when its down continually. While we only had a brief amount of time with Andy Hug he provided us with some of the most memorable moments in kickboxing history and taught us all that hard work, dedication, belief and spirit can get you very far in the world.

RIP Andy Hug. 

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K-1 World Amateur Championships in November, Plus K-1 Japan 70kg in July is Amazing

  • Published in K-1

After a bit of radio silence from K-1 over the past few months K-1 has announced that they will be holding a world amateur championship this November in Italy. It will run on November 13-15th in Tuscany and if you are an amateur fighter interested in testing your mettle and being crowned as an amateur world champion you can contact them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

On the K-1 Japan front they are still gearing up for the K-1 Japan 70kg Championship tournament on July 4th. It features a one-night tournament featuring eight 70kg fighters, one could even argue some of the best in the world, while the rest of the card is up to the usual K-1 Japan standards of excellence. Seriously, I dare you to find a better card than this from this year. You won't.

70kg Tournament

Reserve: Sergey Adamchuk vs. Kazuya Akimoto

Quarterfinal: Marat Grigorian vs. Yoichi Yamazaki

Quarterfinal: Dylan Salvador vs. Makahira Keita

Quarterfinal: Hiroki Nakajima vs. Sanny Dahlbeck

Quarterfinal: Daiki Watanabe vs. Jordan Pikeur

Super Fights

Hirotaka Urabe vs. Toshi

Minoru Kimura vs. Massaro Glunder

Takeru vs. Hakim Hamech

Koya Urabe vs. Konstantin Trishin

Kaew Fairtex vs. Yasuomi Soda

 

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Peter Aerts Officially Retires

  • Published in K-1

After perhaps one of the most legendary careers in the sport of kickboxing, the trailblazing Peter Aerts has finally hung up the gloves. Aerts, originally promoted to be retiring at GLORY 13 wasn't too pleased with being pushed into retirement when he didn't quite feel ready for it just yet. Aerts has been aware of father time since at least 2012 when he first started planning his retirement, with the bout against Tyrone Spong being his "BeNeLux retirement."

Since then it has all been about winding down and while Aerts was scheduled to participate in the BLADE.2 event in Japan on August 1st, yesterday at a press conference in Japan he instead sent along a video announcing his retirement. He had sustained a few injuries after his last fight with Ernesto Hoost and has had difficulties getting back into fighting shape and recovering, which has pushed him to finally retire. He will now focus on training fighters and building up the next generation of kickboxers.

For me, personally, it is tough to see the end of the Aerts era considering he was the first fighter that really caught my eye as a kid. After watching Aerts' first K-1 World Grand Prix victory I was hooked for life. That being said, it is all about safety and health. Aerts has a family and a gym right now and leaves behind a legacy as one of the all-time greats of the sport. My favorite memory of the past few years will still be Aerts making it to the finals of the 2010 World Grand Prix against Alistair Overeem and having that feeling that anything could happen, that Aerts could win it one last time. That was the kind of magic that Peter Aerts brought to the ring with him.

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Video: Noiri vs Glunder and Hiroya vs Minoru

  • Published in K-1

During the 55kg tournament K-1 held on April 19th in Japan there were a few big upsets in the super fights and K-1 has just released the videos. 

First of all Kimura "Phillip" Minoru vs Hiroya, since I didn't get to watch this event live I have to say it was pretty surprising to read that Minoru KO'd Hiroya in 1 round even though Hiroya can be hot and cold sometimes. Now after watching the fight, honestly Minoru looks really damn good. He has improved leaps and bounds, his timing, speed and power all looked amazing, very impressive.

Next we have Massaki Noiri vs Massaro Glunder, Glunder looks so much like a mini Andy Ristie its crazy and even has a similar style but i think hes a little bit less awkward. When I read that Noiri had lost by cut the first thing I thought was that it must have been lucky but after watching the fight Glunder not only beat Noiri but he did it in Japan, and on short notice, I definitely do not think Glunder was losing the fight. Great breakthrough win for a young up and comer in Massaro Glunder.

 

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Fight Card For K-1's China vs. Japan Feb. 1st Event

  • Published in K-1

K-1 is continuing to go full speed ahead with their Chinese home base with their second event of the year in Changsua, China. This time around the theme is China vs. Japan and will feature some of their Chinese standouts against a few Japanese fighters. Sadly a lot of the talent they wanted were already booked due to New Year's and early January events, but they still pulled together a pretty good card.

I assume there will be a free stream via Hunan TV like the last time as well. Stay tuned for that. Also Jungle Koki is the coolest name ever.

60kg Tomohiro Kiyai vs. Wu Ze
63kg Keisuke Nakamura vs. Wang Zhiwei
65kg Kuji Yoshimoto vs. Hanji
70kg Hideaki Kikkawa vs. Tien Xin
70kg K-Jee vs. Zang Lei
70kg Jungle Koki vs. Ba Te Er
53kg Syuri vs. E Meidie
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Final Card for K-1 Japan on January 18th

  • Published in K-1

K-1’s Japan contingent have promised us what looks to be a pretty amazing card on January 18th. The event features a classic K-1 one night tournament, this time at 60kg. It features a mix of names that we know from the Japanese scene to some heavy hitters from around the world including Javier Hernandez, Karim Bennoui and Denis Puric.

The rest of the card is an awesome, eclectic mix of styles with some really fascinating fights on the card. Kaew Fairtex vs. Minoru Kimura is an awesome, awesome fight and I’m very happy to see Sanny Dahlbeck back in the mix against the very awesome Yoshihiro Sato. This event will be broadcast on NicoNico on the 18th.

HW: Manabu vs Fujita Tomoya
60kg: Yuma vs Kanbe Shota
65kg: Goto Masanobu vs Saito Yuta
65kg: Hiramoto Ren vs Ishikawa Yuki
60kg GP Reserve Fight: TOSHI vs Kim Hun Jae
60kg GP: Shimano Kotaro vs Javier Hernandez
60kg GP: Urabe Hirotaka vs Karim Bennoui
60kg GP: Yamamoto Masahiro vs Gagny Baradji
60kg GP: Urabe Koya vs Denis Puric
65kg: Kaew Fairtex vs Kimura Minoru
70kg: Sato Yoshihiro vs Sanny Dahlbeck
55kg: Takiya Shota vs Shou Rong
55kg: Tobe Ryuma vs Horio Ryuji
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Gabriel Varga Out of K-1 USA vs. China Event

  • Published in K-1

GLORY fighter Gabriel Varga was set to compete at the K-1 USA vs. China event on January 1st in China but it looks like all of that has gone up in smoke over the past day. Varga is reporting on having visa issues. Upon entering China they found that he did not have the proper paperwork to enter the country, which meant that he had to turn around and go right back home to Canada. 

Definitely a bit of a bummer for those looking forward to seeing Varga fight. The good news is that there are no other issues as of press time with the event and it should go off without a hitch. We'll keep you posted on any further news for the K-1 China vs. USA event.

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K-1 Signs Yodsanklai Fairtex to Two-Year Contract

  • Published in K-1

In an interesting twist of fate considering the recent events that unfolded in Thailand with Buakaw Banchamek and K-1, K-1 has been able to secure a two-year, kickboxing-exclusive deal with one of the best muay thai fighters who ventures outside of Thailand in Yodsanklai Fairtex. They announced the deal yesterday, which comes as a bit of a shock considering the shock and outrage we saw coming from Thailand after the last event. 

Then again, Yodsanklai has been angling with a fight with Buakaw for ages now and it has simply not materialized. Yodsanklai will be competing at 70kg, which places him within the MAX division. A potential fight between Yodsanklai and K-1 MAX Champion Enriko Kehl would be nothing short of awesome, that's for sure. 

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K-1 Announces Deal in China and Three 2015 Events

  • Published in K-1

If you've been wondering why K-1 has been seemingly so focused on China over the past year or so, look no further than the announcement made today by K-1 that they have secured what looks to be a pretty hefty broadcast deal in China that will reach most of the country. We had the news on the next event in China, taking place on January 1st, last week. That will be the first of ten live events that will be produced inside of China next year by K-1 through this partnership.

That first event is a China vs. USA themed event. Originally they had announced Kevin Ross and Tiffany Van Soest from the USA as fighting for the event, but due to commitments to Lion Fight Van Soest is 100% out and Ross is still trying to clear things up, but it's up in the air right now. 

According to their statement today, K-1 will be aired live on nine major, commercial broadcast network in China. I'm not kidding. Those listed are; Hunan TV, Hebei TV, Hubei TV, JiangXi TV, Anhui TV,Chongqing TV, Guangdong TV, Hainan TV, Qinghai TV. This covers most of China's population, which is estimated at 1.357 billion people. I'm not sure how to compare this to the US because China has over four times the population that the US does, but this is basically like being on one of the major broadcast networks like CBS, ABC or NBC. This partnership will make K-1 one of the most widely-viewed combat sports in the world.

K-1 has also announced two other events;

February 1st; China vs. Japan
March 28th; China vs. Thailand
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Kevin Ross Captaining K-1's Upcoming USA vs. China Event on January 1st

  • Published in K-1

Since K-1's event last December in China there has been a lot of hushed talk about the future of K-1 in China. The year 2014 has been a lot better to K-1 than other years and there have been a lot of deals talked about that could possibly make K-1 not only a major player in China, but huge in China. From what we've seen, K-1 has been training referees, judges and other officials on top of lending a hand to train fighters in China over the last year and on January 1st K-1 will make their return to China with a huge USA vs. China event.

It'll take place in Golden Eagle Culture City, Changsua, China and as I stated before, the theme will be USA vs. China. While we don't know all of the names just yet, we have heard that Kevin Ross has signed to be the Team Captain of Team USA and will be fighting, which is pretty big news considering that Ross was being courted by K-1 years ago and GLORY last year only for nothing to come of it. We've also been told that Canadian Gabriel Varga is scheduled to appear on the card, which is interesting considering there was talk of him competing for GLORY's Featherweight Championship soon. 

Tiffany Van Soest is also announced for the card.

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Gabriel Varga vs. Serhiy Adamchuk Pulled from Dynamite 1

  • Published in Glory

After rumors were abound yesterday that the GLORY Featherweight title fight between Gabriel Varga and Serhiy Adamchuk was off it has come out today that Adamchuk and Varga will indeed not meet at Bellator MMA Dynamite 1 on September 19th in the GLORY ring. While not one of the headline attractions it did help to bolster the GLORY portion of the card with a second title fight between the two Featherweights.

According to our bud Michael Stets GLORY officials informed him that the fight was indeed off but wouldn't clarify on where the injury was. From our own reports we've heard that the injury was on Varga's side, although the specifics of the injury remain unclear. Gabriel Varga was forced to pull out is all that we know. Here's hoping to a formidable bout replacing it.

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Joe Schilling vs. Artem Levin III Scheduled for GLORY 24 Denver

  • Published in Glory

There has been some trepidation when it comes to GLORY 24 being able to deliver on the rumors of a huge card, but today's announcement seems to assure that GLORY 24 will indeed be an event to remember. Today it was announced that GLORY 24 will see the third bout between rivals Joe Schilling and GLORY Middleweight Champion Artem Levin. According to our friend Michael Stets over at MMAMania the trilogy between the two will indeed go down on October 9th in Denver, Colorado. 

Levin is coming off of a draw with Simon Marcus while Schilling is coming off of a win over Robert Thomas. Of course, it is difficult not to mention that Schilling has been active in Bellator as well and is coming off of a knockout loss which prevented him from fighting on the Bellator MMA Dynamite event in September. The rubber match between Schilling and Levin has been talked about for well over a year now after they met for a second time in the finals of the GLORY Last Man Standing Middleweight Championship tournament in June. Schilling previously held a win over Levin in the GLORY 10 Middleweight tournament.

Many fans were calling for an immediate rematch between Simon Marcus and Artem Levin but it feels like the right decision to have the rematch between Levin and Schilling first. All three men have unfinished business with each other and any combination of the three is a tremendous fight. 

According to GLORY this event will also host a GLORY Heavyweight Contender's tournament with the winner going on to face Rico Verhoeven for the GLORY Heavyweight Championship. No names have been announced yet, but one would have to assume that Xavier Vigney, who qualified via a tournament win followed by a win over Daniel Sam, will be in, as well as Jamal Ben Saddik who recently picked up a win over Anderson "Braddock" Silva. Braddock would be another no-brainer as would possibly tossing Benjamin Adegbuyi back into the fray. Of course, if Daniel Ghita were to return nobody would complain, either.

Also, for those wondering, Simon Marcus is currently injured.

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GLORY 23 Draws 295,000 Viewers Live on Spike TV

  • Published in Glory

(C) James Law, GLORY Sports International

It's been difficult to gauge fan interest in GLORY kickboxing over the past year or so considering it has been pretty new to television here in the United States. GLORY 22 Lille saw a significant drop in television ratings due to airing early in the afternoon live from France without a replay. This,  along with the inclusion of Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels, two of GLORY's top fighters when it comes to drawing ratings, led to a belief that GLORY 23 would see a significant jump in ratings. 

The end result is the lowest rated GLORY event on Spike TV outside of GLORY 22, definitely the lowest rated live GLORY event to date. The preliminary numbers (not including DVR numbers) were released today on SportsTVRatings and they were 295,000 live viewers. We've reached out to Spike TV for the final numbers plus the peak, but this is a bit difficult to digest. 

There have been complaints online about the relatively late start time of 11pm Eastern time, which may have played a role in the disappointing numbers, but considering it was a Friday night it's a hard pill to swallow. It didn't help that to many of the more hardcore fans much of this show was unappealing to them, with there being complaints about the tournament and co-main event being relatively weak on star power considering how stacked GLORY's roster is. Then again, GLORY 21 featured a mostly American tournament with mostly newcomers and saw some of their highest ratings to date. 

GLORY's next time on Spike TV will be as a part of Bellator's Dynamite event on September 19th and will hopefully be their time to shine with a new Light Heavyweight Champion being crowned between Zack Mwekassa and Saulo Cavalari, as well as the Featherweight title on the line between champion Gabriel Varga and Serhiy Adamchuk.

Updates as they come.

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Paul "Semtex" Daley vs. Bellator's Fernando Gonzalez Added to Dynamite Kickboxing Card

  • Published in Glory

On September 19th Bellator and GLORY will present Dynamite to the world live on Spike TV. The hybrid MMA and Kickboxing card will feature Tito Ortiz vs. Liam McGeary for the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship as well as Saulo Cavalari vs. Zack Mwekassa for the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship. We found out on Friday that Serhiy Adamchuk vs. Gabriel Varga for the GLORY Featherweight Championship will also be on the card.

We've known of Paul Daley's involvement in a kickboxing bout for a while now and today Bellator has released the name of his opponent. Paul Daley will be fighting Bellator's own Fernando Gonzalez. Gonzalez primarily fights in MMA now but has a background that includes boxing and muay thai, making him an interesting opponent for Daley. It should be noted that Daley has a long history in the sport of kickboxing and has defeated some of the top names within the Welterweight division within the past few years. 

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Gabriel Varga vs. Sergei Adamchuk Added to Bellator Dynamite

  • Published in Glory

Earlier this week we told you that Gabriel Varga would be involved with Bellator's Dynamite card that will be airing on September 19th on Spike TV. Now we have officially gotten word that Gabriel Varga will defend the GLORY Featherweight Championship against Sergei Adamchuk at Dynamite in his first title defense.

GLORY also announced that on October 9th they'd be returning to Denver with GLORY 24.

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Nieky Holzken Prepared for GLORY 23 and Raymond Daniels

  • Published in Glory

If you've watched kickboxing for any length of time, you've undoubtedly heard the name Nieky Holzken.  With in mind, it would be pretty condescending of me to tell you that he's fast, strong, extremely agile or that his boxing skills are absolutely sick.  Those in the know are also well aware that he's Glory's former welterweight champion (2013) and he's been back with a vengeance to claim the title again. Friday, August 8th, he'll have that opportunity as he is poised to face Raymond "The Human Highlight Reel" Daniels at Glory 23 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  What you may not know is that at 31 years of age Holzken sees the value of regaining and maintaining champion status, but also that there is life beyond the ring and that it's probably a good idea to have other plans for his future.   Holzken understands the value of family, friends and simply living.  Following open workouts I had an opportunity to speak to Holzken about life, his philosophy and the challenge he faces as he prepares to meet Raymond Daniels at Glory 23.  

With a record of 93-11 and 54 of his wins by KO, a dance with Holzken is by no means a walk in the park for anyone.  Holzken additionally see a few mire years ahead of him in the ring.  When it's all said and done Holzken hopes to open his own gym and continue to inspire participants in the sport as well as to be a positive role model for children. But again, that's later, possibly even five years down the line.  

Holzken 's match against Daniels came about in unexpected fashion following Valtellini's relinquishment of the  title. It had long been anticipated within the fight community that an eventual face off would occur between he and Valtellini and his dominance either would or would not be established based on the outcome of that bout.  Unforseen circumstances,  however, changed the hands of fate and brought him face to face with an opponent over whom he ha a recent win.  If you recall, Holzken faced Daniels in February of this year at Glory 19 in a bout that finished with a TO victory for him. Don't get it twisted though as Holzken has also KO'd Valtellini in the past.  By his own admission, things just got real as Friday night it's not just for another win on his record, it's for the thing he's worked his life for, a chance to be crowned champion albeit for a second time.  Once in his hands again, Holzken has every intention of riding it until the wheels fall off. He wants his belt back!   In preparation for this match-up, Holzken states he has continued to improve upon his boxing skills.   Since he last faced Daniels he has actually had three boxing matches all of which he won.  Holzken also reports improvement in his hand speed.  When asked what he though was his best skill, Holzken sees himself as a well rounded fighter while he views Daniels' best skills as kicking, jumping around and running. Holzken also isn't particularly impressed by Daniels' boxing skills.

If there was ever a fight that he has regrets about, Holzken cites his bout with Artur Kyshenko in, which suffered a decision loss following an accidental eye poke that left him unable to see clearly for the majority of the match.  

No matter the outcome of Friday's match, Holzken is definitely excited to be fighting, for the opportunity to have his family in Las Vegas to support him, for the support of his fans and definitely for the welterweight championship belt to be within his grasp. When asked what he's see for Friday, he simply stated, "action!" He feels that he has trained hard, he's ready and that his time has come again.   

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GLORY and Hayabusa Unveil New Gloves at GLORY 23 Open Workout

  • Published in Glory

Hayabusa has officially become the glove brand for Glory kickboxing. Prior to open workouts on Wednesday August 5th, an impressive demonstration of the high tech gear took place at Drysdale BJJ in Las Vegas. On deck for this demonstration was Glory welterweight conteder Nieky Holzken and former UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. For those who might be wondering if GSP still has it, have no doubt he does. Both Georges and Nieky Holzken made Hayabusa's debut with Glory and open workout everything a fan would like to have seen. Each man alternately went four rounds displaying brutal kicks, knees and punches. Their finale was a round of light sparring between the two because, if you haven't heard, Holzken is set to take on Raymond Daniels Friday night at Glory 23 for the welterweight championship. So, the two took it easy on each other to prevent any injury.

For those who've never heard of Hayabusa, the company has been around several years offering participants in combat sports a host of products including clothing and equipment designed for maximum safety and comfort. In the industry, Hayabusa has developed a reputation for product superiority and definitely lives up to its name. Per their website, "The "spirit of the fighter" philosophy of honor, respect and tradition influences the design and construction of all Hayabusa products." On Friday, August, 7, 2005, the legion of combat sport fans around the world will be able to see whether the product can outlast the likes of Holzken, Daniels, Sam, Vigney and many others as they face off in the ring at Glory 23.

Following the product/skill demonstration of St. Pierre and Holzken, Daniel Sam and Xavier Vigney, the co-main event of Glory 23, gave the press and fans a taste of what they can expect to see. Daniel "The Warrior" Sam was first to hit the mats during open workout. As usual, the never nervous and massively built Sam put on a display of power that was definitely meant to convey to the crowd at Drysdale BJJ that he is ready to take on the up and coming Vigney who as of late has devastated his opponents and endeared himself to fans. Xavier "X-man" Vigney provided the afternoon's finale demonstrating the agility, strength and power that has made him a winner in several sports. As is the case with any fight, either opponent can potentially be the last man standing either through skill, luck or a combination of the two. The displays by Holzken, Sam and Vigney at open workouts, at the very least, were an enhancement of the storm to come at the Hard Rock Casino on Friday night. 

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Check Out Fighting For Glory: The Joseph Valtellini Story

  • Published in Glory

When reflecting on the last few years in kickboxing it is hard to ignore that one of the best up-and-comers was hands down Joseph Valtellini. He took the kickboxing world by storm by competing against the best of the best in GLORY's Welterweight division. He rose to the top, winning the GLORY Welterweight Championship.

This new documentary follows Valtellini's fighting career and his life in and outside of the ring. It's great insight into the life and times of a champion and a must watch for fans. 

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Gabriel Varga Added to Dynamite Card

  • Published in Glory

With GLORY 23 just a matter of days away all eyes are focused on Holzken vs. Daniels, but it appears that we can already start looking ahead to the Bellator Dynamite show as well. We already knew that a Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Zack Mwekassa and Saulo Cavalari was headlining, now it looks like we could see another championship on the line.

Just popping up on GLORY's website is a listing for GLORY Featherweight Champion Gabriel Varga squaring off against Thomas Adamandopoulus. It does not say if it is for the title but one would have to assume as such. Adamandopoulos made his GLORY debut at GLORY 22 dropping a decision to Shane Oblonsky. If I were to posit a guess as to why Varga is not fighting Oblonsky I'd guess because he defeated him at GLORY 17.

Stay tuned for updates on this.

UPDATE: We've heard from a reliable source that Adamandopoulos was listed on accident. For now it will be TBA, but expect an update soon.

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Raymond Daniels is Out to Prove Himself Against Nieky Holzken at GLORY 23

  • Published in Interviews

At GLORY 23 Las Vegas there is a tall task laid out for Raymond Daniels, one that many fans and insiders have proclaimed to be impossible: defeat Nieky Holzken and take the GLORY Welterweight Championship home with him. Back at GLORY 19 during a contender’s tournament the two men met for the first time in a fight that Holzken largely dominated with his smart cutting off of the ring and use of his experienced hands to keep Daniels from getting comfortable and doing what he does best, which is kicking from a distance. Since then the champion Joseph Valtellini was forced to vacate the championship due to complications from a concussion and GLORY has placed Holzken against Daniels in a rematch, the winner taking home the title.

Many see it as a foregone conclusion for Holzken. To them he’ll clearly be walking away with the championship, but there is just one thing that they are forgetting in this equation: Raymond Daniels. Daniels is known throughout martial arts circles as one of the best competitive martial artists of all time. That isn’t an exaggeration, if you look through the worlds of sport martial arts you won’t find anyone quite like Daniels. His record is immaculate, his accolades could fill a warehouse, yet he still looks for further challenges and his ultimate challenge is in the GLORY ring right now, his ultimate challenge is taking on Nieky Holzken. 

Their first fight was a tough loss for Daniels, but he reflects on the fight as a positive learning experience for him. “It was a learning experience for sure,” he explained. “I get to watch that fight and see what I need to do to fix the holes in my game and to make myself a better fighter. That’s how you improve as a fighter and a person, by learning from your mistakes.”

When analyzing Daniels as a fighter and his game, it’s difficult not to see where his weaknesses lie. His background in Karate meant less of a focus on using his hands, but since turning professional in kickboxing there has been a marked improvement. “There’s always a learning curve, there’s always something that you can do better. I’ll never be perfect, even if I strive for perfection. You can see the maturity of myself as a fighter, you can see the evolution of my style over my last few fights. It’s a great feeling, I’m just so much more comfortable, so much more calm and collected in that ring now. I used to be really excited, hopping around a lot and trying to get things over quickly. Now I’m able to get my energy out in spurts.”

Daniels is a living legend in the world of sport karate, so the question has to be raised why he would even make such a transition to professional kickboxing. “I’ve been very fortunate in my sport. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve met great people but I’ve accomplished everything that I possibly could a few times over. The next realm with a similar system is kickboxing and GLORY is that vehicle that gets me out there, just like the World Combat League did before. Now GLORY is the biggest league on the planet, so they give me the opportunity to use my skillset. Everyone looks at my sport and says ‘oh it’s pitter patter, it’s Karate Kid, it’s Best of the Best’ or something. This gives me a chance to go out there and show that just because my sport is about control and technique, that I’m able to translate that technique into kickboxing and add speed and power to it. That’s what I love about this, I get to test my skills against guys with different skill sets and style and show them what my sport is capable of doing.”

The World Combat League, organized by Chuck Norris, was dismissed at the time for it’s relatively strange rules and team format, but it’s undeniable that they produced a ton of talent. WCL’s roster included not only Daniels but Uriah Hall, Jarrell Miller, Pat Barry, Anthony Njokuani, Lyman Good, Carlos Brooks, Rick Cheek, Felice Herrig and more.

“What was great was that my sport was dismissed in combat sports, written off as impractical or too old fashioned, but then you look at the WCL and some of the fighters that came from there,” Daniels said. “But you got to see the athletes from the WCL start to blossom afterwards.”

This quickly brought us to the topic of being dismissed and how Daniels has been dismissed by kickboxing fans and pundits almost across the board. “You know, I find it kind of comical in a way. I look at it like; the people that don’t understand a burning desire couldn’t understand what it is, what I want and how I feel. Just because you fail or you fall short on something that you want to accomplish doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is defined by those moments. I lost a fight, but that doesn’t define me. I see people who have that outlook as very close-minded individuals. Everybody has a setback in life. If this wasn’t challenging to me, why would I do it? If I wasn’t fighting world class athletes like Nieky why would I be doing this?

“This gives me an opportunity to grow,” he continued. “Not just as a fight, but as a person. It allows me to step outside of my comfort zone. It allows me to strive to be better, to learn more about myself. I see people who will dismiss a fighter as people that would probably give up as soon as they have a setback in life as opposed to finding a way to make it work, finding a way through and to persevere. I have a fire underneath me and am more motivated than ever. I have an opportunity to go out there and fight someone who has beaten me before, there aren’t a lot of people that can say that they’ve beaten me before in my career. With that being said, people that are overlooking me, I have that knock-it-out-of-the-park ability with every move that I throw. So I always find it funny. Don’t get me wrong, Nieky himself is a great fighter, but he’s a flawed fighter. He’s lost before and he has holes in his game -- just like I do -- that I can exploit. Nobody's perfect. I’m looking forward to going in there and being able to silence people. If you don’t believe, just watch. I want to show people what it is to have faith in myself, in my skillset and to prove these people wrong.”

There is another side to GLORY’s push of Raymond Daniels, though, one that is hard to explain. Daniels possesses a magnetism that many fighters don’t. His ability to do things in the ring that no one thought was practical and not only land, but score crazy knockouts with has earned him a reputation among fans as a can’t miss fighter. I got to see this first hand live at GLORY 16 where fighters like Rico Verhoeven, Errol Zimmerman, Andy Souwer and Ben Edwards were walking around throughout the night and went relatively undisturbed, but Daniels was a different story. He was being stopped for selfies, autographs and high fives throughout the night. He’s fought on some of the most-viewed GLORY cards of all-time on Spike TV and has been one of their featured attractions. 

“That’s my whole goal at the end of the day, outside of fighting, I want to give fans something to talk about. I want to be able to give back to them,” he explained. “I want them to look at something that I did and say ‘my god, I saw that in a movie last week and he did it,’ you know what I mean? I also want the die hard fans to say ‘that stuff doesn’t work in a fight, Nieky has this Dutch style that’s gonna light him up’ and say, okay, come watch. As long as people want to come to watch, that’s cool. At the end of the day I don’t believe my own hype. You know, that’s not who I am. I have a Martial Arts school and I don’t even advertise what I do. Most of my students don’t even know that I’m going to fight for the world title right now.

“Some of my students will see some of my fights later,” he jokes, “and they’ll be like ‘oh my gosh that’s my sensei in there? He’s not like that when he’s in the karate school.’ It’s a different persona, you know, like wrestling. Wrestling isn’t real, but how many people follow that, watch it -- I mean people have tattoos of it. People watch it because they put on a show.  What I’m doing is real, but it’s still entertainment. If I go out there and I can knock a guy out with a kick that you’d only see in the movies, how much entertainment value does that bring? That’s how I look at my fighting.”

Daniels brings all of this and more to the table, also bringing with him one of the gaping holes in the combat sports world of late by the way of traditional martial arts. Martial Arts are indeed about self-defense and technique, but are centered around improving the self and becoming a better person. “I feel that is missing from sports right now. The focus isn’t on that, the focus is on who is the best, who is the flashiest and who is making the most money. It’s absolutely missing from combat sports right now and I’m just glad that I can help bring some of those values with me into the ring.”

It is a monumental task for Raymond Daniels at GLORY 23 against Nieky Holzken, but Daniels seems ready for whatever might come his way. Tune in this Friday at 11pm Eastern time on Spike TV to witness Raymond Daniels vs. Nieky Holzken vying for the GLORY Welterweight Championship and see for yourself who comes out victorious. 

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GLORY CEO Talks About Preparing for a Bright Future with GLORY 23 and Dynamite on the Horizon

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James Law/GLORY

GLORY’s next event is August 7th in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Las Vegas is known for being one of the fight capitals of the world and GLORY will finally make their debut there in the historic Hard Rock. The main event of the show is a GLORY Welterweight Championship bout between Nieky Holzken and Raymond Daniels, two men that have fought before and will meet for the newly-vacated championship. 

In a way, Daniels vs. Holzken is a perfect way to sum up GLORY as an organization at the moment. GLORY began with a bang, pushing out nothing but star-studded cards with fights between top names from K-1 and It’s Showtime, but things have changed quite a bit since then. Some would say the changes were unwelcome, while others would argue that the health of the organization and the sport in particular should come before glitz and glamour. Chief among them would be GLORY’s CEO Jon J. Franklin.

Franklin was involved with GLORY previously, but his role was in assisting them with television rights deals and not running the entire organization. After some reshuffling after GLORY Last Man Standing failed to deliver in PPV sales last year Franklin was placed into the unenviable position of the CEO of GLORY and basically just told, “fix it.” GLORY started off big, just as big as the shows it was replacing from Japan, but the problem was there was really no market for it anymore and the shows, while impressive, helped the organization to bleed money for the first few years. 

“You know,” Franklin explained to me when talking about the difficulties of taking over. “First thing I thought was that I was going to come in and trim the fat. Just come in and cut out everything that we didn’t need, make the whole operation leaner, more profitable and to ensure that we’ll still be running shows down the line. You can’t just cut everything, though, which I learned the hard way early on. There are contracts in place and if you don’t honor those contracts things can get messy in a hurry, even if those contracts were expensive for us at the time.”

That included some of the older, bigger name fighters who have now mostly retired or moved on to what they consider greener pastures for the time being. There was a marked change in direction for the organization after Franklin joined, which he is willing to admit wasn’t always perfect, but has been adjusted with some fine tuning. “Was the Oklahoma show maybe a bit of a stretch for us? Probably, in hindsight, yeah. That might have been a bit too far in the other direction, but if you look back at our recent shows I think that we’ve really found the right mix for us that keeps the fans in the arena happy and is enjoyable to viewers.”

Part of the change was removing some of the more costly aspects of the production, which meant cutting back on production staff that were attending events and even scaling back on travel expenses. “As cool as the ramp was to have, it was an expense and due to how tight our shows are on Spike TV, you’d never really see them anyway. On top of that, most of our more memorable entrances were fighters interacting with the crowd more, like Gokhan Saki at GLORY 15 Istanbul.” 

As for the travel? “I travel coach now, which a few of the older guys were kind of shocked by. ‘How does it look that our CEO is traveling coach?’ They asked me, just not understanding it, still worried about image. I think that it shows that we are very serious about our organization and for its longevity that we aren’t spending frivolously or concerned about things like that. I don’t mind doing it and I believe that it sets a good example for everyone else.”

In a way, Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels is the perfect GLORY title fight under Jon J. Franklin’s leadership, especially in the Hard Rock, a venue that as a boxing promoter he had worked to put on shows numerous times in the past. Holzken is one of the most renowned and revered kickboxers in the world while Raymond Daniels is an American fighter who might not have the same level of credentials as a professional that Holzken does, but has worked tirelessly to transfer his skills in karate to the sport of kickboxing. His work has resulted in some of GLORY’s most spectacular knockouts and for Daniels becoming one of the more viral and notable stars for the organization. 

“He’s incredible,” he said about Daniels. “I think that showcasing a fighter like Daniels helps to set us apart and really stand out. Nieky is an incredible boxer and Daniels is an incredible athlete who does things that nobody else does inside of the ring. The two-touch kicks, spinning back kicks, just everything that he does takes your breath away and leaves an impression.”

Many older fans see the fight between Daniels and Holzken as a forgone conclusion, but Franklin isn’t worried about a loss for either man hurting their image, instead noting that fighters with heart and personality tend to stand out. “I know that I’ll take some flak for this, but how can you not love a fighter like Dustin Jacoby? He’s still learning the ropes in our sport, but he entered the Road 2 Glory tournament on a day’s notice and won the whole thing, he fought Mourad Bouzidi on short notice and in Bellator stepped into the cage against King Mo on short notice. The guy is a fighter and he’s exciting to watch. I don’t think that losses define a fighter at all and I think that fans have certain connections with fighters and that doesn’t just fade away after a loss or two.”

GLORY is, of course, involved with the big Dynamite event in September that will showcase Bellator fights in a cage and GLORY fights inside of the GLORY ring. The event was in the works for quite a while and Franklin talks about how pleased he has been in the whole process. “How can you not like working with Scott Coker? I’d say he’s one of the top promoters in the world. He’s been a pleasure to work with and we are looking forward to putting on a great show. I mean, Bellator has an amazing platform that they’ve grown since Scott came in and we get to be a part of that with Dynamite.”

The inclusion of GLORY seems almost academic considering the caliber of events that they’ve produced in their short tenure and how Franklin and crew have been able to work miracles out in the previous few events with their reduced budget. Franklin does credit the fighters for sticking with them through the transition, as well. “What people don’t realize is that 95% of our fighters stuck with us through lean times. That is incredible, they really believe in what we are doing and believe that this is where they belong. Look at guys like Errol Zimmerman or Rico Verhoeven who stuck with us through everything and are just excited to get out there and fight.”

The card isn’t settled yet for Dynamite, but GLORY has promised to bring their A-game for this. There was talk of the event possibly happening without GLORY’s assistance, but the reality here is that GLORY’s stable of fighters are some of the very best in the world. The Dynamite event is a huge stage for kickboxing in general and GLORY has top talent in healthy supply to wow both old and new fans alike. It also speaks further for the health of the relationship with Spike TV, which Franklin feels strongly about.

“I was just out there at the Bellator show and I walked away from my meetings with Scott and everyone at Spike TV feeling very positive about it,” he explained. “We have a longterm deal with Spike with extension options and everyone who see GLORY programming feels strongly about it. Could the landscape change in the future, could our relationship change? It could, but that is the nature of television. We aren’t concerned, though, we have a healthy relationship and a lot more shows that we are planning right now.”

The market is ever-changing for combat sports but what is clear is that GLORY is in this for the long haul and is looking to help to grow the sport worldwide as well as the United States. While Spike TV is usually the hot topic, Franklin made sure to mention that they don’t plan on abandoning their international markets any time soon. They have healthy television relationships all throughout Europe and Asia and he notes how it is easier to fill up arenas throughout Europe with their top talent, like in Lille, France where Rico Verhoeven defended his GLORY Heavyweight Championship against Benjamin Adegbuyi.

In a way, it is refreshing to speak with Franklin and to hear him be so candid about the past and future of the organization. They are very aware of their product and aware of any possible missteps that may have happened in the past and are always looking for ways to provide quality entertainment to all of their fans across the world, all while spending responsibility and ensuring that the company has a bright future. Because, as Franklin told me, having less opportunities for fighters to work and make money is good for no one, so all of the fighters are invested in the future of both the sport and the organization.

GLORY 23 is Friday, August 7th live on Spike TV from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

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Exclusive Interview with Mike Zambidis Prior to June 27th Retirement Bout

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On June 27th in Greece the K-1 legend that is Mike Zambidis will step into the ring one last time in his retirement fight. The 34-year old fighter will cap off a long and storied career by fighting one of the world's toughest Lightweights in Steve Moxon. In a way, Zambidis fighting Moxon for his retirement fight is a very Zambidis thing to do; he didn't have to fight someone as tough and relevant as Moxon. Zambidis is going out on his own terms, which is rare for many fighters, it also meant that he could choose someone that he could just easily plow through for a memorable knockout for his retirement. Instead Zambidis chose a challenge.

I think when we all look back on Mike Zambidis it should be that fighting spirit that we all remember. We had a chance to talk to Zambidis prior to his big fight this coming weekend and a reflecting Zambidis had a lot to say about his career, his fans and even his most memorable fights. Mike Zambidis fights Steve Moxon on June 27th in Athens, Greece under the Iron Challenge banner.

LK: First of all, thank you for all of the great memories in the ring. I'm not sure that there are many fighters out there as entertaining and full of heart like you. 

MZ: Thank you very much for your kindness.  It is very important for an athlete to be respected by the audience and especially by the insiders of his field with such great experience.

LK: After a successful 15-plus-year career you are retiring, what was the decision making process like for this? What finally pushed you to move into retirement?

MZ: I am involved in kick boxing for 24 years and in times that kick boxing was not popular in my country but I dreamed and looked up with my head down and after huge sacrifices and endless hours of training, I have achieved 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 Kos. I had the honor to compete during the golden years of kick boxing in major events and with the best athletes worldwide.

After all this wonderful and demanding journey , I feel enormous gratitude that I manage to finish my career healthy and in high competitive level. Now, I feel full inside so as to go on with the next chapters of my life. 

LK: How important is it for you to be able to retire in front of your friends, family and fans in Greece?

MZ: There is nothing better than to give my last battle in Greece, although there have been ​​several interesting proposals by others countries, but my decision was the only way.

The Greeks support me in many ways, either daily out on the street, on social media, or filling each stadium where my battles are organised and transfer their energy, which is very valuable for me.

LK: Reflecting back on your career, what was your favorite fight?

MZ: I have many favorite fights … But I will pick the first that came to my mind.  It was the first time I stepped my foot in Japan and my first battle there with the champion of K-1 in 2003. For a long time, I was dreaming to participate in K-1. I won the eight-fold in the K -1 Oceania Australia and John Wein Parr in the finals and so I found myself opposite to the Dutch Albert Kraus.  In the beginning of the second round, I managed to knock him out, diving in the deep sea of K-1. A shocking experience for a young unknown Greek athlete back then.

LK: What made you select Steve Moxon as a final opponent? Moxon is an incredibly tough, top-ranked opponent. Is this just the Mike Zambidis warrior spirit that wouldn't accept an easy fight for his retirement?

MZ: I respect Steve Moxon and he has provoked me many times in the past. As he said in the past, I was his idol due to the similar fighting style and I think that it is very interesting for the audience to see. The experts of martial arts predict a spectacular battle between two strong athletes that are chasing the knock out.  As you said, I could accept an easy fight at this moment but I love challenges a lot. I am not just an athlete, I am a warrior and I learned in my life to fight, aiming high. This is a challenge I would like to take, as I think it will be a Titans’ battle.

LK: What do you think that your legacy will be on the sport after you retire?

MZ: The fights I have given in K-1, my wins over the world’s greatest champions of kick boxing, my «iron» fists and my fighting style, I think will be my legacy. Also, the fact that I was a Greek warrior fighting alone in the biggest kick boxing events worldwide, I think is going to be a nice thing to remember about me.

LK: What kind of plans do you have for your retirement? Do you plan on working with fighters and training them, running events, running a business or are you just planning to relax?

MZ: In Greece I own two fighting clubs where I give kick boxing lessons, so I will continue to run them giving more time and train athletes. In parallel,  I plan to offer kids seminars for nutritional education, sports education, self-defense, in order to strengthen their self-confidence and any other important experience I can offer.

LK: Is there a fighter out there that you believe could help the Mike Zambidis legacy continue on, or do you think that you are retiring as a one-of-a-kind talent?

MZ: I believe that every athlete is unique; no one can be the same with the other. Of course nowadays, there are many good athletes in the world who can offer many things to kick boxing and achieve great things. On the other hand, I believe that the Golden Era of kick-boxing has ended and strong teams like the ones gathered in Japan or in heavyweights like Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hust, Le Banner, Bernado, Loginidis, Andy Hug and in K-1 max 70 kg with Masato, Kraus, Kyshenko, Drago, Buakaw, Souwer and many others won’ t exist again for 2 reasons: Firstly, it is rare to have good fighters in their best physical condition to compete in the same event and secondly the global economic crisis which dissolves dreams and shrinks everything. 

LK: Are there any regrets from your career, or are you satisfied with your accomplishments?

MZ: After 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 KOs, I would be ungrateful if I said that I am not satisfied with my accomplishments. Thank God,  I don’t have second thoughts and I am happy. I would be ungrateful if I was not happy with what I have accomplished. Definitely, there were a lot of difficulties, frustrations , injustices and  injuries during all this wonderful trip but I keep the good moments, that were definitely more and I am glad because I used all the bad ones to become more mature and get myself in the next battles more «angry» in a creative and investing way and complete human and fighter.  

LK: Is there anything that you'd like to say to your fans and supporters all throughout the world?

MZ: I would like to thank them personally, one by one. Their support, energy and love are precious for every step I take. I’ ve always felt very honored for the  people who supported me in my fights around the world. That’s why I was training and I gave 100% of  my soul and body in my battles so that I could please them.

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Jason Andrada Dishes on Rematches, Lion Fight 22 and how Kevin Ross is the Keanu Reeves of Muay Thai

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Lion Fight 22 is on Friday evening on AXS TV, live from Las Vegas and as always, they are promising a night of high octane muay thai action. They’ve yet to fail to deliver since they’ve gone live on AXS TV and even though there was a last minute change to the main event, the show is still primed to deliver a lot of full rules muay thai action. A part of that action is Jason Andrada vs. Anthony Castrejon at 122lbs.

When it came time for me to decide who to focus on for this event, as much as I respect Kevin Ross and Tiffany Van Soest or the main eventer Jo Nattawut, it was hard not to be drawn to Jason Andrada. Andrada is not the most experienced fighter on the card -- even though he had a long, storied amateur career before turning pro -- but he’s been featured on Lion Fight events for a while now. He’s coming off of a tough loss to John Nofer that came via an elbow TKO but he was all smiles after that loss, showing more character in loss than most show in victory. 

Andrada is one of those guys that you might not see main eventing Lion Fight events, but more often than not you see him on the card and when you see him, you know to expect a fun fight and for him to leave it all in the ring. It’s not a coincidence, either, because his disposition is that of a laid back guy that is always looking to put on a show. Andrada sees himself as one of the many guys who is just trying to make an impression.

“You know, I think for some guys, guys like the ones that I’ve been fighting like Nofer, they’re all looking to make a name for themselves just like I am. There are a lot of guys out there that aren’t getting featured on TV like I am and they are clawing for those spots,” he explained. “All of these guys out there they go out there swinging, not many fighters that I’ve encountered are gonna take a shot and not want to go down swinging. Look at a guy like Pedro Gonzalez, for example. A lot of people in muay thai want to see someone demonstrating their perfect muay thai technique, but he’s more of a brawler, an MMA guy. I like watching him fight and so do a lot of other people, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.”

He was quick to point out some of the more established names in the world of muay thai like Kevin Ross, Chad Mulkey, Joe Schilling and Tiffany Van Soest earned their spots through not only being skilled, but through their humility, personalities and experience. Andrada is quite accomplished in his own right, but he’s quick to point out those that have accomplished more than him and how he strives to be better and achieve what they have. 

Muay Thai might be a career for Andrada now, who spends most of his time at the gym training for fights or holding classes, but he likes to get some distance sometimes as well. “I love fighting, of course,” he said. “But sometimes I need time away from it, so I’m not one of those guys that has to watch every fight ever. I’ll watch my friends, you know? If Kevin, Chaz, Joe, any of my friends are fighting I’ll watch it and look, I could read off a pretty long list of fighters that I’m friends with and watch them fight, but I’m not a junkie for it anymore or anything. It’s nice to take time away. You know, I come home, I watch TV, watch Netflix, just relax sometimes and get some distance. It keeps the passion there.”

His fight on Friday is a rematch with Anthony Castrejon, the two of them meeting a few years back when they were both amateurs in a bout that Castrejon won via a head kick knockout. Andrada is open to any and all challenges, but was not really looking for this rematch. “I mean, we’ve fought before, he landed a nice head kick, which was good for him, but we are professionals now. A few of my recent professional fights have been rematches from my amateur days, which is fine,” he explained. “But look, like 1/3rd of my pro fights have been rematches from my amateur days. He’s been calling me out since before he fought Victor Saravia, so he’s wanted this for a while. I’m looking to grow as a fighter and be ready to challenge these international guys. I’m not saying that I’m looking past anyone,” he said. “I’m really not, I just want to be fighting guys from all over the world now. I want to be fighting guys from Japan, Europe and Thailand, I want to be ready to be able to go overseas and make a big impression. I don’t know if these rematches are going to really prepare me for that.”

He goes on to explain that it isn’t a great fight for either of them, considering that a loss for either guy could be the end of their Lion Fight careers. “I look at how UFC handles losses and you know, once you start racking up a few in a row they tend to cut a guy. I don’t want to be that guy and I’m sure that Castrejon doesn’t want to be that guy, either. Two straight losses wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Andrada is a guy that isn’t afraid to talk about his shortcomings, although he admits talking about losses can be tough. “Man, it sucks when I meet somebody new and they are like; ‘what do you do?’ I tell them that I’m a fighter and they ask about my last fight and it’s like, you gotta tell them that you came in second place,” he joked. “Nobody wants to have to say that, to say that you lost, but you gotta look forward.”

When it comes to Kevin Ross, it’s hard for Andrada to not talk about his friend and cohort with nothing but respect. “Kevin is a great guy, really. I mean, I learn so much from him still and no matter how much success he has, he’s always the same guy,” which spiraled into us discussing how Ross handles himself in the ring, how he’s always entertaining and composed, but always easy to talk to and deal with. “Yeah, I mean, he’s like the Keanu Reeves of muay thai in a way. He has all of this success and he hasn’t changed, he’s still the same guy. At the same time, he’s been through a lot of tough stuff in his life and he doesn’t let it drag him down. He’s always that guy that I like to be around.”

It should be noted that Andrada himself is heading down that same path right now; the amiable guy that seems always cool to be around. He loves to eat and is eagerly awaiting his favorite part of his post-fight life; feasting on some pizza. What struck me the most was that I was talking to him while he was gearing up to head out to the weigh-ins for Lion Fight 22, him just having stepped out of an epsom bath and he was not only in good spirits, but exhibited the same easy-going, friendly demeanor that Ross always projects while still focused and prepared for his fight. 

Becoming a star in any sport is difficult, there will be setbacks, there will be moments of glory and there will be those quiet, contemplative moments. Andrada has experienced many of these throughout the span of his professional and amateur career thus far and tomorrow night looks to be another in those collection of moments that will make up his career while he continues to strive for greatness and move up the ladder. What we know is that no matter what Andrada is looking to put his body on the line and to entertain us and that he’ll do it with a smile. Because he’s that ridiculous.

Lion Fight 22 airs tomorrow night, May 22nd on AXS TV at 10:00pm Eastern time.

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Simon Marcus is Ready for GLORY 21 and the Responsibilities of Being a Champion

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"You're always training to fight someone who is training to fight you..."  That is a fighter's life according to Simon Marcus, and that's a very accurate portrait when you think of it. Simon Marcus, is not an enigma, he's not one for shadow games or deception.  Who he is however, is a man of ordinary means and on Friday, May 8th, a man with an incredible opportunity, the chance to become the middle weight champion of GLORY, the world's premier kickboxing association.  Ahead of this event, I had to opportunity to speak with Simon about what we can expect on Friday night as well as a peek into the life of the "Bad Bwoy".

For people who are unaware, Levin and Marcus have faced each other before.  During that bout that was conducted under Muay Thai rules, Marcus was the victor.  While he admits that a previous win over an opponent may inspire some level of confidence knowing that you have previously beat that person.  Today,  Marcus chooses to focus on the task at hand and what it will take to be victorious again. Marcus has also made the choice not to focus on the what ifs, especially 'what if he loses'.  He stated that in his life, he continues to strive and even in those instances when a fight does go his way he has a desire to continue to improve and get better as a person. Of the things that has striven to improve in the ring, Simon stated that he has upped his cardio which he demonstrated during open work outs at The Boxing Gym on Wednesday as well as during his hard fought victory during the middleweight tournament last month in Dubai.   Marcus also stated that he has challenged himself in improving his conditioning, strength and overall pushed himself to his limits in preparation for GLORY 21. He states that even on the winning side he is never satisfied with his performance and is always looking for ways he can improve. While he is highly critical of himself, Marcus also expressed that he is attempting to learn how to enjoy those successes.

Coming into the world of a disciplined fighter at age 18, as in the case of many other fighters, provided an outlet and an opportunity for him to turn a negative into a positive.  Instead of getting into trouble for fighting, it has now become his passion and something for which he now receives praise.  As for his personal road to GLORY, Marcus stated that he trained as hard as he could, fought as much as he could and believed in himself.  In addition to that Marcus stated that he travelled and made a lot of sacrifices.  He also stated that many times he fought for free and did everything he could to get experience, good training and anything he could to get better, not necessarily looking at the immediate pay out but his long term goal of getting to the top.

What does he bring to the ring?  Simon Marcus brings a warrior spirit and an intellectual mentality, not to mention a lot of power and heart.  Additionally Simon Marcus brings excitement and a willingness to pull out all the stops to get the win.

As for the future, Marcus plans to completely focus on GLORY and winning/defending the title.  His vision does not stop there.  Simon Marcus would like to be a person who will take GLORY to another level and having people interested and seeing what the best striking in the world is about. 

To anyone who might be interested in embarking on a journey such as this, Simon Marcus stated that he would not discourage anyone from pursing a fighter's life, but he quickly differentiated between having a calling vs. having an interest. He stated if a person is just interested in being a fighter for the accolades or whatever comes along with it, that might not be the way to go.  He added that if someone has a love for fighting or a person has fighting in them, and they feel that fighting brings out the best in them or develops them, then that would be a more satisfying path to take.  Fighting as a career and as a lifestyle is difficult emotionally and physically.

After retirement, which Marcus stated at this point he doesn't know when that will occur, his love of fighting, teaching and martial arts directs his future to remain on its current path, in the realm of combat sports entertaining options of possibly promoting or opening a gym and in that way continuing to pass the tradition on.  If we hadn't met Simon Marcus as the Muay Thai/kickboxing practitioner that we see today, Marcus stated that it's very difficult to guess where he'd be today as he was always fighting and getting in trouble doing it.  He admits that when he was younger he had an interest in basketball and was a good player in high school but didn't have the focus on school to continue on this path. From where he sits now Marcus appears to be happy, he is an accomplished fighter, a father and fighting in an organization that he feels is right on the cusp of becoming something huge!

Beyond Friday night, Marcus has no one in particular on his radar, stating that he believes his greatest fight is with himself because he has the belief that in anything you do, there is a constant inner battle to become the best version of you.

So while on Friday night at GLORY 21 we won't get to see Simon Marcus vs. Simon Marcus, we will witness a continuation of this young man's journey to champion status in a battle between two of the best middleweights in the world.  On Friday night, Simon acknowledges that he has tremendous opportunity and when it's one man's time, it's his time and critics can say what they like, but Friday is his time.  He feels he has done the things necessary to have earned this opportunity.  To his fans, Simon Marcus sends out a sincere and heartfelt thanks.  To those who have supported him and all the friends and family who have traveled to San Diego he expresses sincere gratitude.

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A Look at Xavier Vigney Heading Into GLORY 21's Heavyweight Tournament

  • Published in Interviews

Do you remember September 28th 2013? I remember that day, okay well I don't really, but thay sounded really good, didn't it? I actually do have a very vivid memory of one thing from that date, GLORY 10: Los Angeles and the impression one fighter left on me. Who is that fighter you might ask? The up and coming, Northern California heavyweight Xavier Vigney. It wasn't his first day on the job, but it was my first opportunity to witness a talent on the rise. The LA event was Vigney's debut with GLORY and by knocking out his opponent, Hyunman Myung, Vigney demonstrated that he had arrived and was ready to climb the ranks in the world's best kickboxing organization. Following GLORY 10 I anxiously awaited another opportunity to see more, at GLORY 19, I got my chance. At GLORY 19: Virginia, the 6'8" Vigney was matched against Everett Sims in a battle which would end with Vigney's TKO victory. Following this second GLORY win, I also had an opportunity to talk with Vigney, get a little history and find out what's next for him.

Hailing from Northern California, Vigney reports an early interest in boxing, but actually spent much of his youth on the football field. Naturally athletic and no stranger to spending hard days training, Vigney walks around normally at a svelte 109-113kgs. Making his pro debut in 2012 at a K-1 event, Vigney faced Seth Petruzelli. It was druing this event that Vigney proved that he was ready for the big stage as he repeatedly dropped Petruzelli throughout the first and second rounds. In K-1, Vigney also faced Zabit Samedov. While not victorious in this match-up, he has continued his pursuit of kickboxing glory. Vigney joined GLORY via their eight-man ‘Road to GLORY’ tournament. He took this tourney by storm, with three KOs in one night and thereby earning a coveted GLORY contract. he won by stopping three opponents in one night, one after another, earning himself a contract.

While he continues his rise in GLORY, Vigney has dabbled in boxing, a sport in which he's also had some success. He also voices no opposition to the prospect of MMA. And so at a youthful 24 years of age Xavier Vigney has gone from gridiron superstar to hot prospect in K-1 to rising star in GLORY. What's next? More hard work and GLORY 21: San Diego where he will face GLORY newcomer, Maurice Jackson. On Saturday, May 8th we will see what Xavier Vigney has in store for his opponent. Win or lose without a doubt those watching will be able to witness an exciting fight where Vigney will bring the strength, power and agility he has cultivated over the years.

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A Look Behind the Scenes of the GLORY 21 Open Workouts

  • Published in Interviews

Today we were granted a sneak peak of the firestorm to come this Friday, May 8th in San Diego, also known as GLORY 21.  The location was The Boxing Club, the current training home of  middleweight champion Artem Levin and the event was open workouts. 

The first participant on deck for today's event was one of GLORY's newest finds, Andre Walker.  Walker who is set to face another newcomer to the GLORY stage, Manny Mancha, exuded confidence in the ring demonstrating high energy with kicks and punches that may just surprise his opponent.  The second fighter up was the always exciting, "Human Highlight Reel", Raymond Daniels.  Despite having suffered a loss at GLORY 19 in Virginia, Daniels came to the ring to show that he remains in it to win it!  High flying as ever, Daniels demonstrated the determination to, if nothing else, make it exciting and keep his opponent guessing! The final two participants at the open workout event were the two men scheduled to bring the house down as the finale of GLORY 21 card in a battle for the middleweight title, Artem Levin and Simon Marcus.  Marcus, who was without his trainer, gave attendees a taste of what a work-out is like in his world! STAMINA is what he's obviously about in training.  Marcus took the crowd through a series of sit-ups, push-ups, kicks and other combinations that left us all sweating as we watched.  Levin then took center ring in the finale of the open workouts and gave the crowd a taste of his ever increasing agility, power and flexibility.  Levin also gave the crowd a sneak peak at some of his combinations as well as how he maintains his reputation for not only throwing a punch, but evading the strikes of his opponents. The outcome of this bout will be very interesting as it will not be the first time these two have faced off in the ring. Marcus has previously defeated Levin in a Muay Thai rules bout. So, may the best man win on Friday night!

While the event was short but sweet, Tim Hughes kept the crowd entertained with his amazing commentary and introductions. Also on deck for weigh ins was the newest member of GLORY's commentary team, Goldberg! 

Look out folks!! It's happening in San Diego, Friday, May 8th at the Valley View Casino Center!  Watch it on Spike or see the event live, GLORY always aims to please and match-ups feature here will keep fans satisfied!

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Exclusive "Chopper" Chi Lewis-Parry Liverkick Interview

  • Published in Interviews

 

We had the pleasure to interview none other than Mr. "Chopper" Chi Lewis-Parry today. Definitely one of the best interviews I've ever had the opportunity to do, his charisma and humor really makes our job easy. We spoke about everything from how he got his nickname to, wedgies, to what he likes to eat and I just had to add some of his voice notes because writing it out just doesn't do it justice. **sorry but audio won't play on mobile devices**

LK: Lets Start with Fight Stats. Height, Weight, Fight Record, Nicknames Etc?

Chopper: 
Record audio or upload mp3 >>

LK: How did you get your nickname or many names? 

Chopper: 
Record audio or upload mp3 >>

LK: When did you start martial arts/kickboxing and why?

Chopper: 
Audio recording software >>

LK: Was that when you stopped basketball then and what made you stop and start knocking people out?

Chopper: 
Audio and voice recording >>

LK: So, you used to bounce at nightclubs? Give us one of your best stories from those days.

Chopper: 
Audio recording >>

LK: How was the experience with Glory in Dubai?

Chopper: 
Record music with Vocaroo >>

LK: What about the upcoming tournament? What do you think of your first opponent Everett Sims and also who you will face in the final?

Chopper: I'm stoked about the tournament! Really looking forward to showing what I have to offer & to get 2 more scalps to my name! Wooha! Everett looks the part but he ain't the part! There's only enough cash in the budget for 1 leading man in this epic motion picture and that's me! Whoever I face in the final is fine with me but I'd prefer to face Vigney so I can show him who's the boss man!

LK: What do you think of Maurice Jackson he says he's also 6 foot 9 but his record on the glory site is 31-0?

Chopper: 
Audio recording software >>

LK: What do you like to do other than training and fighting? Like on your free time?

Chopper: 
Record and upload voice >>

LK: Food you say? What's your favourite food? How about before fights anything specific to eat?

Chopper
Record and upload voice >>

LK: How about after a fight once you win, what does the rest of the night look like?

Chopper: 
Record music with Vocaroo >>

LK: I forgot to ask you about ethnicity, I've had probably 10 people ask me what your background was, so I figured this was a good time to ask.

Chopper: I'm like Perseus, the son of a beautiful mortal & a god, haha. My mother is Welsh/Israeli/English. My father is straight up Guyanese. So that makes me some kinda super shit!

LK: One last question and we are done but its 4 questions in one.

1. Hardest puncher you've fought? 

2. Hardest kicker?

3. Hardest fight?

4. Favourite fighter (can be anyone real or fake)

Chopper: 1. Alistair Overeem (technically it was sparring but it may aswell have been a fight lol he goes hard)

2. Alain Ngalani. The guy had rhino legs attached to a gorilla lol.

3. Probably my debut. I completely snapped my 1st & 2nd metacarpal in my hand in the first exchange so I had to fight with a completely fucked hand (haha still won tho)

4. Favourite fighter has gotta be "The Rock". It's fake and all but we all know it's fake yet we STILL watch it. The Rock just has that wow factor.

LK: HAHA perfect anything else you would like to add for fans, sponsors, other fighters etc?

Chopper: Shout out to you guys for having me! My very loyal supporters, nothing but love back at ya. My newly aquired haters, hahaha get used to me, I'm just getting started! My loving family & friends for unrivaled support. My sponsors Golds Gym, Hooligans United & I'm a beast apparel. If you hadn't heard.... "Chopper's Coming!"

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Five Questions With Lion Fight 21's Tiffany Van Soest

  • Published in Interviews

This Friday evening on AXS TV Lion Fight 21 will be airing live from Los Angeles. The event is set to feature some of Lion Fight's top talents including a co-main event bout between Tiffany Van Soest and Chajma Bellekhal. We spoke with Tiffany during her busy week and got to ask her a few of the burning questions, from talk about the fight this weekend to her last fight in Enfusion.

LK: Women’s fighting has really taken off in a big way over the past few years thanks to the UFC, Invicta and even yourself in Lion Fight, how does it feel to be one of the more-talked about women in combat sports? 

VS: I really don’t feel that Muay Thai gets as much recognition as it deserves. MMA is HUGE and only getting bigger so it tends to cast a shadow over Muay Thai, however it is an honor to be considered one of the best at what I do. I don’t really think that I am talked about that much since I am a Muay Thai fighter and if I am talked about, it is usually about my transition to MMA. To be honest, it’s quite frustrating because although I have poured my heart and soul into Muay Thai. I appreciate that my skills are respected, but I wish people would appreciate Muay Thai for Muay Thai instead of thinking about how I would do in MMA.

LK: How important is it to you to get your rematch down the line for a shot to get your Lion Fight championship back? 

VS: I’m just taking it one fight at a time for now. I know Scott and Christine at Lion Fight will give me my title shot back when they feel the time is right. I know I have already earned it with 4 (soon to be 5) not only wins, but dominant performances since losing my title. It’s only a matter of time.

LK: How was your experience fighting Denise Kielholtz in Enfusion? They use really interesting and different rules compared to most Dutch kickboxing with there being a focus on throws, did it throw you off at all? 

It was a great experience. I got to kickbox in the mecca of kickboxing. And being of Dutch descent, it was really cool to see Holland and meet some of my extended family. The rules of Enfusion totally favored Denise’s style and judo background, but it made no difference to me. I went to her home country and fought under her rules. The throws did throw me off a little (no pun intended). I was hesitant to close the gap because I knew she would try to grab me and throw me when I got close enough. No losses though, just lessons. Of course i’m disappointed I walked away without the title or the win, but overall it was still a great experience. Denise is an amazing fighter.

LK: Where would a win over Bellekhal place you in the division right now, you think? 

VS: I already know I’m at the top of the division. A win will just solidify that even more.

LK: After your experience with Enfusion are you looking to try fighting outside of muay thai again any time soon in kickboxing or MMA, or sticking to muay thai for now? 

VS: Muay Thai it is. My commitment and contractual obligations are with Lion Fight right now.

 

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Ten Questions with Lion Fight 21's Kevin Ross

  • Published in Interviews

This Friday evening on AXS TV we'll get the pleasure of watching one of the biggest rematches in Lion Fight history at Lion Fight 21. Kevin Ross and Tetsuya Yamato had a knock down, drag out brawl at Lion Fight 11 and on Friday evening they will have a rematch that has the muay thai world buzzing. We asked Kevin Ross ten questions before his big fight and got his opinion on time off, the rematch and how Joe Schilling is doing.

LK: The first fight with Tetsuya Yamato saw a lot of action, a lot of blood and both of you looking fantastic regardless of who won or lost. Since the last fight you’ve both been on a winning streak, Yamato defeating Sagetdao and Masaaki Noiri, you Embree, Mauceri and Thompson. The big difference is that his fights were in kickboxing, do you think that gives you an edge?

Yamato has more of a kickboxing style anyway so it's not really that big a deal to go back and forth, although he does like to fling those elbows hahaha

LK: The Yamato loss ended 2013 for you as 2-2, but 2014 saw you go 3-0, was that important for you to have such a streak before fighting Yamato again?

KR: Not really, I don't dwell on wins/losses, I'm more concerned with the improvements I've made and the performances I've put on

LK: Who had the idea to fight again, was it you, Yamato or Lion Fight who pushed for it?

KR: I'm sure it was a bit of all 3. It was a great fight and good for everyone so we all want to do it again 

LK: Is it possible for this rematch to live up to the hype, or are you kind of hoping to have an easier time with this fight and less of a knock-down, drag-out, grueling affair?

KR: I want all my fights to be ones that go down in history as great, I always want people to be entertained and as long as they are than I'm happy. I don't think you can ever really compare fights, as they are so unique and different in their own ways 

LK: You’ve had some time off since your last fight, was it important for you to get some rest after being as busy as you were after you returned from your injury?

KR: No, I hate time off and never want it, it was out of my hands unfortunately. I'm sure that my body and brain were happy to have a break but I always want to be as active as possible 

LK: How does it feel to see one of your good friends in Joe Schilling having the level of success that he’s had both in the kickboxing world and MMA arena over the past few years?

KR: I couldn't be happier for him! I'm a Muay Thai purist and will always prefer it but seeing him active and doing so well is wonderful 

LK: Do you still have the itch to try out kickboxing now that it is taking off a bit more in the United States or are you focused on muay thai for now?

KR: I've been focused on Muay Thai since day one, it's my true love, it's my passion and will always prefer it to any other type of fighting but as long as I'm in there than that's good enough for me

LK: What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned fighting over the past few years since your return from your knee injury and your profile being on the rise like it is?

KR: I'd say that no matter what struggles lay in front of you they can either be set backs or set ups for further progression, it's just a matter of how you look at them. When bad things happen I view them as tests to see if I really want something. You either overcome them or quit. They show you who people truly are. That's something I've always known, these last few years just instilled those things in me further. 

 

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