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Exclusive Simon Rutz Interview

  • Published in Interviews

SimonRutzAmidst all the bad K-1 news, Europe’s top fighting organization, It’s Showtime, has been a hot topic of conversation lately.  As plans for 2011 come together, we’re seeing more and more events announced by the company, who find themselves constantly expanding their product throughout the world.  But in the middle of all the positive news came an unfortunate announcement last week – due to a planned co-promotion with K-1 falling through, It’s Showtime would not run their big annual show at the Amsterdam Arena in 2011.

Between this latest news, all the rumors swirling around K-1, Badr Hari’s return, and various other stories, now seemed like a good time to speak to the always forthcoming It’s Showtime president Simon Rutz.  As always, Mr. Rutz offered plenty of insight into their dealings with K-1 and so much more.

Read on for part 1 of this 2 part exclusive LiverKick.com interview, as we get the story on exactly what happened with the canceled Amsterdam Arena event and the state of affairs for K-1 and It’s Showtime.

LiverKick.com: It’s a shame you may not run in the Amsterdam Arena this year. When did you begin to think this show might not happen?

Simon Rutz: We have already known for many years that K-1 has big problems, but a few months ago they said to me that they have a new investor.  That was the reason why I agreed to cooperate on the Amsterdam Arena event in May this year.  Around Christmas I felt that there was something wrong with their situation because they didn’t answer my requests anymore.

LK: What were the plans for the show? Did you have fighters already lined up?

SR: When It’s Showtime and K-1 cooperate I always give my suggestions, and most of the time they use them.  My suggestions for this year were: Badr Hari vs. Gokhan Saki; Peter Aerts vs. Tyrone Spong; and Hesdy Gerges vs. Alistair Overeem, Errol Zimmerman, or someone else.

LK: We’ve heard a lot about K-1 not paying fighters, and I know Giorgio Petrosyan had problems with that last year. Are there It’s Showtime or Black Label fighters who are waiting to be paid by K-1?

SR: Yes, the following fighters have not been paid for a fight: Melvin Manhoef, Tyrone Spong, Daniel Ghita, Hesdy Gerges, Gago Drago, Pajonsuk, Dzevad Poturak, Chahid, and Giorgio Petrosyan still needs his win bonus from the last K-1 MAX tournament.  It is a lot of money! I never let our fighters fight before they are paid for their last fight.  I hear that some other fighters haven’t gotten their money for 4 fights.  It is a sad situation for all the fighters.

LK:  Given all these problems, what, in your opinion, does K-1 need to do to survive?

SR: They need a lot of money, and they must ask my advice (and do something with that advice) because they do a lot of stupid things.

LK: If they don’t get that money, and they don’t survive, what will it mean for kickboxing and for It’s Showtime?

SR: If they don’t survive it is very bad for the sport and for many fighters.  For It’s Showtime, it would mean that we are the number 1 kickboxing organization in the world and everybody will look to us.  We are getting busy like never before.  We have already seen a movement from K-1 to It’s Showtime.  Almost every day I talk with people around the world who want to organize an It’s Showtime event in their country.

LK: Would you ever consider buying out K-1?

SR: Why should I do that?  I have my own brand and company who is healthy and is going very well.  Also, what am I buying then?  Only a lot of problems!  The [K-1] name is very strong, but I already have a good name.  I will keep my money in my pocket!

LK: You said you are talking with people around the world, and this looks like a huge year for you with new events in England, Germany, and Spain. Any details on those shows?

SR: Our schedule for the year is now: March 6 – Amsterdam, Holland; March 26 – Brussels, Belgium; May 14 – Lyon, France (not signed yet); May – Manheim, Germany (not signed yet); June 11 – Warsaw, Poland; July 23 – Sochi, Russia; August 27 – Sarajevo, Bosnia; September 18 – Amsterdam, Holland; September 24 – Manchester, England (not signed yet); October 8 – Geneva, Switzerland; End of December in Amsterdam for the It’s Showtime Christmas Edition again.  We are also talking about It’s Showtime events in Spain, Ukraine, and Australia.  As you see, we are really busy.  We have at least 10 big events this year, maybe 12.

LK: You know I have to ask – any further info on possibly running in the United States?

SR: I am getting more and more interest for It’s Showtime events in the US.  Last week, one of the TV stations from the US bought our It’s Showtime events, so that is starting.  I also am speaking with several people to see what the possibilities are in the US.  But when we start, we will start slowly with events for 2,000 people.

LK:  With all this expansion, where do you want It’s Showtime to be in 2 years?

SR: Pff......... 6 months ago I said that in 5 years It’s Showtime would organize between 15 and 20 events a year, but we are going so fast, maybe next year we will already be doing 15 events a year!

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this interview as we discuss Remy Bonjasky’s retirement, Cosmo Alexandre, the Hesdy Gerges/Semmy Schilt controversy, and of course, Badr Hari.

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LiverKick.com Heavyweight Rankings: May 2011

  • Published in Rankings

Heavyweight

1. Semmy Schilt
2. Badr Hari
3. Peter Aerts
4. Gokhan Saki
5. Hesdy Gerges
6. Daniel Ghita
7. Tyrone Spong
8. Kyotaro
9. Ewerton Teixeira
10. Jerome Le Banner

Welcome back to the LiverKick.com rankings. These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 10 fighters in three different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 85kg limit, Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit, and Light Heavyweight, for fighters at the 77-84kg limit. Our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses. We hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand, although we recognize that all rankings are inherently subjective.

May 2011

We've decided to take a different approach to the rankings, in the past Fraser Coffeen handled them, but as many are aware, Fraser has since had to step down from his responsibilities at LiverKick.com and has since moved on to other ventures. Our Top 10 list a while back moved on to being a top 25 to reflect a uniformity with our then home of SBNation. We've decided to move back to only including the Top 10 and to opt for the inclusion of Light Heavyweight (77kg - 84kg) to reflect the depth of talent in that weight class.

Former #1 Alistair Overeem has been removed from the rankings after some intense discussion, we've come to the conclusion that as long as he is contracted with Zuffa the chances of Overeem fighting in another organization as a kickboxer has decreased to about zero. We are sad to see a talent such as his be confined to only Mixed Martial Arts but will continue to cheer him on.

This means that there was a lot of reshuffling to the weight classes for them to make sense, as with K-1's silence and a sincere doubt that there will be a K-1 World Heavyweight Grand Prix this year, we take a more global look at the weight classes and rankings for them. It is without dispute that the most accomplished kickboxer at Heavyweight/Super Heavyweight, and the man to beat is Semmy Schilt. Schilt does hold a WGP loss to Peter Aerts in 2011 and a loss to Badr Hari in 2010, but outside of that his record is pristine.

After a year of inaction, Badr Hari returned to the ring against a less-than-game Gregory Tony. Tony's performance might have been shameful, but Hari was in good shape, kept his cool and there is a promise of a bout with Tyrone Spong or Daniel Ghita on the horizon for It's Showtime in the Fall. For his recent accomplishments, though, without a doubt Badr Hari is one of the men to beat and secures his spot at #2. Mr. K1, Peter Aerts shocked the world taking it to Sem Schilt in December, making the Finals of the Heavyweight GP. Aerts had stated before the Grand Prix that it would be his last and he is contemplating retirement, so under those circumstances and for his recent accomplishments, the #3 slot is a great fit for him.

#4 Gokhan Saki is in action at the end of this month in the finals of the Glory World Series Heavyweight Tournament, where he'll take on Brice Guidon. While the tournament was not the toughest road for Saki, a win in it would further cement his spot in the top 5. We hope to see him against other top 5 competition soon. #5 Hesdy Gerges has once again been released from police custody and will be in action this weekend at It's Showtime. His bout with #6 Daniel Ghita was the biggest Heavyweight fight of the year so far and his win cemented his spot above Ghita. #7 Tyrone Spong is where things get messy, Spong holds a victory over #8 Kyotaro last year, who himself is largely inactive without K-1, but has a loss to #10 Jerome Le Banner. Le Banner of course has his forfeit loss to Kyotaro but little else outside of the Spong win recently. #9 Ewerton Teixeira is another fighter who only fights for K-1 so is in a state of limbo for the time being.

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LiverKick.com Podcast - Week of December 11

  • Published in LK Podcast

This week we bring you something a bit newer and different, as Rian Scalia (@rianscalia) and myself (@LiverKickdotcom) come to you for the first time with the LiverKick podcast. We kick off with this, a test of sorts, which we recorded on Saturday night after all of the excitement surrounding the UFC show and the Amir Khan fight. There was not exactly a ton of happenings within the world of Kickboxing, but we decided to go over the fan-generated list of Fights of the Year that they've submitted.

Look for an official poll from us soon so you can vote for the Fight of the Year! We also discuss what is going on with FIKA, Cro Cop returning to K-1 action and what to look forward to in 2012.

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Daniel Ghita Moving to Florida to Train with Overeem and "Blackzilian" Team

  • Published in K-1

Daniel GhitaIn a move that might seem sudden to some, Daniel Ghita will be moving his base of operations to the United States in the near future. The move comes at the behest of Alistair Overeem, who recently inked an agreement with the "Blackzilian" camp in Florida that is run by Authentic Sports Management, led by Glenn Robinson. Now, if your question is why would Daniel Ghita move to the United States because of Alistair Overeem moving there, the answer is simple; Daniel Ghita has been a vital part of Alistair Overeem's recent training and has become such an asset that Overeem wanted to lock him up.

This comes after there were rumors that Junior Dos Santos was trying to bring Daniel Ghita into his camp to help prepare for Alistair Overeem, knowing that Ghita had worked with Overeem on his last fight and would be a good sparring partner as well. We confirmed this with Anil Dubar earlier in the week, but at that point there had been no decision yet. There is a good chance that when Overeem and his people found out about JDS trying to lure Ghita to Brazil there became an immediate need to lock down Daniel Ghita to ensure he wasn't snatched up.

Ghita's home base will be in Florida now, but he has spoken to Sport.ro and said that his focus is still on competing in Kickboxing (noted: K-1), but he will also be training with UFC fighters as well. This will probably bring about rumors of Ghita making a switch to MMA, but as we saw from Tyrone Spong, training in a camp with MMA fighters will not exactly negate your skills as a Kickboxer and Ghita should be fine training for future bouts there.

Update: Anil Dubar confirmed to us that Ghita will only be staying there for two months.

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So, K-1 Hasn't Paid Alistair Overeem

  • Published in K-1

Alistair OvereemYou know, with all of the hype going into the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, you'd think an interview with Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion from ESPN wouldn't slip through the cracks, but it did. To me, that speaks volumes for just how tired of hearing about K-1's financial problems people are, as well as how few people pay attention to ESPN's MMA Live. No offense intended for MMA Live, but the close affiliation to UFC and the complete lack of coverage of the rest of the world of MMA (it serves as an afterthought, usually) has made the show less-than a must-see for most fans.

Well, regardless of how worthwhile it is to watch MMA Live, over the weekend they spoke with Alistair Overeem, and most MMA websites picked up the interview for purposes of predictions and to gaze into Overeem's dreamy eyebrows, but what struck me was that Alistair Overeem claims that K-1 has yet to pay him and that he would actually prefer not to fight in Japan this year, he would rather just fight in America.

This just serves as a gentle reminder of how business matters in Japan have effected the sport of kickboxing as a whole. If everything is in order for K-1, it looks like Alistair Overeem has no plans on fighting for them this year and will continue to fight in the United States for Strikeforce instead. Watch the below video at about the 4:30 mark as Anik asks if K-1 has paid him and Overeem jovially says they didn't. Ouch.

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LiverKick.com Heavyweight Rankings: Mar 2011

  • Published in Rankings

Heavyweight

1. Alistair Overeem
2. Peter Aerts
3. Semmy Schilt
4. Badr Hari
5. Gokhan Saki
6. Ewerton Teixeira
7. Hesdy Gerges
8. Kyotaro
9. Daniel Ghita
10. Tyrone Spong
11. Jerome Le Banner
12. Nathan Corbett
13. Errol Zimmerman
14. Ashwin Balrak
15. Brice Guidon
16. Zabit Samedov
17. Pavel Zhuravlev
18. Melvin Manhoef
19. Mourad Bouzidi
20. Anderson Silva
21. Ruslan Karaev
22. Paul Slowinski
23. Rico Verhoeven
24. Mighty Mo
25. Raul Catinas

Welcome back to the LiverKick.com rankings. These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 25 fighters in two different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 77kg limit, and Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit. Our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses. We hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand, although we recognize that all rankings are inherently subjective.

March 2011

Another month, another period of essential inaction in the heavyweight ranks, although this time there were at least a few fights that impacted the rankings.

The biggest of course was the huge It's Showtime clash between Hesdy Gerges and Daniel Ghita.  This battle between the sport's next generation heavyweights lived up to the hype.  Gerges pulled out a close (and, according to some, controversial) decision - he moves up to #7, while Ghita falls back to #9.

The other notable fight was in Australia, where Paul Slowinski defeated Thor Hoopman handily in one round.  With that win, Slowinski brings his record in the last year up to an impressive 8-2, and earns himself a spot back in the rankings at #22.  Glad to see The Sting back in here after many wrote him off a few years ago.

Luckily, things are definitely gaining momentum, as we have some solid fights announced in the upcoming weeks and months.  This weekend is the Ultimate Glory semi-finals, featuring #5 Gokhan Saki vs. Wendell Roche and #15 Brice Guidon vs. #19 Mourad Bouzidi.  Also this weekend is a Local Kombat show with a number of fighters just outside the top 25: Freddy Kemayo vs. Sebastian Ciobanu, Dzevad Poturak vs. Ionut Ifitmoaie, Catalin Morosanu vs. Ayadin Yuksel, and hot upcoming prospect Andrei Stoica vs. Alex Rossi.  I'd expect at least the winner of Kemayo vs. Ciobanu to make it in to next month's rankings.

But the big news is the return of #4 Badr Hari.  It's been nearly a year since we've seen the Golden Boy in action - he'll make his long-awaited return on May 14 for It's Showtime in Lyon.  His opponent will be French fighter Tony Gregory.  Also on that card: #10 Tyrone Spong vs. Igor Mihaljevic, and #9 Daniel Ghita vs. #22 Paul Slowinski.  For some reason, rumors keep popping up about #11 Jerome Le Banner fighting on this card as well, but I would not count on it as the main card seems completed.

After that, It's Showtime continues their lock on the HW division with #7 Hesdy Gerges vs. Alexey Ignashov on July 23.

Finally, 2010 K-1 Oceania champion Ben Edwards has two upcoming fights - April 2 vs. Carter Williams, and July 30 vs. an opponent TBA.  Good chance for Edwards to get back into the rankings with a pair of wins.

The #1 Ranked Alistair OvereemAs for #1 Alistair Overeem?  No clue.  His next fight should be an MMA fight against Fabricio Werdum in the opening round of the Strikeforce Grand Prix.  But with the recent UFC buyout of Strikeforce, who knows what this means.  Will Overeem continue on as Strikeforce champion?  Will he move into the UFC?  Will Zuffa allow him to still take kickboxing bouts on the side (don't bet on it).  It's all up in the air.  For now, get your Reem fix with the first episode of The Reem, Part 2.

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LiverKick.com Heavyweight Rankings: April 2011

  • Published in Rankings

Heavyweight

1. Alistair Overeem
2. Peter Aerts
3. Semmy Schilt
4. Badr Hari
5. Gokhan Saki
6. Ewerton Teixeira
7. Hesdy Gerges
8. Kyotaro
9. Daniel Ghita
10. Tyrone Spong
11. Jerome Le Banner
12. Nathan Corbett
13. Brice Guidon
14. Errol Zimmerman
15. Ashwin Balrak
16. Zabit Samedov
17. Pavel Zhuravlev
18. Mourad Bouzidi
19. Anderson Silva
20. Melvin Manhoef
21. Ruslan Karaev
22. Paul Slowinski
23. Rico Verhoeven
24. Freddy Kemayo
25. Dzevad Poturak

Welcome back to the LiverKick.com rankings. These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 25 fighters in two different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 77kg limit, and Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit. Our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses. We hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand, although we recognize that all rankings are inherently subjective.

April 2011

Kickboxing continues on in the face of K-1's silence, but the Heavyweight division has definitely felt the blow.  Only a handful of ranked fighters saw action since our last rankings, and the top 25 remains essentially the same.

The biggest mover this month was Brice Guidon, who jumped up two spots to #13 with a win over #18 Mourad Bouzidi.  Guidon will next face #5 Gokhan Saki at the United Glory final round on May 28.

Also moving up were #24 Freddy Kemayo and #25 Dzevad Poturak - both men returned to the rankings after wins in Romania.

The rest of April doesn't hold too much more Heavyweight action.  Next weekend, #12 Nathan Corbett faces Tomasz Nowack at Domination 6 in Australia, and... that's it for the top 25 for April.  Like I said, there's definitely been a Heavyweight slowdown.

That will change in May, as a number of big fights are set to go down.  And none are bigger than #4 Badr Hari making his return against Tony Gregory at It's Showtime Lyon.  Also on that card is #10 Tyrone Spong vs. Igor Mihaljevic and #9 Daniel Ghita vs. #19 Anderson Silva.  Then on May 21, It's Showtime returns with #7 Hesdy Gerges vs. Chris Knowles in Amsterdam.

Also in May is the United Glory finals previously mentioned, headlined by Saki vs. Guidon.  A few other top 25 clashes are on that show including #14 Errol Zimmerman vs. #18 Mourad Bouzidi and #17 Pavel Zhuravlev vs. Igor Jurkovic.

The #1 Ranked Alistair OvereemOne other scheduled fight to take note of: we've known for awhile that the next appearance of #1 Alistair Overeem will be in an MMA cage, likely against Fabricio Werdum in the opening round of the Strikeforce Grand Prix.  That fight is now set for June 18 in Dallas, TX.  Sad to see The Reem likely gone from kickboxing for awhile, but we'll be cheering the K-1 champ on in his quest to dominate the US MMA landscape.

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LiverKick.com Heavyweight Rankings

  • Published in Rankings

Heavyweight

1. Alistair Overeem
2. Peter Aerts
3. Semmy Schilt
4. Remy Bonjasky
5. Badr Hari
6. Gokhan Saki
7. Kyotaro
8. Ewerton Teixeira
9. Daniel Ghita
10. Hesdy Gerges
11. Tyrone Spong
12. Jerome Le Banner
13. Nathan Corbett
14. Errol Zimmerman
15. Ashwin Balrak
16. Ruslan Karaev
17. Zabit Samedov
18. Brice Guidon
19. Melvin Manhoef
20. Pavel Zhuravlev
21. Mourad Bouzidi
22. Anderson Silva
23. Rico Verhoeven
24. Mighty Mo
25. Raul Catinas

Welcome to the first edition of our LiverKick.com rankings.  These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 25 fighters in two different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 77kg limit, and Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit.  We'll be posting rankings on roughly a quarterly basis, with the inaugural Middleweight rankings out tomorrow.  Before we discuss, I want to stress that all rankings are inherently subjective, and are sure to ruffle a few feathers.  To be clear, our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses, and as such, we hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand.

The biggest talking point here is likely the ascension of a new #1.  Alistair Overeem, with only 14 pro kickboxing fights to his credit, rises to the top spot by becoming the 8th man to win the K-1 Grand Prix crown.  Always a subject of controversy, many fans still view him as an outsider to kickboxing, and can't fathom The Reem as the #1 man.  But with wins over Saki, Aerts, Hari, Teixeira and Spong, plus the GP victory, it's hard to place him elsewhere.  Beyond that, there's also the question that if Overeem is not #1 - who is?

Also making a huge move up the ladder is Peter Aerts.  Aerts looked like his time near the top was at an end just a few months ago, but with a history making win over Semmy Schilt, Aerts moves into the #2 spot.  Glad to see the Dutch Lumberjack there one more time.

A few fighters are near the point of being removed from rankings due to inactivity - most notably #4 Remy Bonjasky.  Bonjasky has not fought in over a year, and may have one last fight in him before retirement.  If he doesn't announce another fight soon, it will be hard to keep him ranked.  It's a similar case with the often unreliable #16 Ruslan Karaev, who likewise has not competed since the 2009 GP Finals.  Finally, #15 Ashwin Balrak may be dropped out of the rankings, as his next few years could be spent behind bars after his 2010 cocaine bust.

Looking ahead, there are not a huge number of big heavyweight fights currently announced, which is always the case as the year ends.  A few cards are worth noting though.Alistair Overeem

At Dynamite!! on Dec. 31, #7 Kyotaro will face Gegard Mousasi under K-1 rules.  Also competing on that card are Overeem and #12 Jerome Le Banner, though both fights are under MMA rules.

January 30 marks the 2nd round in the Ultimate Glory world series event.  This round of 4 includes #6 Gokhan Saki v. Wendell Roche, and #18 Brice Guidon v. #21 Mourad Bouzidi, with the winners meeting at the April 21 finals.

Finally, It's Showtime heavyweight champion #10 Hesdy Gerges has a busy time ahead of him.  He faces #9 Daniel Ghita on March 6 in an absolute blockbuster of a fight, and Alexey Ignashov on July 3.  That Gerges v. Ghita bout could be the biggest heavyweight fight of the next 6 months, though it could see some competition from the It's Showtime/K-1 Qualifying Grand Prix event on May 21 - no names yet announced for that show, but expect some big fights.

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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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LiverKick.com Heavyweight Rankings

  • Published in Rankings

Heavyweight

1. Alistair Overeem
2. Peter Aerts
3. Semmy Schilt
4. Badr Hari
5. Gokhan Saki
6. Ewerton Teixeira
7. Kyotaro
8. Daniel Ghita
9. Hesdy Gerges
10. Tyrone Spong
11. Jerome Le Banner
12. Nathan Corbett
13. Errol Zimmerman
14. Ashwin Balrak
15. Ruslan Karaev
16. Zabit Samedov
17. Brice Guidon
18. Melvin Manhoef
19. Pavel Zhuravlev
20. Mourad Bouzidi
21. Anderson Silva
22. Rico Verhoeven
23. Mighty Mo
24. Raul Catinas
25. Alexey Ignashov

Welcome back to the LiverKick.com rankings. These rankings are an attempt to break down the top 25 fighters in two different weight classes - Heavyweight, for fighters above the 77kg limit, and Middleweight, for fighters at the 70-72.5kg limit. Our rankings are based on in-ring accomplishments and recent wins and loses. We hope they reflect where these fighters currently stand, although we recognize that all rankings are inherently subjective.

February 2011

Since the January rankings, there has been very little movement in the heavyweight division.  The biggest HW fights were set to take place at the January 30 Ultimate Glory show, but once that was moved back to March, the HW division was essentially put on deep freeze for the time being.

There were, however, three points worth mentioning:

First, our last rankings were just before New Year's Eve, and so did not include Kyotaro's upset loss at the hands of Gegard Mousasi.  With that loss, Kyotaro drops one spot, being passed by Ewerton Teixeira (who holds a 2008 win over Kyotaro).

Second, Alexey Ignashov was in action, defeating Roman Kleibl, another fighter just outside the top 25.  While his performance wasn't great, recent wins over Kleibl and Freddy Kemayo are enough to sneak Ignashov in to the rankings at #25.  Ignashov will have his next big opportunity on July 23 when he challenges #9 Hesdy Gerges for the It's Showtime Heavyeight title.

Finally, the biggest news actually concerns out of the ring events.  While it pains me to do it, I've removed the formerly #4 ranked Remy Bonjasky from the rankings.  It's been well over a year since he last fought, and in that time we've heard that he's retiring soon, then silence.  There's still a chance we'll see him again, but it will likely just be a farewell fight, if it even happens at all.  I know Remy has his detractors, but he's in a rare air of K-1 greats, and it's a shame to see his career fade away in such a lackluster way.

As far as upcoming fights are concerned, we'll have to wait until March for much to happen - that's when we'll get both the Ultimate Glory semi-finals (#5 Gokhan Saki vs. Wendell Roche and #17 Brice Guidon vs. #20 Mourad Bouzidi), and the superb It's Showtime fight between #8 Daniel Ghita and #9 Hesdy Gerges.  Given K-1's troubles, it may be awhile before be get a HW fight to rival Gerges vs. Ghita.  That fight is set for It's Showtime Amsterdam on March 6, which will also feature #22 Rico Verhoeven vs. Jamal Benz on the undercard.

One other fight to note - on February 26 in Australia it will be Thor Hoopman vs. Paul Slowinski.  Although neither man is currently ranked, both are just outside the top 25, and a big win here could propel one of them into the rankings.

The #1 Ranked Alistair OvereemAnd finally, don't forget to keep your eyes on MMA promotion Strikeforce in the coming months.  That's where #1 Alistair Overeem will be found, as he faces Fabricio Werdum in the opening round of their Grand Prix tournament.  This weekend for Strikeforce, K-1 veteran Ray Sefo continues his MMA career against The Reem's big brother Valentijn Overeem, plus K-1 newcomer and MMA veteran Sergei Kharitonov meets Andrei Arlovski in the HW Grand Prix.

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