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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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Joe Schilling Returns to Action Against Robert Thomas at GLORY 19

  • Published in Glory

The past few months have been filled with rumors, upset fans and fighters looking for opportunities outside of the GLORY banner. The best example of that would have to be Joe Schilling, who made his return to MMA after years away competing in muay thai and kickboxing, to knock out Melvin Manhoef in one of the most exciting KO's of the year. Schilling was one of the stars of GLORY's Last Man Standing tournament back in June, making it to the finals where he rematched Artem Levin with Levin walking away the victor this time.

Afterwards it seemed that a rift had grown between GLORY and Schilling, which became public when Schilling publicly signed with Bellator. 

It seems that everything is in working order now, though, as it came out today that Schilling has a new contract with GLORY and will be fighting at GLORY 19 against Robert Thomas. This is a big move for GLORY considering that Joe Schilling was their most popular US-based fighter and that a rubber match between Levin and Schilling should be a major attraction in their 2015 schedule. First up is Robert Thomas at GLORY 19 on February 6th though, which should be fun.

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Joe Schilling's Next Fight in Bellator on June 26th

  • Published in Kickboxing

There has been some speculation as to where we'll see Joe Schilling fight next; the GLORY ring or the Bellator cage. Today that was answered when Bellator announced that Joe Schilling will return to the cage on June 26th against Japanese Middleweight slugger Hisaki Kato. Kato is 4-1, all of his professional bouts happening in the Japanese promotion Heat, all four of those wins coming via knockout, only one fight making it to the second round. 

Schilling is coming off of a decision loss to Rafael Carvalho in April in a fight that turned out to be a lot tougher than anyone had ever imagined it would be. Schilling is looking to bounce back inside of the Bellator cage and a battle against a slugger like Kato could exactly be that chance to make fireworks happen. GLORY fans are still waiting with baited breath for a rematch between Joe and Artem Levin, but after Levin drew against Marcus it looks like it might be a while before the GLORY Middleweight Champion is available to fight Schilling.

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Joe Schilling Entering the Bellator Ring Against Melvin Manhoef, the Beginning of a New Relationship

  • Published in Glory

GLORY Middleweight Joe Schilling is no stranger to the world of Mixed Martial Arts, dabbling in the sport early on in his fight career before he found his home in the worlds of muay thai and most recently kickboxing. His success and popularity in the GLORY ring is undeniable, with him being one of the few breakaway stars that have come from GLORY's march onto Spike TV over the past year. It's no surprise that there are other people interested in Joe's services, especially the team of Rich Chou and Scott Coker in Bellator.

Coker's experience with making stars out of kickboxers can be traced back to current UFC star Cung Le, who Coker promoted as a San Shou star in the Bay Area, then in kickboxing fights and ultimately MMA bouts. Coker and Chou pushed a lot of kickboxers heavily in Strikeforce and look to be continuing the trend with additions like Melvin Manhoef and Paul Daley. Now GLORY's star Joe Schilling is set to move into the Bellator ring, the first time that a GLORY star will appear in the Bellator cage to represent GLORY. It turns out that Joe Schilling will be fighting fellow GLORY Middleweight slugger Melvin Manhoef.

We spoke with GLORY's CEO Jon J. Franklin about the historic fight and it seems like there have been some discussions between GLORY and Bellator and that we can expect to see more cooperation between the two organizations in the future. 

"Glory embraces our athletes competing in Bellator MMA.  We are entering a new era for Bellator and for us. There is the obvious overlap in our athletes and fan base and we anticipate that several of our kickboxers will compete in Bellator and that Bellator MMA athletes will test themselves in GLORY. We are both part of the SPIKE family and see this as a great opportunity to share our world class talent in both organizations. "

Add this in with Franklin talking about possibly running GLORY events the same night as Bellator events on Spike TV and the move to Friday nights and it looks like there is some synergy between the two brands, which is a good thing for combat sports fans. 

Joe Schilling vs. Melvin Manhoef is scheduled for November 15th.

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Toby Imada Successful in Shoot Boxing, RENA Falls Again

  • Published in Asia

Shishido kicks Imada / (C) Dan HerbertsonLast night's Shoot Boxing event in Japan is looking to be one of the better shows coming from Japan recently, and it featured Toby Imada's return to the Shoot Boxing ring. Many will remember that Imada made his way into the S-Cup last year and surprised the world by making it to the Finals against Buakaw Por. Pramuk, with Buakaw able to overcome him. Imada squared off with two-time champion Hiroki Shishido last night, with the first round being Shishido's superior standup giving Imada trouble. In the second round Imada was able to execute a great slam, and continued to use his Judo to pull of the decision victory.

The other big upset of the night was for the Shoot Boxing Ladies Championship, a vacant title that was brought about by the recent rush in popularity for Shootboxing at the hands of RENA. RENA had a rematch with Ai Takahashi, who was able to best RENA this time in the Shootboxing ring. It was Takahashi's jabs and throws that were enough to exhaust RENA and lead to a decision victory.

The rest of the results are courtesy of Dan Herbertson.

Shoot Boxing 169: 2011 Act 3 - June 5, 2011 at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Toby Imada def. Hiroki Shishido by Unanimous Decision
Henri Opstal def. Satoru Suzuki by TKO (Hook and Low Kick) – Round 2

Shoot Boxing Ladies Title Match
Ai Takahashi def. Rena Kubota by Unanimous Decision

Kenji Kanai def. Masatoshi Hyakutake by Unanimous Decision
Tatsuya Tsuda def Hiroaki Okuwa by Unanimous Decision (Extra Round)
Kazuyuki Fushimi def. Masanori Minato by Unanimous Decision
Yuji Sugawara def. Norifumi Yamamura By KO (Knee), Round 1
Yuki Sakamoto def. Tatsuya Shiozaki by KO (Punch) - Round 1
Masaya Matsuhana def. Kazutaka Takahashi By TKO (Corner Stoppage) – Round 2
Miyo Yoshida def. Natsuka by Unanimous Decision
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Why Kickboxing Fans Should Rejoice About Bellator's Changes

  • Published in News

In case you haven’t heard already, it was announced today by Bellator that Bjorn Rebney has departed from the organization and that his replacement is former Strikeforce head Scott Coker. Coker was restricted under his deal with Zuffa from competing with them until March of this year, which was when Viacom began making a play to push Rebney out and to replace him with Coker. The rumors are no longer rumors and it is indeed now fact; Scott Coker is the new head of Bellator and Bjorn Rebney is out.

Now, I’m sure that you are asking yourself; why does this matter to Kickboxing. The answer is a long one, which you already knew because I only give long answers. GLORY is on Spike TV and in case you haven’t noticed, GLORY has had problems gaining much power with Spike TV since they joined up with the network. GLORY’s ratings have been just as good as Bellator’s have been and they’ve done so with a whole lot less backing compared to Bellator.

See, Bellator had a majority share sold off to Viacom a few years ago, making them not only a part of the Spike TV family, but embedded into the very essence of the network. Viacom now had a stake in not only Bellator’s survival, but its growth and prosperity. While I can’t speak firsthand of Bjorn Rebney, there have been reports for years about how he does business and that the way in which he handled Bellator wasn’t much different. I remember balking at the leaked Bellator contracts when the promotion first began, then we all remember the contract disputes with guys like Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren.

It’s safe to say that not many in the fight world are big fans of Bjorn Rebney. Kickboxing fans shouldn’t be, either. You’d think that with GLORY under the Spike TV umbrella that there were natural crossover appeals for Bellator and GLORY, in fact, better crossover appeal than between Bellator and TNA Wrestling. Yet the crossovers that we saw were between Bellator and TNA Wrestling, TNA being a distant second place to the WWE and has been in constant financial and creative turmoil for years now. Not even pro wrestling fans like TNA Wrestling (you could argue that MMA fans don’t like Bellator, either, but that’s another story). 

So why not work with GLORY?

The answer is simple; GLORY is a great, polished and professional product. It offers something exciting and if people watch it, they fall in love with it. Bellator on the other hand has had to struggle for any gains in viewers and at times had to sacrifice their “vision” of tournaments to even attract marginal attention from the MMA press and fan base. We’ve had many reports that Rebney considered GLORY as the competition for Spike’s and Viacom’s affections, not something that he could work with and form mutually-beneficial deals with.

GLORY is on the rise and is doing so through rather modest means, while Bellator has had to dip into Viacom’s coffers to push expensive stars like Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz as real competition. While I can’t speak to boardroom affairs or meetings that happened behind closed doors, there has been a sense that a reason why we haven’t seen more GLORY programming on Spike TV or more support for the GLORY brand had a lot to do with Rebney’s attitude towards Kickboxing and GLORY. 

This is why the inclusion of Scott Coker is like a beam of light through a cloudy day for GLORY and Kickboxing fans right now. Scott Coker’s history is one that is rich not only in Mixed Martial Arts, but Martial Arts in general. Scott Coker was a longtime Kickboxing promoter, even working for K-1 on their US events. Before you rag on those events, remember that K-1 gave him extremely limited resources for those events and that any of the good that came for K-1 USA came through Scott and his very talented and motivated team (later on Mike Kogan had similar struggles but did an admirable job as well).

Scott Coker isn’t afraid of Kickboxing, in fact, Scott Coker loves Kickboxing. Kickboxing is how he broke into the world of promoting fights and nobody in the United States did it as successfully as Coker did it. Scott Coker also isn’t afraid of working with other brands on mutually-beneficial arrangements. Strikeforce came into prominence through a landmark deal with EliteXC that brought Strikeforce’s fighters, following and respect to PPV with some of EliteXC’s big names that they had signed, making for truly memorable events. It later led to Strikeforce absorbing EliteXC and becoming the #2 promotion in the world overnight. 

Now, do we think that things are going to immediately get better? Probably not. In fact, it might take a while. Scott Coker might bring about change, but Scott Coker still has to answer to Viacom at the end of the day and without a financial stake in GLORY they might not see the value in pushing it too hard. Then again, there is a contract in place and they are paying GLORY for the programming, so it makes sense to maximize the brand to its fullest and I see no reason why Scott Coker and Bellator would turn away a chance at working with another successful, unique brand to help build credibility for both. 

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Joe Schilling Hit With 90 Day Suspension After Bellator Loss

  • Published in Glory

If you were looking forward to seeing Joe Schilling in the ring wearing bigger gloves at the Bellator/GLORY Dynamite event in September it looks like you are out of luck. On Friday evening he competed within the Bellator cage against a Japanese karateka Hisaki Kato. Kato, who was a virtual unknown to most was thought to be simply a guy being fed to Schilling but he has an extensive history of competing within the world of karate and had racked up four knockouts for four wins in his MMA career prior in Japan. Needless to say the guy is no can and Schilling found out the hard way just how good he was, Kato scoring a brutal knockout over Schilling in the second round.

Schilling was originally scheduled for the September 19th Dynamite event on Spike TV but it came out today that the Kansas commission has handed out a 90-day medical suspension for Schilling, which takes him to the end of September before he's allowed contact. Clearly that means he won't be able to compete on the Dynamite card, which is a bummer. For now we still know that Paul Daley is scheduled to participate on the Dynamite card and he's been calling out recent-Bellator signee Josh Koscheck. I'm not sure that I want to see Kos's brain get scrambled in a kickboxing ring, but that could be interesting. 

Scott Coker also made mention of wanting to have a GLORY title fight on the card, so there is hope yet. 

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Gokhan Saki's GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship Vacated

  • Published in Glory

When we spoke with GLORY CEO Jon Franklin he told us that 95% of their fights had kept with them through the lean times. There were, of course, outliers, though. The biggest of which was Gokhan Saki, the GLORY Light Heavyweight Champion. He won the championship in a battle against Tyrone Spong that saw Spong's leg break in a freak accident and has left him in boxing and MMA since then. Saki, on the other hand, was not about to take a pay cut.

Saki has not competed for GLORY since GLORY 15 back in April of 2014. Instead he has competed one time for the UAE's GFC back in April against an overmatched Sebastian Ciobanu. The word on the street was that Saki was not happy with GLORY and while he was open to negotiations he would not return until his demands were met. GLORY has been negotiating with him ever since, acting on good faith and not vacating the championship, even after a year of inactivity. 

The final straw for GLORY was trying to negotiate for Saki to fight on September 19th in the Bellator Dynamite event to defend the GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship. They were unable to come to terms in time and GLORY has been forced to vacate the championship for the time being. They haven't given up on Saki just yet, but for now the title is vacant.

With GLORY's Light Heavyweight division being one of their deeper divisions it made no sense to hold up the title any longer. Hopefully this means that Danyo Ilunga and Saulo Cavalari can clash again, this time with the title on the line. Make it happen, GLORY.

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Watch Cosmo Alexandre's First Pro MMA Win

  • Published in Video

Cosmo Alexandre made his MMA debut a few weeks ago, and it was a tentative and downright terrible affair for all involved. His opponent was able to do enough to pull off the decision victory while Cosmo seemed afraid to let his hands go and open up the takedown. Sometimes in MMA it is just a matter of experience, or getting your sea legs. It doesn't matter how good you are in the gym, it is different in the ring. Cosmo has such a great standing skill set that his grappling was a clear weakness and had him worried, but come this weekend and his second fight, that was something of the past. Watch as Cosmo shows the MMA world what the Kickboxing and Muay Thai worlds already knew.

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Joe Schilling Talks Success, Vinny Shoreman's Mind Coaching and Maturity Leading into GLORY 19

  • Published in Interviews

On February 6th Joe Schilling makes his return to the GLORY ring after successfully making his Bellator debut back in November. In the past few months Joe Schilling has been everywhere, not just endearing himself to the kickboxing world, but also making a huge impact on the MMA world as well. His knockout of Melvin Manhoef was one for the record books and quickly became one of the most talked-about knockouts of the year. From there he went on to train with Nick Diaz to help him prepare for his UFC 183 bout against Anderson Silva.

It’s safe to say that things are different for Joe Schilling now in 2015 than they ever have been, even if it just comes down to the sheer amount of activity. “I was always kind of jealous of these guys that would fight like five or six times a year when I was always struggling to scrape up three fights. I mean, tournaments, yeah, but that’s still one night. This year is really shaping up to be a lot different and between both GLORY and Bellator I plan on being extremely active and making a name for myself in both sports.”

It’s not hard to imagine, either, with Schilling already having two fights scheduled for 2015. The first is on February 6th where he’ll enter the GLORY ring against the tough Middleweight prospect Robert Thomas in the co-main event on Spike TV. The other was just announced today as a fight in Bellator with MMA slugger Rafael Carvalho. A lot has changed for Joe over the past few years and he’s learned a lot about both himself and how to handle himself in the ring. 

“Yeah,” he joked. “You know all of these years I’ve been just trying to punch someone’s head off, but now I’ve actually been aiming at their chins. I think that’s something new that you’ll see from me; I’m actually aiming for a knockout now, not just to hurt my opponents.” Joe’s maturity and not fighting with so much rage has helped him out immensely, though.

“I used to into fights just raging mad, just boiling over,” he explained. “I was just trying to smash people. I’d get super tired by throwing these huge shots and then have nothing left. Look at the Eddie Walker fight, I could have cruised through that fight and won a decision, but there was so much pressure for me to finish him so I pushed too hard and lost focus. If I’m angry it’s not like I’m going to punch any harder or any better. Emotion is kind of a bad thing in a fight. If you look at Last Man Standing that was the first time that I went into a fight really composed, I got into the ring that night and I was 100% calm. I just thought, ‘It’s me, it’s Joe Schilling, I’ve worked hard to be here, let’s see what I have.’ It worked out really well for me and the same thing with the Melvin fight.

“Both of these situations,” he continued. “They just really helped my confidence out. I’m not just getting lucky, I’m not catching people with lucky shots or anything. I’m performing and using my skills. It’s a really good feeling to know that I really am as good as I always thought that I could be. It’s not a fluke, it’s not luck anymore, I’ve worked really hard. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years.”

His success is starting to become real to him now, like he mentioned, he isn’t getting lucky anymore, he’s executing what he wants to do and finding success. “I find comfort now when things go wrong. When I used to get sick before a fight I’d get upset, ‘Oh my god I’m sick, what am I going to do? My dad died three weeks before the fight, what can I do?’ I’ve found comfort in this stuff now, this is just a part of preparing for a fight. Of course my weight isn’t where I want it to be a few weeks out from a fight, it never is, but it works out because I put the work in. Going into the Melvin fight my dad passed away a few weeks out and I’m crying my eyes out with my family and I get, I’m having some drinks with my brother, my sister. My uncle calls while we are doing that, and I thought ‘well that’s nice, he’s upset about my dad.’ He’s balling his eyes out and he’s like ‘Cody,’ his son, ‘just fell off a balcony and died.’ It was hard having all of this stuff going on especially that I had to be in the ring with a killer in two weeks, but Vinny helped me get back on track a little bit.

“I said, ‘well, I’ve got two weeks to get back in shape because I was just not training at all,’ I had some really good sessions with Lorenz Larkin and in one session he kicked me and he hit me right in the hip and I thought, ‘I bet that hurt, you fucker,’ then my whole side from my ribs to my quad seized on me and my hip was messed up. I spent the last week of my camp unable to run or kick, going to therapy everyday. Then I went and had one of my best performances.”

It wasn’t just in the gym where he got beaten up, though. Joe went on to explain one of his sessions with Vinny Shoreman and how Shoreman was able to help break him out of his funk. “He was talking to me and was just really being mean, I thought. ‘Oh, your dad died. I bet you feel like shit, huh? Your cousin died, that’s awful, isn’t it? I bet you feel terrible right now, don’t you?’ I was starting to get pissed off, just giving him one word answers and he knew that he was getting to me, then he told me ‘Well now what? Well you are still alive and you’ve worked hard to get where you are, are you just going to give up?’ It all just clicked for me at that moment.”

These are the kinds of setbacks that would make anyone reel, but Joe was able to find peace with his father, with whom he had a rocky relationship for most of his life with, which helped him to be more at peace with the situation. He was also able to work through a lot of his frustration and anger that he held due to his strained relationship with his father, which he attributes as one of the reasons why he feels so mentally clear now; he’s finally been able to release that anger and to move forward with his life. “We were doing timeline therapy and he really didn’t know what he was uncovering, but it was all moments about my dad. Afterwards I literally couldn’t tap into that hatred or anger about my dad, it just wasn’t there anymore. Shortly after that I was able to really 100% forgive him, like no need for an apology, it just was what it was. I was happy that I got to see him and that he got to meet his grandchildren.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Schilling is starting to be more well-known and respected. He talked about how this past weekend at UFC 183 how he was cornering Nick Diaz and he had well-known UFC fighters coming up to him to take photos with him and how they all knew who he was, which was a strange moment. That being said, his high-profile friendships and newfound fame haven’t changed his focus, he’s still ready for Robert Thomas on Friday.

“He’s a tough kid with nothing to lose,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of myself at that age, I mean, his first fight in GLORY was against Artem Levin and he was swinging for the fences. If Artem didn’t duck at the right moment there a few times he would have been laid out by him. It’s going to be a tough fight for me, I never look past an opponent. He’s got a muay thai style and starts slow, but he hits hard and stuff like his spinning backfist is no joke and he can hit that from anywhere at any time, like it almost doesn’t make sense when he does it. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and fighting.”

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