Today in Texas, Bellator finally announced what we've known for quite a while now: Bellator will be running professional kickboxing shows. The first event will be piggybacked onto the Oktagon/Bellator event in Italy, much like we've speculated. The names that Coker introduced at the press event today were Kevin Ross, Joe Schilling, Keri Melendez, Raymond Daniels and Anastasia Yankova. These will most likely be the banner fighters for the promotion moving forward.
Many have noted that Schilling is fighting on the upcoming GLORY card, but there have been some weird contractual issues between Schilling and GLORY, I wouldn't be shocked if this was simply finishing things out.
Carlo di Blasi was there to discuss rules, regulations and promotional impact worldwide. This event will air immediately after the Bellator event does, meaning that Spike and Bellator are putting their all into making this event seem huge.
So this is finally happening. After almost a year of rumors and false starts, Scott Coker's kickboxing organization is finally happening.
There’s a belief in the fight community that when you go to Japan that you need to be prepared for anything. You could say that for any fighter going into another country where they are to fight local fighters they have their backs against the wall and fear the “hometown decision,” but in Japan it always seems amplified. A part of that is the marriage of professional wrestling and professional fighting that has existed for a very long time in the world of “kakutougi.”
In fact, if you were to look at Shoot Boxing’s S-Cup event there was a professional wrestling bout on the card featuring New Japan Pro Wrestling Junior Heavyweight sensation Kota Ibushi against former DDT Pro Wrestling colleague Michael Nakazawa. It was originally labeled as an “exhibition match” under Shoot Boxing rules and was scheduled to be against Kazushi Sakuraba, but that fell through thanks to Metamoris 5.
That should set the tone for you.
This S-Cup was one of the few that I’ve seen more than the usual fans excited over, which was in part due to the card that they put together. Mosab Amrani, Pornasae, Hiroaki Suzuki, Michiko Omigawa, Hiroki Shishido and American Muay Thai fighter Kevin Ross were all a part of the tournament, while legend Andy Souwer and Shoot Boxing hero RENA were in Super Fights.
It felt like one of the bigger shows that Shoot Boxing had put on in a very, very long time and then Shoot Boxing went and put on a shameful display for all of the world to see.
The draw for American fans was muay thai standout Kevin Ross being in the tournament. Ross went into the tournament against his toughest test by the way of former Sengoku, DREAM and UFC alumnus Michihiro Omigawa. Omigawa was a champion Judoka who rose to prominence in the Japanese MMA scene and after his UFC stint gave a shot at Shoot Boxing. Much like Toby Imada in the past, his grappling skills were able to help him against seasoned kickboxers and 2014 was his second attempt at Shoot Boxing gold.
By all accounts Omigawa was winning the first round handily thanks to his throws, which score heavily under Shoot Boxing rules, but there was a clash of heads that led to a nasty cut on Omigawa's face. In the second round the cut was a major factor, leading the ref to stopping the bout. The referee awarded the fight in favor of Ross due to the stoppage, while backstage there was a different story and Shoot Boxing organizers informed Ross that the fight was being rendered a No Contest and that he would not continue on in the tournament.
The rules are a bit unclear at a time like this, where it isn’t clear who was at fault, or if it was accidental. What the referee most likely saw and ruled was that the cut was due to Omigawa’s own “negligence” (section 10) and ruled it in favor of Ross. Shoot Boxing might have been arguing that it was due to both men, which would make things a lot muddier. The truth of the matter is, the referee awarded Ross the win in the ring and any time the decision is reversed backstage it will be a tough sell to anyone that it was on the up-and-up.
If that wasn’t frustrating enough, then there is the story of Zakaria Zouggari. Don’t know who Zakaria Zouggari is? Neither did we, but we sure as hell know now. Rob Emerson of MMA fame (fame?!) was scheduled to take part, but at the last minute was unable to secure a visa, which left Shoot Boxing in a bind and called up relative unknown Zakaria Zouggari to fill in for Emerson in a reserve bout.
Zouggari defeated Shoot Boxing’s resident punching bag Bovy Sor. Udomson via cut stoppage in round two and, thanks to the Kevin Ross/Omigawa shenanigans, was called upon to fight in the tournament moving forward.
That led to a fight with internationally-renowned Houcine Bennoui and for this amazing display.
Seriously. God damn.
So this unknown would move onto the finals. According to Andy Souwer after the event Zouggari literally got off of the plane, dropped his bag off in his hotel room then hopped on a bus and headed to the event without time to rest, eat or get acclimated. This was the man who went on to the finals against 2013 65kg S-Cup Champion Hiroaki Suzuki. This is where things went from bad to worse. Zouggari clearly had the fight won after three rounds, only for an extension round to be ordered. When that was too close a SECOND extension round happened where Suzuki was finally able to score a TKO over Zouggari and it looked like Shoot Boxing’s hand-picked champion had won again.
It was almost like they weren't trying to hide the favoritism and that they really, really wanted Suzuki vs. Omigawa in a rematch of last year's finals.
Okay, so the S-cup is on this weekend, it starts on Sunday at 13:00 in Japan which is Saturday at 23:00 EST or 20:00 PST. Finally it's at a decent hour for us to watch, except to order it we have to decode NicoNico tv and most of us here in North America cannot read Japanese. The difference this time is that Kevin Ross in taking part who is American which will make more of us want to watch.
The easiest way to do this is use Google chrome and use the translate button (right beside the favourties star) to just translate the site one page at a time, But we have also decided to to a step by step for people that need a little help.
- Step 5 - A box will come up that says you dont have enough points once again click the red/pink button and it will take you to a terms and conditions page, Scroll down and click the Yellow Button at the bottom and you will be at this page.
This page is asking how many points you want to buy, the shootboxing event is either 1300 or 1500 so u will need to click on 2000, which costs 2000 Yen, which is 16.99 USD.
- Step 5 - once you have clicked the 2000 you will be at this page where it asks to click all sorts of payment methods that we don't know, just scroll down to the Visa one
- Step 6 - Fill in your credit card info here is a translated picture then click the yellow button.
One more screen will pop up confirming the 2000 points for 2000 Yen, just click the yellow button and transaction is complete. Now you have the points on your account u can go back to the first Link https://secure.live.nicovideo.jp/event/shootboxing and click red button to buy the ticket and it should go through nicely. If the you preorder the fights it costs 1300 Yen, if u wait its 1500 Yen.
There have been a number of smaller Muay Thai stories making the rounds lately that we haven't had a chance to mention, so for you fans of the science of eight limbs, here are some of the latest rumblings, all collected together.
-First up, a result from this past weekend direct from Thailand. One of the big events this year has been the ongoing Isuzu Thai Fight qualifying tournament at Omnoi Stadium. That tournament is nearing completion, as the first of the two semi-finals went down this past Saturday. In semi-final #1, it was Nopparet Keatkhamtorn vs. Dernchonlek Sor. Niyom. Check the full entry for the complete fight, and if you don't want the result spoiled, stop reading this paragraph now. The semi-final clash was a good, if slightly odd fight at times, with Nopparet seeming to show some irritation throughout. As the fight progressed, Dernchonlek looked to control the clinch for the win, but it wasn't enough as Nopparet took the decision win. He now moves onto the finals to face the winner of Khem Sitsongpeenong vs. Prakaisaeng Sit O on April 16.
-We previously reported on the May 14 Thai Fight Extreme card, and now we have some more details. Coming from France, this is the event featuring a stacked line-up including Buakaw, Yodsaenklai, Saiyok, and more. A tentative card has been released, and it looks like they are going with a Thailand vs. France theme. The current line-up:
Saiyok Pumpanmuang vs. Mohamed Diaby
Sudsakon Sor Klinmee vs. Abdallah Mabel
Yodsaenklai Fairtex vs. Jose Barradas
Buakaw Por Pramuk vs. Djime Coulibaly
Petasawin Seatransferry vs. Sofian Dergada
Yuya Yamato vs. Fabio Pinca
Hiroki Komata vs. Samir Mohamed
Hiroki Yamamoto vs. Ibrahim Chiahou
Not a huge challenge for either Yod or Buakaw, but both Sudsakorn vs. Mabel and Saiyok vs. Diaby should be good fights.
-Another upcoming fight for Buakaw could be his planned appearance in the US at the August 13 Stand Up Promotions event in Anaheim, CA. Seeing the K-1 MAX legend is reason enough to be excited for this card, but they've now added a huge fight that should draw you in. On August 13 it will be pound for pound Muay Thai king Saenchai Sinbi (that's the former Saenchai Sor Kingstar, now relocated to Sinbi gym) vs. American Muay Thai stand-out Kevin Ross. This is an amazing score for the promotion, as this will mark the first time an American challenges Saenchai here in the US. There's great stuff going on in the west coast Muay Thai scene these days, and this match just shows how alive that scene is. Also discussed for that card are Kaoklai and Saiyok.
-Speaking of Saenchai, just a reminder that he is in action this weekend, facing Liam Harrison on the 9th at Duel at the Dome in the UK.
-Finally, one more US fight rumor - on May 14 Lion Fight Promotions will host Battle in the Desert 2. Rumors now indicate that the show may feature former It's Showtime and King's Cup champion Cosmo Alexandre against Cyrus Washington. Once again, this would be a great chance to see a top international Muay Thai name here in the US.
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.
The ability to overcome adversity is what can make or break a fighter and take them from being just a fighter to a legend. In the case of American Muay Thai fighter Kevin Ross, the adversity has never been his skill, abilities or drive, but instead an ACL injury that he suffered last year. He spent months rehabbing it after surgery and everything was built up for his comeback fight this January at Lion Fight 8. We spoke with Kevin back then about his comeback trail as well as the details of what he goes through in his personal life, what actually makes Kevin Ross tick and we were all treated to seeing Kevin’s successful comeback against Chris Kwiatowski.
It was the first step of many for Ross after coming back from an injury that would have stopped most fighters in the prime of their career and this Friday, live on AXS TV, Ross looks to once again enter the ring and take on a very game opponent in the UK’s Bernie Mendietta. Part of his last fight was not knowing exactly what Chris would bring to the table, and in the case of Mendietta he expects the same.
“I think that I know less about him than I did Chris,” he joked. “I’ve just really seen clips at this point, where with Chris I had at least seen a full fight or two. I know that he’s a tough guy, though, I know that he likes to brawl, so I know what I’m in for.”
If you follow Muay Thai in America, you know the name Kevin Ross. Hell, if you follow Muay Thai in general, you know Kevin Ross. Ross is one of the few American fighters over the past few years to really move outside of his comfort zone and go to Thailand and fight some of the best in the world. He has long been considered one of the best Thai fighters to come out of the US by fans and is set to make his return to the ring this Saturday night at Lion Fight 8 live on AXS TV.
Kevin is coming off of a pretty bad ACL injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation that left him out of action for all of 2012, but that all ends this Saturday night as he squares off against Chris Kwiatkowski. LiverKick's Dave Walsh caught up with Kevin to discuss this fight, his rehabilitation and a whole lot more.
LK: So obviously it has been a while since you’ve fought, what have you missed the most when it comes to fighting?
KR: I mean, I’ve missed it all. Right after surgery I was in there on one leg punching the bag. I couldn’t stay away, man, I’d start getting depressed, like this is what I love to do, you know? Like the number one passion in my life and to be away from it for any period of time is just impossible. Especially the fighting. The fighting is like the peak of the sport, you know, with what I love to do it is the very top of that. To be away for as long as I have been, it’s been really hard. Even if it’s a month or two, I want to be in the ring. It’s been what, 15 months? It’s been rough.
LK: The ACL injury that you are recovering from could mean the end of a career for some fighters, but you seem to be healing up pretty well from it. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to heal up from the injury and the surgery?
KR: There’s a list! In the beginning one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was there was all of this scar tissue in my knee. We couldn’t get to the actual rehabilitation until they could get all of that broken up so I could bend my knee back all the way. The first few weeks were some of the most painful things I’ve had to go through in my life, I was like punching holes in the wall, man. Every time I went in there to rehab they had to break up the scar tissue and like smash my leg back down trying to get it to bed all of the way back. That was one of the hardest things. You know, not knowing if I was going to be able to make it back.
There were some days when I really was like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” I knew that I could walk right now, but didn’t know if I could make it back. As soon as I was able to start training again I would look at all of the videos of my training that I did for my old fights, and was like damn dude, I don’t know if I can do that again. While I’m happy to be healthy and all of that, at the same time you realize how hard the sport is. You forget all of the stuff that you have to do. The ups and downs and stuff, you get kind of mixed feelings about it, but they are all temporary things. This is what I love to do and that is what got me through.
Perhaps the thing that caught my eye the most about the early leaks for the inaugural Bellator Kickboxing card was some of the names included. Sure, Melvin Manhoef makes a lot of sense, considering he’s signed to Bellator for MMA already, but it was the names Denise Kielholtz, Raymond Daniels and Kevin Ross that really caught my eye. All three were stars in other promotions before; Kielholtz in Enfusion Live, Daniels in GLORY and Ross in Lion Fight. While Daniels departing GLORY came as a bit of a shock, Kevin Ross signing with Bellator Kickboxing was the real surprise.
Kevin Ross is perhaps the poster boy for muay thai in the United States, to the point where Ross himself is sort of a meme. Seriously, Ross is sort of a meme for this photo of him bowing, fists extended towards the camera with the words “muay thai” scrawled across his knuckles. Chances are that you’ve seen that photo before, even if you aren’t super into kickboxing or muay thai. Regardless, Ross made his name among hardcore fans as a tough-as-nails American nak muay who wasn’t afraid to fly over to Thailand and scrap with the best of them or to sign on to face top level Thais in his home of California. The list of Thai opponents stretches from Coke Chunhawat to Malaipet, Sagetdao and even, yes, one of the greatest of all time in Saenchai.
Win, lose or draw (Ross actually has zero draws to his credit) Ross is always looking to entertain. “I’m there to put on a show for the fans,” he explained to me. “I put everything into my fights, I’m never taking it easy or trying to just hold on, I’m always doing my best even if it means losing.” This is the Kevin Ross that endeared himself to a larger audience thanks to Lion Fight’s television deal with AXS TV that saw Ross as one of Lion Fight’s centerpieces for so long. Much like Ross explained, he entertained in each and every outing with Lion Fight, which is what made the fact that Lion Fight somehow let him go all the more insane. Who let’s a guy like that go?
Bellator’s Scott Coker made a deal that Ross simply couldn’t resist. “What’s important to me is staying active, being able to go anywhere and fight anyone if I have downtime. That’s what they offered me. Of course, Bellator is my home base and takes priority, but part of my deal is that I can take outside fights.” If you’ve never spoken to Kevin before he’s an incredibly nice guy, always easy to talk with. I joked with him about how he had multiple fight offers in China, only for those to fall apart due to his contractual obligations and exclusivity. “Yeah, exactly,” he said. “I can take outside fights now. If you are gonna keep me under lock and key at least keep me active. Fighting once or twice a year just isn’t enough.”
As I mentioned above, Ross is best known for muay thai. In fact, if you talk to Ross he’ll express his love and passion for the sport, but kickboxing has been on his agenda for a while now. Ross has had multiple false starts when it comes to kickboxing, from being booked with K-1 in China to GLORY announcing that they signed Ross only for Lion Fight to impose their will and keep Ross from fighting there. I’ve always seen Ross as sort of a ride-or-die guy for muay thai, but he brushed that off.
“Muay thai is my passion,” he explained, “but I’ve always loved kickboxing as well. I’ve always been a fan of it and it’s a really good fit for me. I can’t throw elbows or anything, but that’s okay.” His style actually adapts incredibly well to kickboxing. Ross has a fluid style that relies a bit heavier on range than your average muay thai fighter. Sure, kickboxing lacks the clinch or the elbows, but that also means we probably won’t have that many more Kevin Ross bloodbaths, which got a laugh out of him. “Yeah, I’m comfortable with kickboxing, for sure. You’ll see the same Kevin Ross that you always see, I’m gonna be fighting my heart out as always.”
And fight he will, because on April 16th he’s schedule against Matteo Taccini, whom we both admitted to not exactly know a ton about. “I know that he’s young, I know that he’s hungry and for me this isn’t anything different. I’m prepared to be myself and to fight like I always do, whatever he brings to the table I’ll be prepared for. It’s gonna be a fun fight.”
The future's looking bright for Ross, who admits that he’s been fighting for over 13 years now. The inevitable question was that now that he’s under contract to Bellator would he consider MMA, something that he had considered for a long time in the past, but was able to avoid. The answer was pretty simple. “If I was going to do it, I would have done it already, you know? For a long time I thought that I was going to, I was getting ready for it. Never say never, I guess? But probably not.” We had agreed that it makes a bigger statement for him to stay where he is, and according to Ross he’s already see the flow move towards kickboxing and muay thai thanks to the popularity of Glory and Lion Fight. “I’m already seeing fighters trying to make their way in kickboxing, choosing it over MMA, I think that you’ll see more of that in the future.”
When I brought up the topic of if MMA and kickboxing needed to be connected closely for kickboxing and muay thai to grow, or if it was detrimental he was optimistic in it finding its own audience as well as appealing to fight fans in general. “It’s a little of both, I think. I don’t think that being closely related to MMA will be a bad thing for it, or that anyone will look down on it. I think that people will realize that it’s different and that it’ll come into its own. I’m just happy that I get to be a part of it and to help move the sport forward still.”
The decision that Ross made to jump to Bellator Kickboxing is a huge one for the sport, with Ross being incredibly upbeat heading into his first fight for the organization and clearly holds Scott Coker and his past accomplishments within kickboxing and MMA in high regards. “I mean, it’s Scott Coker,” he said, “his track record speaks for itself. Nobody has more experience doing what he’s done and how he’s done it, I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out and I’m honored to be an important part of it. He’s got the right fighters, the right team and the right network in Spike TV in place to help to make this a success.”
Indeed, Scott Coker made his mark on kickboxing a great deal of years ago with his own events before he took the reins of K-1 USA and before Strikeforce transitioned to MMA and took the world by storm. On April 16th (airing on April 22nd on Spike TV) we’ll see the vision start to fall into place with Kevin Ross at the forefront against Matteo Taccini.
Lion Fight 10 goes down tonight, live on AXS TV at 10PM Eastern time. It is set to feature two huge title bouts as well as some big names featured throughout the rest of the card. Lion Fight always finds a way to deliver and tonight should be no different, so make sure to tune in for some live muay thai action tonight, which of course LiverKick will be covering live.
Here is some video from the weigh-ins to give you a taste for what is in store for tonight.