When it rains it pours, and right now it will pour for FEG. Amid reports of FEG's financial woes and possible bankruptcy and morbid fate, Bob Sapp decided to speak out about FEG after the Dynamite!! 2010 disaster where his fight with Wakakirin never happened. Tanikawa told fans and the press that Bob Sapp attempted to renegotiate before the fight and that his "fighting spirit" was low. Seeing as though Bob Sapp made himself a millionaire in Japan, he couldn't let that sit. He spoke with MMAJunkie and some of what he said was known, some was rather shocking, like FEG not even having its own office anymore. Sapp was contracted to fight for $30,000.
Instead, he claims FEG executive Sadaharu Tanikawa offered him $15,000 shortly after he arrived in the country the week prior to the event. He refused and made a counter-offer of $25,000, a sum which he claims is half of what the promotion owed him for previous services.
Sapp claims he has a contract with FEG that verifies the rate of pay he was expected to receive for the Dec. 31 fight, as well as other fights, though he said the promotion has yet to honor the terms of that deal. During the promotion's heyday in the mid-2000s, he said he was routinely paid between $350,000 and $400,000 to fight.
Sapp went on to explain that K-1 and DREAM are "extremely broke" and that he has no expectations for them. Could this be the last we see of Bob Sapp in K-1 or DREAM? [source]
This weekend was huge for Kickboxing. Firstly, It's Showtime promoted It's Showtime 57&58, featuring some very important fights and putting on an incredibly entertaining card. That wasn't it, though, was it? On top of that, Glory Sports International announced -- from that show -- that they had purchased It's Showtime and will absorb It's Showtime's staff and fighters into the Glory team, shaking the Kickboxing world up like never before. Rian Scalia (@rianscalia) and myself (@dvewlsh / @liverkickdotcom) talk you through what was a historic weekend for Kickboxing.
We are very pleased to announce that on May 26th LiverKick.com will be partnering with Glory Sports International to bring you the live stream of the big Glory event in Stockholm, Sweden. On May 26th Glory will kickoff their World Series of Kickboxing tournaments with the First 16 for the 70kg division while also hosting a slew of super fights, including Gokhan Saki vs. Carter Williams and Semmy Schilt vs. Errol Zimmerman.
As mentioned, we will be partnering with Glory to host the PPV right here on LiverKick, so you do not need to leave your favorite source for Kickboxing news and coverage on fight day. The event costs $15 and will begin at 12:30pm Eastern time/9:30am Pacific time/18:30 GMT +2. Go ahead and bookmark this page, as this will be where you go to order the event on fight day. All you have to do is click the "play" arrow on the video and then click the "Buy Access to this Event" button and it should be pretty straightforward from there. If you just want to watch the event, make sure to click "Single Video Access" when you're in the process of buying it.
To many fans, Zack Mwekassa's brutal knockout on Pat Barry was a surprise, including the thousands in attendance on Saturday night. Mwekassa had made a name for himself for the fans who were watching, but he also proved a point; Kickboxing is a very different sport than MMA. Pat Barry voluntarily left the UFC after two brutal knockout losses to lesser opponents, Shawn Jordan and Soa Paleli. The big story, though, was that Pat Barry had chosen to fight for GLORY over fighting for the UFC.
You 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.
There aren't many kickboxers in the world that are as decorated as Andy Souwer is. Andy Souwer is a three time Shootboxing champion and a two time K-1 World MAX Champion, which in the world of Middleweight kickboxing is tremendous. Souwer is one of the few dominant fighters of the division, with his name forever etched in stone alongside the likes of Buakaw Por. Pramuk, Masato and most recently Giorgio Petrosyan. LiverKick caught up with Andy Souwer to discuss his relationship with K-1, what his future plans are in kickboxing and if he has his sights set on the world of MMA at all.
A big thanks to Team Souwer's manager Eddy Coutinho for setting up the interview as well as helping with the translations.
LiverKick.com: Have you ever had issues being paid by K-1?
Andy Souwer: K1 has paid everything they owed me. There are rumours about K1 not paying me, but that is not true. There was some delay in payment, but it happened.
LK: Were you surprised not to be invited to the MAX GP this year and how do you feel about K-1's future?
AS: I was very surprised not to be invited by K1. I won it twice and fought 4 finals. Very strange.
LK: What are your thoughts on his recent Pajonsuk fight?
AS: The fight was not exciting for the spectators. I was not totally recovered from my back injury and I had the feeling Panjunsuk did not really want to fight.
LK: How do you feel about facing Aussie Ouzgni?
AS: Aussie is the darkhorse in this fight, but he is very, very dangerous. He is very tall and has good knees and kicks. Aussie is not my favourite opponent, but to be the best you have to beat every opponent.
LK: How has your putting on mass in the past 3-4 years affected the way you train and prepare for fights? In particular, is it a large weight cut?
AS: Normally I walk around at 75 kg., so I only have to drop 5 kilo's. I am used to losing weight without losing strength, so it is no problem for me. I have a good team who helps me with training and advice.
After the break Souwer discusses his roots and future...
We just passed the halfway point of March, which means that the return of Badr Hari is just under two months away. He is preparing vigorously for the challenge of French Muay Thai fighter Tony Gregory (yes, this is correct, it is how It's Showtime, K-1 and his website list him). It isn't that anyone is giving Gregory a lot of a chance as much as we all have high hopes for Badr Hari's first fight in a year.
Mike's Gym on Facebook just posted an album of photos of the Bad Boy himself training with newer Mike's Gym recruit, Sergei Laschenko. [source]
We are all-but-done writing about FEG's financial woes. At this point what needs to be said has been said, and there is a lot of information on this topic that will never be released to the public. Until FEG makes their move, it is a dead horse that I'm sick of beating. So I've seen some articles and questions floating around that pertain to the future of DREAM and K-1, which of course revolves around television and ownership.
What many people tend to forget is way back to the death of PRIDE, the one-off event known as "Yarennoka" and the formation of DREAM. DREAM is not simple a FEG production. There is a company called "Real Entertainment" that was formed by what was left of DSE, and all of those great video packages on those DREAM events, Lenne Hardt screaming out fighters' names and even lots of the fighters themselves participating in DREAM? Thank Real Entertainment. DREAM is a co-production between RE and FEG, which is why you'll never see DREAM on Fuji TV.
So now, to fully understand how this impacts FEG, I'll hand this over to Mike Hackler of MMA-Japan.com, who did some digging and found out exactly what Real Entertainment's services mean to FEG.
FEG is in debt to Real Entertainment around $7 million USD. Real Entertainment's involvement is a large reason why there are problems getting a TV deal done, due to the fact they still have management from DSE. FUJI has no interest in a television deal, solely for this reason. Real Entertainment is also responsible for paying the fighters (as to what extent, I do not know). Many fighters contracts are with Real Entertainment and not FEG.
FEG is stuck. Ishii owns the rights and the brand names with FEG. This makes reorganizing the company extremely difficult, if not impossible. That said, it has been confirmed that PUJI has backed out of this altogether. As any private equity does, FEG is reluctant to allow for managerial changes to take place. This creates a brick wall for outside investors to get involved.
This beautifully articulates how FEG is stuck in a tough position, and some of the power struggles that are going on during this downtime for K-1 and DREAM. Many people I've spoken to have talked about (off the record, as always) Tanikawa wanting to form a new company and leave Ishii out of the business entirely, but as long as Ishii owns the name "K-1" it will be impossible to break away from his influence. [source]
When Steven Seagal first was shown with Anderson Silva at UFC 117, we all kind of chuckled and said, "hey that is pretty cool." When he walked out with Anderson at UFC 126, it was kind of funny again, but at this point it began to appear odd. Steven Seagal is an Akido instructor and former martial arts action star who now has his own dubious television series about him being a "lawman."
I grew up on Martial Arts and action films, as I feel like most men my age did. Guys like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were the reason to get involved in martial arts; to be as bad ass as they were. Of course, years pass, and as they do, the stark reality set upon me that JCVD had serious substance problems and that Steven Seagal was a terrible fraud. Both men fell off the radar a bit, but Seagal's career seemed to hold strong (still sparse, but it didn't fall off completely) while Van Damme's seemed to all-but disappear. Seagal had long been the butt of the joke when it comes to Hollywood circles, but still got work due to his popularity and how ridiculous of a persona he carried around with him.
Enter the modern day, where JCVD is re-building his career his way and even looks to re-enter the world of fighting, while Steven Seagal is on a reality television series and apparently trying to weasel his way into the fighting world as well. This past weekend, Anderson Silva defeated Vitor Belfort with a front high kick, a staple in just about every form of martial art that involves kicking. So, much to my surprise, Anderson Silva claimed that Steven Seagal taught him the kick. It was funny, worth a chuckle. Then, much to my disdain, this interview with Ariel Helwani came out.
Seagal claims to have taught Anderson Silva one of the most basic kicking techniques, a first week kick in Tae Kwan Do, which incidentally, was Anderson Silva's first martial art that he took when he was fourteen. Now, as anyone who has studied striking will note, there are minute differences between techniques in different forms of martial arts, but generally speaking, one form of kick does not differ too greatly from another. This is a very basic technique that Anderson Silva used almost out of context in a MMA fight, and caught everyone by surprise. For Steven Seagal to claim there is some sort of mystical "death" technique, or that he knew some secret to making the kick work better is, well, par for the course with his history.
In that interview, he discusses with Helwani how MMA is both good and bad for traditional martial arts; first it makes the public more aware, and second, it shows behind the curtain into a "secret world" that you weren't meant to see. I think my eyes nearly rolled back in my head. If anything, Mixed Martial Arts has shown the general public that there is a man behind the curtain, that there is no Oz. There are men like Seagal everywhere, who have conned people into believing that with intense, personal training from masters such as himself, you can learn some crazy secret that will help you transcend reality.
The gall he had to claim he taught Anderson Silva a technique that your average six year old can do (of course not with the force or application) was pure Seagal grandstanding. Seagal showed cracks in his story when Helwani asked him how he met Anderson Silva, he was caught on the spot and said that he didn't remember, then you could almost see the gears turning in his head as Helwani is preparing another question and he corrects himself and claims that Anderson Silva sent him a "memo" that he wanted to learn Steven's secret death techniques.
Anderson Silva and his training partners are not fools, nor are they children, if you believe for one second that this happened, you probably need to review some of the history of Steven Seagal. Seagal has lied about nearly everything in the book, from his place of birth, to adultery, to how many wives he has had, to education, work history, the list goes on and on. There have been an endless stream of interviews, op-eds and exposes on him since he became popular, with Spy Magazine discussing how his "CIA background" is a complete sham, and how he actually had mafia ties and attempted to hire hit men to take care of members of the media who "wronged him." If you search Google for "Steven Seagal Fraud" you get endless results. Check this out for some documented history.
Just because certain people claim to have more knowledge does not mean that they are correct. Understand that basic kinetics dictates that every technique in martial arts is done a certain way, and has been over years, because it is effective. If there was a way to enhance that technique, it would be canonical. Steven Seagal is an aging, overweight actor and stunt man who has nothing real to teach to accomplished martial artists. My question for you is are you buying or selling, and my question for Seagal and Anderson's camp is how much is Seagal paying you? Seriously, he has to be paying them something, right? Because if I were an accomplished martial artist and world champion, I know the last thing I'd need is an over-the-hill actor to tell me how I should fight, especially when said actor has no history fighting himself, unless I was doing so as a big joke or he was paying me to be his friend.
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.
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.