Everyone is waiting with baited breath for the big announcement from GLORY that should be coming as soon as Monday now as to their new home on American television. A lot has been said about GLORY on Spike TV and while that relationship is best left in the dust, buried deep in our subconscious for the time being, there are still some important topics to talk about. We can all agree that GLORY on Spike TV was not positioned for success. Fingers can be pointed in many different directions, but at the end of the day GLORY can only control what they as an organization do.
Over the past few months I’ve spoken with everyone from fans to industry insiders and fighters to get an idea of what GLORY was missing that could have held them back. While I have a lot to say on this subject, as well as the attitudes that have held the sport back here in the United States, I do feel that while we are all riding this wave of anxiety and excitement towards the future that it would be a good time to evaluate what changes GLORY could make to their programming to make it more accessible.
Change That Intro
I know at the time GLORY needed something -- anything -- to serve as a show opener. Combat sports are known for their shitty intros, with the UFC’s awful gladiator intro coming to mind as well as their less-shitty (but still infinitely mediocre) intro featuring classic moments with rocks crumbling all around said scenes.
Feature your fighters. Hell, better yet, feature your current champions. GLORY has an impressive roster of six world champions right now and the intro video features guys in good shape all oiled up flexing and throwing strikes over floating geometry and clouds. One of the biggest complaints about GLORY on Spike was the limited television time for each show, but honestly, shouldn’t that mean to utilize every last second to promote your product? Not everyone turning in will know everything about GLORY or the sport of kickboxing, but highlighting your world champions with brief highlights and name placards for each makes those champions look as important as they are.
This is going to be one of those divisive things, because the hardcore internet fan is going to say, “I don’t care about that, I only care about the fights.” Sure, the fights are great and the main reason that everyone is tuning in to the show. The thing is, anticipation and build are just as important. You can tell a lot about a fighter by their choice of walkout music, their demeanor and who they choose to walk with them. Josh Jauncey at GLORY 22 running down to the ring to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” singing along was a tremendous image and something that we’ve missed out on with GLORY broadcasts on Spike.
I understand, I really do. Two hours on Spike TV isn’t a ton of time and there needed to be time for commercial breaks as well. That being said, after two years on Spike TV I’m not sure that there are many fighters that have been given enough time to show who they are to the fans. Any fighter on any given card will be able to knock their opponent out. That’s the name of the game, it’s also not under anyone’s control. You can put Zack Mwekassa and Saulo Cavalari together and in theory they should knock each other’s heads off, but reality can be an entirely different outcome than what the original intent was.
The crowd at GLORY 16 Denver was not an educated kickboxing crowd, they just liked fights so they were there. I had to turn around and tell the guy behind me who Errol Zimmerman was and why he was a big deal when he came down to the ring, but you know what? Errol Zimmerman sprinted down the ramp and leapt over the top rope, which received an audible “oooh” from the live crowd. He then went out there and put big Ben Edwards down and out. When he came out for his second fight of the night? They all damned well knew who Errol Zimmerman was. They expected his leap over the ropes and they expected his heavy hands.
Those two aspects of him melded together to build an impression of who Errol Zimmerman was. He was cocky, he was big, he was strong and he could back it all up with his fists in that ring.
When fans reminisce on the glory days of Japanese fighting you’ll always hear about the VTRs. Why shouldn’t you? These short, exciting hype videos did a lot to pull the audience into the fights. Every fight had one and thusly, every fight had a story. K-1 and DREAM in particular created narratives for each fight, cobbled together from personal-feeling interviews with each fighter where they’d either be vulnerable or arrogant, depending on the situation, while talking about the upcoming fight. No doubt done under supervision and coaching from the production teams, the fighters were able to build up the anticipation for their fight, even if on paper the fight was anywhere from fair.
These videos can make anyone into a sympathetic character. You want proof? Fire Harada from K-1.
Fire Harada did not belong in K-1 at the time. Fire Harada was not a great fighter, he was not the culmination of skill, desire and greatness. Oh no, he was all desire, wrapped up with self-deprecation and immense, addictive passion. They literally filmed him jogging on a beach and falling over multiple times. There was no way that Fire Harada actually fell over whilst jogging for a minute or two for a camera, but that moment is still on video and was brilliant marketing.
Fire Harada became a star for K-1 in FEG’s death throes, showing that they could take old, moldy oranges and make it into orange juice that they could still market to the world as top notch, premium orange juice.
GLORY has fresh oranges and will have a brand new juicer when they have their shiny, new TV network. Go make some orange juice, already, and market it for what it really is.
Give Us a Road Map
While I understand wanting to focus on the upcoming show exclusively, often times the next show isn’t marketed -- at all -- until the current show is live on the air. UFC has been doing this for a while now and while some might call it smart, I call it ludicrous. Near the end of my tenure in writing about MMA I found myself completely and utterly unable to remember when the next UFC show was or who was fighting on it. There was never any hype or anticipation because expectations were simply that there would be another UFC event the next Saturday and that it’d all take care of itself.
GLORY and kickboxing don’t have this sort of luxury. Right now we have a road map for the rest of the year and we did before GLORY 24 hit the air; GLORY 24 hosted a Heavyweight tournament and the winner fights Rico at GLORY 26. GLORY 25 hosts a Welterweight tournament and the winner fights Nieky Holzken at GLORY 26. Was that so difficult? I understand that signing fights in advance isn’t easy, that fighters get injured or something from their personal lives can get in the way, but how many contender’s tournament have we sat through now without there being immediate talk as to where this leads to? How can fans get excited for a fight if there is no timeframe down it? Talking “down the road” is fine, but how many fans are going to make a mental note to be excited for “down the road” and to periodically check in to see if a fight has been booked yet?
Only the hardest of the hardcore are going to do that. The rest will forget. But if you say, “Fighter X who wins tonight will fight Champion X on Show X” and you’ve just marketed that show. The fans can walk away from that show with something tangible in their minds; Fighter X fights Champion X at Show X.” That is a lot better than “Fighter X will probably fight Champion X at some point.”
Don’t Take a Vacation Without Assurances of a Future
Multiple times now, under a few different circumstances, GLORY has gone radio silent for extended periods of time. That has proven to be the best way to get message boards buzzing about how the promotion was dead. This has happened just about every year now without fail and while I understand after Last Man Standing there was some restructuring and heavy stuff going on, this simply can’t happen again.
The UFC doesn’t simply go radio silent without another show announced to the public, nor does any major sport. GLORY 26 is the last show that we know of and while I’ve heard talks of GLORY 27 taking place in February after taking January off, make sure that the people know. I get it, coordinating with television, fighters and venues can be difficult, but that is the promotion’s job, just like keeping fans informed. Your communications to the public shouldn’t have to be vague and assuring that the company is still in business, it should be about upcoming events or about the fighters.
People are understanding to a degree and are willing to overlook certain things as long as you are forthcoming with them. Don’t have a concrete date or venue locked down for GLORY 27 yet? Just tell people that it’s happening, give a timeframe. Will it be February, then say February. I understand wanting to have everything 100%, but 50% still keeps the public confidence up and keeps people from forgetting.
Chill with the Tournaments
This, for me, is the big one. This will also be a divisive thing among people in the industry as well as fans. Some people love the tournament format while others hate it. What I do know for certain is that most fighters hate fighting in tournaments and that without a clear road map they are essentially worthless. Xavier Vigney won a tournament a while back and who the hell knows what that meant. The talk at the time was that he would get a spot in the next contender’s tournament, but he wasn’t there. Was he injured? Was he just not included? Who knows.
Chad Sugden just beat Murthel Groenhart, why is Murthel in the Welterweight tournament but Chad isn’t? Nobody has really said anything about it, but I’ve heard that he might be injured.
Kickboxing has been linked with tournaments for over 20 years now thanks to K-1, but the thing is, K-1’s tournaments became a yearly fixture. K-1 became well known for this yearly tournament format and part of what made the whole thing work was -- not just that it was a tournament -- but that there was an entire year of build towards it.
K-1 for the first half of the year was largely nothing, which, in retrospect, could have really been tinkered with and given value, but by the time the late summer hit it was time for the K-1 Final 16. The Final 16 featured the top 16 fighters (at least in theory) vying for a spot in the K-1 World Grand Prix tournament that would take place later on in the year. The next day there would be a tournament draw and the Final 8 would be set for the end of the year. K-1 would then spend the next few months marketing that tournament. Everything was clear, set in stone.
Sure, there were regional feeder tournaments, a Final Elimination show where an 8-man tournament went down for a spot, but everything was planned out way in advance. Also, 8-man tournaments are where that sense of drama comes from. The 4-man tournament feels haphazard and cheap. There isn’t that feel that the winner just conquered the field of battle in a massive feat, instead it just feels ho-hum. I get it, athletic commissions don’t like letting guys fight forever, but one 8-man field a year with some build will always trump was feels like a random procession of 4-man tournaments.
That, or, you know, just don’t do them.
Two hours on Spike TV featured eight fighters on average; four tournament fighters and four fighters in either super fights or title fights. Without a one-night tournament per show another two fighters could be fit onto the card and no, there isn’t that same “natural drama” of a one-night tournament, but I’m really not sure that these 4-man tournaments have done much for the sport, made any stars or pushed anything forward. Instead it just reminds old fans that there used to be bigger tournaments and confuses newer fans.
Also, please, never, ever do that one-night, sixteen-man thing ever again. Please. I’m begging.
Kickboxing is Kickboxing
Kickboxing is its own sport, it’s unique, fun, interesting and features some truly tremendous athletes and personalities. Don’t try to be the UFC, don’t try to be Bellator, don’t even try to be K-1. GLORY needs to forge its own, unique identity, which is something that it hasn’t done yet. The early shows were a messy ode to European kickboxing with an attempt at Japanese-style production. Everything was weird, from Bas Boon’s shiny suits to the rapping ring announcer.
Since then GLORY has sort of found its identity, but it feels like they are once again searching for that identity in the face of trying to please American audiences. Just keep pumping out quality fights, keep the broadcast team of Mauro and Quadros, keep Tim Hughes and let the fighters sort out who belongs where.
You have the talented roster, use it. Things will happen.