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Tiffany Van Soest and Lion Fight's Crumbling Walls of Perception

If you were to observe Lion Fight Promotions from the outside, it would look like a healthy promotion that’s on the up-and-up. Lion Fight airs on AXS TV, has aired some tremendous fights over that span of time including some of the biggest names in American muay thai as well as big, international names. Over the last few months they’ve picked up even more steam when UFC and comedy personality Joe Rogan started to get excited about Lion Fight and talking about it on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Suddenly Lion Fight went from this thing that hardcore fight fans maybe kinda sorta knew about to the mecca of “high level striking” in the United States. That’s the kind of pull and influence someone like Rogan has. While I can’t fault him for his own tastes and opinions, nor the pull that he has with a good portion of social media fight fans, the hyperbole has been palpable since then, leaving Lion Fight in the position of untouchable darling of the fight scene.

Cracks started to form on the veneer of Lion Fight in January, though, when word broke that the United States Muay Thai Association, the organization that had provided oversight for a total of three Lion Fight events, declared itself “done” with Lion Fight. The claim? Lack of payment as well as cooperation from the promotion. Lion Fight was quick to declare that the switch to IKF for Lion Fight 27 was decided in advance, but the story sort of tapered off into the ether as stories like this tend to do for promotions that aren’t huge and in the national spotlight.

Word was after the event that there were some outstanding payment issues that were bound to surface, only it took nearly two months for anything to bubble up and pour into the public eye. In a now-redacted tweet and corresponding Instagram post from newly-crowned champion Tiffany Van Soest, she claimed to still be owed money for her Lion Fight 27 performance, which the company hadn’t made good on. So she was auctioning off her Lion Fight championship for $500 to pay some bills -- or so was the implication -- and people seemed shocked. The USMTA/IKF bait-and-switch was quick and happened without much visibility, but non-payment for one of their world champions? That was something that would catch some eyes. And it did.

Along with the recent, quiet departure of longtime posterboy for the promotion in Kevin Ross, things might seem a bit off within the realm of Lion Fight. Joe Schilling has gone on record publicly talking down the home of some of his most notable fights before he signed with GLORY and Bellator, going as far as to dub the promotion “Lion Fart” and within some of the more hardcore muay thai circles there are a lot of “I told you so’s” floating around. Needless to say, while the promotion might be picking up steam and exposure, with that exposure has come an increased focus on every aspect of the promotion. There has been talk of a “uniform deal” that sounds a lot like UFC and Reebok’s much-maligned deal, but there have only been whispers of complaints thus far.

Van Soest’s decision to come forward and call out the promotion was a power play, if anything. A fan-backed GoFundMe was launched almost immediately and far surpassed the goal of $500, with many within the community quick to rally behind her to help cover any costs she needed help with an wanted her to keep the belt. Van Soest is a popular fighter who by all reports seems to be done with Lion Fight and should be heading off to greener pastures in the near future, so there shouldn’t be any doubts as to if she’ll be fighting again any time soon thanks to how marketable she is. If she needed to borrow some money she clearly could have, although that isn’t the point. The point here is that the only way that she saw that money was by going public and taking scrapes at Lion Fight’s public perception, which at this point is one of their most treasured assets.

It worked.

This afternoon they were quick to offer up an official statement claiming that there was an issue when the check was deposited, but that they have wired her the money this afternoon to clear up any sort of outstanding payment. But, the issue here feels more complicated than that. Lion Fight owed Van Soest money and the only way for Van Soest and her team to see that money was to make a statement on social media. The IKF, who sanctioned the event after USMTA dropped off, even has rules in place that are meant to avoid situations like this:

Promoter is required to pay to the IKF Representative or Associate directly after the event weigh-ins and before the Official event Rules meeting in CASH or CERTIFIED Checks ALL PRO Fighter Purses made out to each PRO Fighter.

The Official IKF Event representative shall hold all fight purses and distribute them to all pro fighters AFTER the event.

Lion Fight is, for many young fighters and fans, something to aspire to, the place where muay thai fighters in the United States can strive to fight and earn their fame in. Legends and heroes like Kevin Ross, Tiffany Van Soest, Joe Schilling, John Wayne Parr, Cris Cyborg Santos, Malaipet, Cosmo Alexandre, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus and many more have fought within Lion Fight’s ring and while there have been more options for those inclined towards kickboxing, the same can’t be said for muay thai. Lion Fight is pretty much the only game in town on a quasi-national level when it comes to clinching, elbows and knees, utilizing the full thai rules and this is a major blow to that perception that they are the best stand up striking organization in America.

For now they still are, the only problem is that not all fighters have the same sort of voice or platforms available to them like Van Soest does. For the good of the sport here's to hoping that stuff like this doesn't pop up again any time soon, or if it does that it's taken care of behind closed doors, not in the public view.

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Card for Kunlun Fight 39, Featuring Buakaw

Kunlun Fight returns yet again this weekend with one of the kickboxing world's most familiar faces in Buakaw Banchamek at Kunlun Fight 39. This card, like most Kunlun cards, promises a lot of quality kickboxing and some spectacle thrown in as well for good measure. Their Clash of Titans tournament continues with some solid bouts across two blocks, with Artem Pashporin against Victor Nagbe in the C-block looking like one of the bigger fights of the evening. 

Albert Kraus is in action against Liu Mingzhi in a bout where the young Mingzhi will have a chance against a true legend of the sport, but Kraus has shown himself to be durable, even if he's been active for quite some time now and is showing some signs of aging. The big bout, of course, is Buakaw Banchamek against Kong Linfeng. This bout will, most likely, see Banchamek walk away victorious, but as we've seen prior, Kunlun isn't exactly pulling punches when it comes to Buakaw and simply handing him fights that he can breeze through anymore.

Kunlun Fight 39 will air on Jiangsu TV as usual.

95 kg: Yang Yu (16-4) vs. Nikolay Gusniev (17-2-1)

67 kg: Kim Minsoo (23-2) vs. Deng Li (23-8)

64 kg: Wei Ninghui (28-10) vs. Giorgi Khupenia (39-3)

72 kg: Albert Kraus (78-19-3) vs. Liu Mingzhi (14-4)

70 kg: Buakaw Banchamek (264-42-12) vs. Kong Lingfeng (13-3)

Clash of Titans Group D Semifinal: Mustafa Lakhsem vs. Seyedisa Alamdrnezam (31-9)

Clash of Titans Group D Semifinal: Zhao Shuai (13-3) vs Takuma Konishi

Clash of Titans Group C Semifinal: Bruno Miranda (28-6) vs Li Zhuangzhuang (13-3)

Clash of Titans Group C Semifinal: Artem Pashporin (18-6) vs Victor Nagbe (28-7-2)

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Bellator Completes Inaugural Kickboxing Card with Opponents for Daniels, Ross and Kielholtz

Bellator Kickboxing's debut is in just under a month now, being headlined by Melvin Manhoef taking on Alexandru Negrea in a middleweight bout that should have a lot of fireworks. The other announced bout is with hot European prospect Mustapha Haida taking on Karim Ghajji in what should be an exciting battle between two top fighters. Also on the card is Raymond Daniels, Denise Kielholtz and Kevin Ross, but until now their opponents have not been finalized.

We've learned from Bellator that their three opponents have been finalized and that these are official. America's favorite son in muay thai, Kevin Ross, will be making his Bellator Kickboxing debut against the young Italian fighter, Taccini Matteo. Dutch champion Denise Kielholtz will be fighting a veteran Italian striker with a whole slew of amateur and professional accolades in Veronica Vernocchi while the explosive, always exciting Raymond Daniels will be fighting someone with experience in amateur kickboxing, MMA and boxing in Morrica Francesca.

Complete “Bellator Kickboxing: Torino” Fight Card:

Bellator Kickboxing Middleweight Main Event: Melvin Manhoef (37-12) vs. Alexandru Negrea (8-2)

Bellator Kickboxing 165-Pound Feature Bout: Mustapha Haida (37-3-3) vs. Karim Ghajji (95-12)

Bellator Kickboxing Welterweight Feature Bout: Raymond Daniels (10-3) vs. Francesco Moricca (15-2-1)

Bellator Kickboxing Flyweight Feature Bout: Denise Kielholtz (43-2) vs. Veronica Vernocchi (31-6-1)

Bellator Kickboxing Bantamweight Feature Bout: Kevin Ross (30-9) vs. Matteo Taccini (24-3-1)

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GLORY Announces Jahfarr Wilnis, Anderson Silva and Ismael Londt for GLORY 29 Heavyweight Tournament

Kickboxing fans can rejoice because while Rico Verhoeven might seem like an unstoppable force, there will be opposition for him and it will be chosen from a pool of some of the very top heavyweights in the world today. Today GLORY announces that the GLORY 29 Heavyweight Contender tournament will feature Enfusion and Kunlun Heavyweight Champion Jahfarr Wilnis, top contender Anderson "Braddock" Silva and the newly-signed Ismael Londt. The fourth name has yet to be announced.

This heavyweight tournament is in addition to the previously announced headline bout between Yoanna Kongolo challenging for Nieky Holzken's Welterweight Championship and a lightweight showdown between Niclas Larsen and Mohammed El Mir.

GLORY 29 Copenhagen takes place on Saturday, April 16th live from Copenhagen, Denmark and will be airing live on ESPN3 in the United States.

GLORY 29 Copenhagen

Welterweight Title Headline Bout: Nieky Holzken (c) vs. Yoann Kongolo

Lightweight Co-Headline Bout: Niclas Larsen vs. Mohammed El-Mir

Heavyweight Contender Tournament Participants: Ismael Londt, Anderson Silva, Jahfarr Wilnis

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