This weekend was huge for Kickboxing and I'm sure that there is no one in the world who could doubt that. We saw huge events from both the returning K-1 as well as Glory with a more focused direction. Both companies held their 70kg tournaments' opening round, consisting of sixteen fighters for a chance to enter the Final 8. We all know this tournament format very well, as for the past twenty years it has been burned into our subconsciouses by K-1. It is the gold standard for martial arts and for testing the best in the world.
For Glory, it was their first event held under the Glory Sports International banner that had the razor-sharp focus of becoming a new global kickboxing brand in the vein of what K-1 was for years. That isn't to say that their past events lacked a focus or were in some way failures, but this show was different. The event in March was originally slated to be a K-1 event, and there was a lot of planning going into that being the re-launch of the K-1 brand when it was announced. Then, the purchase of K-1 fell through and a lot of changes had to be made on the fly, and lots of fighters which were going to be available to them were no longer available. Instead, Glory put on the best possible show that they could under those circumstances.
The show from Saturday was the real launch of their own brand of Kickboxing, and did not feel at all like past efforts have. Past shows had a very different look and feel, while this show had the "big match" kind of atmosphere which was traditionally attributed to K-1 shows. There was a look and feel of professionalism, with each fight holding its own weight and feeling important in their own right. While the announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Stephen Quadros did leave something to be desired in Kickboxing knowledge, their professionalism still came through and added a lot to the presentation. The large video screens with unique footage and information for each fighter gave more of a "K-1 feel" to the show, and the overall quality of the production was worthy of those K-1 shows.
A big focus was on the "First 16" 70kg bouts that took place, and while there were a lot of newer names involved in the tournament, there was definitely a feel that the selection of fighters covered a world stage a lot better than the competition, which was almost entirely euro-centric and associated with It's Showtime. The fights were all evenly matched, which led to a lot of exciting bouts and helped the show flow very smoothly. I've read some complaints about having Fabio Pinca, arguably among the top fighters in the tournament, matched up immediately with Giorgio Petrosyan, but honestly, he provided a solid test for Giorgio, and you could argue the best test out of any of the other fighters.
The Glory World Series Final 8 looks as follows;
Shemsi Beqiri (Switzerland)
Tim Thomas (England)
Robin van Roosmalen (Netherlands)
David Kyria (Georgia)
Ky Hollenbeck (USA)
Sanny Dahlbeck (Sweden)
Albert Kraus (Netherlands)
Giorgio Petrosyan (Italy)
After what we saw in the First 16, there is a lot to look forward to when the field of eight clash to move on to the semi-finals, and then the finals. It is also interesting to note that for the first time in a long time, a fighter from the United States will be fighting on a world stage like this. The Kickboxing world could use a lot more events like this and we look forward to future Glory events, including the Heavyweight First 16, which will hopefully deliver like the 70kg class did.