With all the hubub about GLORY's R2G shows and the upcoming events in London, Istanbul, and Milan, Superkombat has been flying quietly under the radar.
One of the two major kickboxing organizations in the world today, Superkombat is currently home to the likes of Catalin Morosanu, Raul Catinas, the Stoica brothers, Sergei Laschenko and more. The President of Superkombat, Eduard Irimia, made waves in the kickboxing world earlier this year when he announced his plan for global expansion, which involved the opening of Superkombat branches across the world, collaborations with regional fighters, managers, and gyms, and a partnership with K-1 and WAKO.
You might already know that this year Superkombat has begun holding tryouts in a variety of countries, including Greece, Germany, and the U.K, in an effort to groom a "new generation" of kickboxing. We caught up with Eduard to discuss his plans for Superkombat's future in 2013 and beyond.
Read more for the full interview
Liverkick: The Superkombat tryouts in Athens, Dortmund, and London took place earlier this month. Could you talk a little about your thought process behind having them now?
Eduard Irimia: When I first created Local Kombat in 2003, we had tryouts on a national scale. It was at these tryouts we discovered no-name fighters that would go on to compete in our early shows. In a very short amount of time, we were getting huge ratings on Pro TV and the fighters that started without names became very well known on the pilot editions of Superkombat. We're using that same premise now, except on a global scale. I don't believe in cards featuring only famous veterans at the end of their careers. For the long term platform we need to groom new faces from a variety of different countries. This is especially important because our product is now being broadcasted in 4 continents, and the fans in those countries want to see themselves represented in the ring.
Liverkick: What do you think of the talent you've seen so far?
Eduard Irimia: It's been very interesting to see how the new faces looked against some of our more experienced fighters. For example, the heavyweight we selected from Germany sparred with Toktasnyov and Liedert, who have both participated in past Superkombat events. This was a good gauge of his skill, and I believe he has a chance to do well in SK with proper preparation.
We've found a lot of good fighters at middle-weight and some skilled heavyweights. As long as we're able to locate talent, we'd like to begin promoting more weight divisions.
Liverkick: When will we get to see some of the recruits in the ring?
Eduard Irimia: The idea for this year is that the new fighters we've selected will compete in elimination events called SUPERKOMBAT HEROES. After this they'll be paired to face veterans so that we'll be able to see who has the potential to be a SK star in the future.
Liverkick: You've still got 7 tryouts scheduled to take place before May. How many more fighters are you looking to add to the Superkombatroster?
Eduard Irimia: We're still preparing tryouts at other locations, but we'd like to add approximately 64 new fighters. Like I said earlier, these 64 fighters will face each at our HEROES events to determine who has the potential to compete in our World Grand Prix.
Liverkick: I noticed there were women participating in the Athens tryouts. Is female kickboxing going to become a mainstay of Superkombat?
Eduard Irimia: In some of the countries we've been to, the local media reacted very well to seeing women at the tryouts. Because of the good feedback, we do plan to include female kickboxers in some way.
Liverkick: 2013 looks like it's shaping up to be a big year. Could you give us any details about the events you've planned so far?
Eduard Irimia: Besides the tryouts, we'll have six HEROES events that will be broadcasted around the world from regional TV and tape delayed on Eurosport. We'll also be hosting our premium events under the WGP which will include 4 elimination events, 1 final elimination, and the big final at the end of the year, which will be shown live on Eurosport international and Eurosport Asia Pacific. We'll also be working with television stations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Besides that we will improve live streaming via smart phones, and put out a free smart phone app for all Superkombat fans around the world.
Liverkick: You've said before that one of your goals is to create a new generation of stars. Could you talk about how you're going to attract fans using so many new faces?
Eduard Irimia: This is my speciality- creating heroes and making them famous. To do that we'll be using the media to create mainstream exposure. Not just sports media, either. Catalin Morosanu is the winner of Romania's Dancing with the Stars and some advertising agencies are using his image in national branding campaigns. This is the type of thing I mean. We are trying to attract not only fight fans but the general public as well, which could increase our rating by 10 or 100 times if we are successful. We want to make our stars accessible to the average person.
This will be a difficult task, but it's my main goal. We already succeeded in Romania where our product is now as big as football. If we are able to replicate this feat in a minimum of five other countries, I think it would be a huge success.
Liverkick: With all these developments it's pretty clear things are really starting to pick up speed, not just for SK but for the sport as a whole. Where do you see your organization in 2014?
Eduard Irimia: Well, 2014 is really going to show the reality of how far the kickboxing market can reach, who can survive and who can't in this business. I can personally say that some of the big projects started by others for next year might never come into being.
Superkombat has a decent budget and we pay out reasonable, but not huge, fight purses. In the short term, I believe we are the most stable organization around right now. I started Local Kombat in 2003, and changed the brand name to Superkombat in 2010. We've had ten years of steady growth and development, unlike some other companies who have quit and are trying to come back, or are re-inventing themselves with a huge budget that's impossible to cover in today's fight market.
Last year we began working on agreements with some different organizations, but we realized it was better for us to be independent. We can guarantee high quality work rather than risk being associated with the failure of others.
This year we will be supporting all organizations if they need our help. We will not be part of any sort of war or controversial dispute. I'd like to think that our fighters will be available for all the big promotions on the market, but will still compete for their original home: Superkombat.
Liverkick: Thank you Eduard. As always, it's a pleasure.