I've been kind of lamenting upon this for a while now and what it comes down to today is that tonight something huge is happening for the sport of Kickboxing. Kickboxing has had a strange journey in the United States, with the sport, in various forms, appearing to the public over the years. You could argue that the fall of the PKA all of those years ago was the last chance that anyone would give Kickboxing here in the United States, but you'd be wrong. It sure looked that way for a long time, but tonight is just proof that the sport has a strange way of enduring.
It is impossible to imagine being here today without having K-1 as the flag-bearer for the sport for so many years. K-1 had two chances at appearing on Spike TV and two management teams were able to ensure that it never happened. For K-1 right now they are going through a rebuilding process and it looks like America is a distant memory, riddled with failures and missed opportunities. But tonight we get to see GLORY make its debut on Spike TV. Spike TV is without a doubt the biggest platform that Kickboxing has ever had within the United States and I'm just unsure of how to process this right now.
In what is just a matter of about four hours or so, GLORY 11 will be airing live on Spike TV, presenting a card that any self-respecting Kickboxing fan will be dying to see. A part of me sees this and gets nervous because, well, how will an American audience handle a mostly-European card filled with fighters that they will probably know nothing about. First impressions are everything, they say, how much of a first impression will this leave? As we've seen with the UFC, the nationality of the fighters doesn't really matter that much to fans in the end, but most UFC fighters are at least known by the fan base. The main event of Tyrone Spong vs. Nathan Corbett is a rematch from 2009, a fight I remember posting about with great anticipation while most people seemed to not know or care who either fighter was. Can that be a main event that is interesting to people who have no clue about COC II from Jamaica?
For right now the answer is that we'll have to wait and see. No matter what, elite level Kickboxing is going to be available on Spike TV for people to try out and hopefully enjoy, which is a huge step in the right direction. I saw my first K-1 event because my Kenpo instructor heard a bunch of us talking about the UFC, only for him to get frustrated that we were so enamored with what was still a very rudimentary form of fighting at the time, so he came in next time with the early K-1 events on tape. After I saw Peter Aerts blow through a field that was the 1994 K-1 World Grand Prix I knew that I needed to see more, which led to me having my mom drive me into the city, into the weird store that sold Japanese stuff and to have them order me K-1 tapes. It was ridiculous expensive, even for back then, to order tapes from overseas, but I did it. Things got easier when the internet was more accessible and there were tape trading communities around, but it was still a less-than-elegant solution.
The last few years have seen the rise of the internet stream (both legal and illegal), which has been an effective way to get Kickboxing events out to a broader audience, but that audience is generally hardcore fans and not casual or mildly-curious fans. HDNet took a gamble on K-1 in 2008, which helped to show fans what some of the best Kickboxers in the world are like, but HDNet (now AXS TV) has always been a limited network and does not report ratings, so it is nearly impossible to know how many people have seen Kickboxing on the network.
Just what kind of ratings will GLORY 11 pull in on Spike TV? What kind of ratings are a success and which are considered bad? These things I'm not sure of. Honestly, this show could have no one watching or it could have a million people watching. It's for this reason that I woke up with my stomach in knots and why that won't go away until the show is over. This is a really, really big deal for Kickboxing. How big? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.