I’ve had a few people ask me about the upcoming fight we just announced for Mark “Fight Shark” Miller against Nikolaj Falin in Ultimate GLORY on May 28. Lots of people are excited about Miller’s comeback, while others have asked me why exactly this fight is a big deal for American kickboxing. The truth of the matter is, the fight is a very big deal for the sport of kickboxing and combat sports in general because this has never been done before.
As someone who has been writing about kickboxing for a while now, I can honestly say that there is a lot of disappointment that comes with the territory. In the United States the kickboxing scene got wiped out by scandal in the early 90’s and then the rise of the UFC. All of the big names grew old or started training MMA fighters and gave up the kickboxing dream in the United States. The best we get is Joe Rogan’s commentary in the UFC where he’ll mention a fighter having experience in K-1 or international kickboxing experience.
Whenever I’d talk candidly with someone about kickboxing in the US and how to help it grow, it was always written off as a lost cause. “There are no US stars,” they’d say. When I’d talk to some of the big name fight promoters in Europe about bringing over US guys or promoting in the US, “they aren’t on the same level, my guys would kill them.”
As you can imagine, you hear that enough and you really get the impression that the market is just too tough right now and no one believes in it. There are some Muay Thai fighters, like Kevin Ross, who have made a name internationally, but Muay Thai and kickboxing are very different beasts. So imagine a break like the GLORY World Series inviting their first American kickboxer to a card and how big of a deal that is.
Miller brings with him a rather unique story, as he made it almost to the top of the mountain in the world of kickboxing, in K-1, when things started to go wrong. He had a heart condition from birth that he was able to work through, and for having that condition he made it very far, until he realized the only way to move forward with his career was open heart surgery. Not only will Miller be the first American kickboxer to compete for GLORY in May, but he’ll be the first fighter to ever return from open heart surgery and get put right into the fire.
For a comeback fight, Falin is no slouch. It will actually be stiff competition and just shows the level of commitment that Miller has for fighting. He wasn’t looking for anything to be handed to him, just to be able to prove himself again. There were talks once of Miller being “the guy” for K-1 in the United States, but for multiple reasons that never panned out. Now is a chance for kickboxing in the US to have a modern name attached to it and he will have truly overcome incredible odds to get there.