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class="gkFeaturedItemTitle" LiverKick Exclusive Interview with Yokkao Extreme's Stefania Picelli

  • Category: Interviews
  • Published: Tuesday, 22 January 2013 01:19
  • Written by Dave Walsh

StefaniaIf you've been following Kickboxing and Muay Thai over the past few years you'll be no stranger to the name of Yokkao. Yokkao has become one of the premier brands worldwide when it comes to muay thai equipment and has been doing a lion's share to help spread the sport beyond the borders of Thailand in a big way. You may not be familiar with the name Stefania Picelli, but the truth is, at this point you won't have a choice but to know her name as she has worked hard to both push the Yokkao label as well as to promote the sport of muay thai internationally through the Yokkao Extreme brand, Muay Thai Combat and now through the Yokkao Angels project.

She's a very, very busy woman and we caught up with her to ask her a few questions as she prepares for Yokkao Extreme 2013.

LK: Muay Thai is still a sport that is still somewhat exotic outside of Thailand, what kind of challenges have you seen as a promoter and entrepreneur within the sport?

SP: It's hard to understand for people that don't know anything about combat sports. Muay Thai has the luxury to be an ancient art, so you can approach to these people in that way, explaining the meaning of practicing Muay Thai and involving as many people as possible.

This is my purpose as a promoter because if I'll be able to involve different kinds of people, in the future Muay Thai and all combat sports can grow.

As an entrepreneur: it's hard to find the right balance between promotion, business and love for Muay Thai, but I think to be on the right way.

LK: What sort of vision do you have for Muay Thai internationally in the future?

SP: What I would like to see is that a mother doesn't cover her son's eye during a fight, that children can approach Muay Thai with the right mindset and that the Muay Thai can be recognized as a valid alternative to soccer, tennis, volleyball or whatever.

I'm sure that all the people that are supporting me are helping me to reach this goal and I'm very grateful for this.

LK: You've seen a great deal of success with both the Yokkao brand and the Yokkao Extreme events, what are your plans for them in the future?

SP: As I like to think...future is the future and after Yokkao Extreme 2013 will be a great new year with new projects.

LK: Do you find it difficult being a woman in an industry full of men?

SP: It's difficult to work just with men: fighters are really nice and well-mannered and I feel like to be a sister for them, helping them with their problems but when is the time to pull out their claws, I'm not the one who pulls back ... not for nothing I grew up with a naughty brother!

LK: What sort of obstacles have you had to overcome as a female promoter, specifically?

SP: The biggest obstacles were that the people really weren't used to dealing with it when they usually just deal with men....but I'm a smart person and I think that the people who worked with me really appreciated what I've done.

LK: Does Yokkao Extreme have any further plans involving the United States?

SP: Yes as I went to New York to see how the Muay Thai was present in the country and I was really happy to see how many Muay Thai fans there are and the potential of working in your country.

LK: You've put in a ton of work to become a success, what were you doing before promoting events and running a label like Yokkao?

SP: I was modeling since 20. It was a period of my life during university but it allowed me to grow very quickly. I'm happy to had this experience because I'm using it also right now (Yokkao Angels)

LK: What do you see your role as in the sport of Muay Thai internationally?

SP: As a real promoter who support Muay Thai in the right way

LK: Who is your all-time favorite fighter?

SP: In the past Samart, now definetely Saenchai

LK: Who is your biggest inspiration?

SP: When I work hard and I don't have time except to work for Muay Thai promotion I think that I'm bringing something of my family in everything I do. I'm half Thai and I think that Muay Thai is in my DNA. I lived Muay Thai as a Thai person and this is what I like to transmitted to people.

Yokkao Extreme 2013 goes down on January 26th, for more information check out the official site, also follow Stefania and Yokkao on twitter.

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class="gkFeaturedItemTitle" LiverKick Talks With Saturday's SuperKombat Headliner, Sebastian Ciobanu

  • Category: Interviews
  • Published: Wednesday, 17 October 2012 13:39
  • Written by Rian Scalia

SuperKombat's final World Grand Prix Qualification event of the year takes place on Saturday in Arad, Romania. The main event, however, isn't a tournament fight, it's a super fight and it pits Romania's Sebastian Ciobanu against Bosnia's Dzevad Poturak in a battle of two K-1 veterans. We got the chance to talk with Ciobanu about the fight, SuperKombat fighters being in K-1, and even his vampire persona.

LK: Morosanu, Adegbuyi and Catinas are all in K-1. How do you feel about not being included?

Sebastian Ciobanu: In my opinion, every fighter has his chance for glory and I’m not upset because I was not selected this year for the K-1 Final 16. I had my chance in 2009 and I’m sure I will have it again next year.

LK: You are coming off two good wins in a row. If you beat Dzevad Poturak, do you think you deserve a spot in K-1?

Sebastian Ciobanu: In this moment I'm thinking only about the fight with Dzevad Poturak, an opponent with a lot of experience, but after a big battle with him I’m sure I will win and gain a spot in K-1 tournaments.

LK: In 2008 you defeated Poturak's brother, Dzenan. Will this experience help you at all with the fight against Dzevad?

Sebastian Ciobanu: When I fought with Dzenan, I was at the start of my career in the heavyweight division, but now I'm much stronger and determined and I'm sure I can win this fight.

LK: How do you see the fight with Dzevad Poturak going?

Sebastian Ciobanu: Yes, I beat his brother and I hope in this fight Poturak will underestimate me. Also, I will fight in my country, in front of my fans, so I will kick him like a vampire so he can feel real pain.

LK: Tell us about your training for your upcoming fight with Poturak.

Sebastian Ciobanu: In this fight will be a better Sebastian Ciobanu than in the last battle. I will have some surprises for Poturak. He will see!

LK: SuperKombat fighters are very popular in Romania. Now you're in the main event, how does it feel to be the main attraction?

Sebastian Ciobanu: The SuperKombat brand is very popular in Romania, but also in Europe thanks to president Eduard Irimia who created a great product. Yes, I'm in the main-event after a lot of sacrifices. I worked many years to get here.

LK: What is it like to train with Catalin Morosanu? He has gotten a lot better recently.

Sebastian Ciobanu: I have a special merit with Mihai Constantin, our coach, who created us as fighters. We became very good friends thanks to him. We spar together at the highest level. We hope also to attract many youngsters whoo can become good fighters in the future.

LK: Where did you get the "Son of Dracula" name from? You seem to embrace the vampire character.

Sebastian Ciobanu: I got this nickname from Radu Pietreanu, a TV star in Romania. He is a friend of mine and also a big fan of SuperKombat and K-1. In all battles I fight until blood and I was like a vampire because when I see blood on my body I'm stimulated to beat my opponent. So I became Son of Dracula from Moldavia!

SuperKombat's World Grand Prix Fourth Qualification event takes place this Saturday, October 20 in Arad, Romania. For full fight card information, click here.

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class="gkFeaturedItemTitle" LiverKick Talks with K-1's Randy Blake

  • Category: Interviews
  • Published: Thursday, 13 September 2012 19:32
  • Written by Dave Walsh

Randy Blake

Randy Blake is a name that if you follow Kickboxing in the United States, you’ve heard it before. You’ve heard him talked about as an up-and-comer, a real talent and a guy who is going to make an impact on the world. He fought in the WCL when he was just 21 years old, and for the past few years has been making his impact on the Oklahoma scene, but hasn’t left home much. That all changed this past weekend when K-1 brought Randy Blake into the fold, pairing him up against K-1 USA veteran Dewey Cooper.

LiverKick caught up with Randy Blake this afternoon and spoke with him about his big win over Dewey Cooper at the K-1 World Grand Prix in Los Angeles, his future with K-1, his outlook for Kickboxing and much more.

“I felt pretty good after that win,” Blake stated. “Felt like I had a whole lot of pride on the line this weekend, like there was a big question mark on my head; are you ready for it? Are you big enough? Can you really do this? I stepped up to the plate on Saturday.”

Without a doubt, Blake stepped up to the plate. He has had a good, storied young career, making the unique decision to fight Kickboxing as opposed to MMA when a lot of fighters his age would simply choose to move over to MMA where there is more money and opportunities, but the return of K-1 and them scouting him has changed everything.

“Yeah, K-1 calling me up and putting on a show this big justified my decision to Kickbox,” Blake said, before reflecting on some decisions he was on the verge of making about his career. “I was getting to the point where I was gonna have to eventually jump to MMA. We had been talking about making that jump for a while now, but now that K-1 is back, I don’t have to. I feel blessed that K-1 is here.”

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class="gkFeaturedItemTitle" LiverKick Talks With Glory's Gokhan Saki

  • Category: Interviews
  • Published: Friday, 12 October 2012 10:05
  • Written by Birol Topuz and Umut Isik

SakiGokhan Saki put on an impressive performance this weekend against Mourad Bouzidi, his first fight since moving from training with Team Golden Glory under the watchful eye of Cor Hemmers to Mike's Gym under Mike Passenier. This new team switch can be tough for some fighters, but for Saki, it seemed like business-as-usual. Our European correspondents Umut Ismik and Birol Topuz caught up with Saki after his fight to ask him a few questions, and if you know Saki, you know he tells it how it is.

LK: How has training at Mike's Gym been different than training with Golden Glory?

GS: After 10 years of working with Cor it was time for a change and when Cor told me that he accepted a function in the staff of Glory it became clear to me. I needed to think for myself for once in my life so I went to Mike. Everybody said that I was crazy but I believed in myself and in Mike of course. It was hard in the beginning but Mike did his best to make me feel at home so I made an extra effort to fit in and it worked so far. There is no way in hell to compare these two(Mike and Cor), you have to experience it to know.

LK: Is there anything different that fans should expect to see in Gokhan Saki's style since the gym change?

GS: After my first fight everybody including Cor was very excited so there must be something right. I will always fight like the old Saki because that style is what brought me my enormous fanbase. I'll never change that and Mike doesn't want to change that either. I am just evolving. I will take my style to the next level and maybe some levels more. Ha ha ha. So sit back, relax and enjoy. 

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class="gkFeaturedItemTitle" Eduard Irimia's Special Report From K-1 In Los Angeles

  • Category: Interviews
  • Published: Wednesday, 12 September 2012 10:56
  • Written by Rian Scalia

K-1's US Grand Prix in Los Angeles went down on last Saturday, September 8 in Los Angeles at the LA Sports Arena. One guest who was present was Eduard Irimia, the owner and promoter of SuperKombat. SuperKombat recently entered a partnership with K-1 and Irimia was on hand to see for himself what the new K-1 had to offer.

Here at LiverKick, we were lucky enough to get an exclusive report from Eduard Irimia on his evaluation of the event and the new K-1 as an organization. Here's what he had to say:

Eduard Irimia: "We decided to come a few days early to Los Angeles to see the logistics that K-1 has. I was not particularly interested in fights, but I was curious about the the technique that K-1 Global has. Knowing how I can do in Europe with SuperKombat, it was important for me to know whether Asia and America are good in regards to logistics for the future, especially for TV and for the public interest of this event.

Basically, the K-1 Global event in Los Angeles was an exam. Even if it seems impossible to get a big attendance with a fight card without big names, it was shown that with proper promotion and marketing, K-1 managed to get 7000 people in the arena.

Frankly, I was surprised to see how many good things they managed to do at K-1 Global fight card with a fight card like this. They took newcomers selected at the tryouts by the beach, without having any fights ever before in kickboxing. For Jarrel Miller I can say that I see a great future, but I noticed Blake, Vigney, and James Wilson, who is like Catalin Morosanu, and they can progress more in the coming years.

K-1 Los Angeles was the perfect time to re-introduce America to this sport, and I can say it was a success. A lot of people expected this to be like a World Grand Prix show from Japan, but the idea was for a pre-selection event in an attempt to discover new heroes and also to excite the interest of Americans. The result was a good one. In Los Angeles, television and newspapers have commented more on this event, even though, again, it was without big names.

As for the impact, I think it was the best K-1 event ever organized in the United States, but not in terms of sports, but in terms of organization. The only negative point that I could mention is the fact that they announced the four winners of the heavyweight fights will go to Tokyo for the Final 16, but have done a match of two veterans face to face instead of a veteran against a rival of the newer wave.

Although there will be some who will criticize the event, I think it was made a good step to the recovery of K-1 in the U.S. market, especially the entertainment aspect as a spectacular athlete like Miller can perform very well. In addition, this was an event preparation for the grand final which will take place on December 26 in New York.

As a novelty, the discussions that we had with Mike Kim, owner of K-1 Global, include an announcement soon with a large television network in China. This after they signed a partnership with Spike, so progress is evident. We will promote the finals in New York and SuperKombat events on 20 October, 10 November and 8 December because we believe in the recovery of K-1.

In the end, beyond the ideas listed at K-1 in Los Angeles, I have to mention that between SuperKombat and K-1 there is a cooperation agreement, and it is not financial. Thus, SuperKombat GP champions will arrive at the K-1 Final 16 and K-1 heroes will fight in SuperKombat to stay in shape before the big event at the end of the year. It’s a reciprocity for this sport to return to its glory years."

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