Honestly, this was never a post that I’d imagine writing, although I’ve known it was coming for a while now and have just been putting it off for as long as I could. As of right now I’ve decided to cease operations of LiverKick, at least for the time being.
The main goal of LiverKick was always to help the sport of kickboxing. MMA and boxing really never needed the help, at least not the kind of help that I could provide for them. They were already popular sports with many corners of the web to turn to for news, information and coverage in general. So the goal of LiverKick, or, under the name of K-1 Legend, then HeadKickLegend, was to give the sport of professional kickboxing the same kind of coverage that you’d find at the time for MMA.
That was in July of 2009. Today it’s October of 2018 and we’re a long ways from there.
The whole idea of a kickboxing blog began as an idea shared between Fraser Coffeen and I way back in 2008, before materializing in 2009. We had known each other through the usual means of message boards and both writing for the now-defunct Total-MMA. We both agreed that we were pretty burnt out on MMA and had been doing more and more K-1 content for Total-MMA. Jonathan Snowden, the co-founder of Total-MMA, had left for greener pastures and trusted the site to me, with me then venturing off at his urging to give kickboxing the site that Fraser and I thought that it deserved. So we did.
Our goal at the time was to make a site that was as helpful to kickboxing fans as sites like BloodyElbow and other MMA blogs were at the time. That and to sell it to SBNation once it picked up steam, because we weren’t crazy and know that the only way to maintain something like this is to make money at it. Truthfully, it wasn’t that difficult. The sport of kickboxing barely existed for American audiences at the time. In the United States K-1 events were airing on HDNet (now AXS TV), but they were only gaining traction with a small number of hardcore fans on message boards and Twitter. We loved kickboxing and knew that if people got the same sorts of daily updates, rumors and aggregated content that they’d love the sport, too.
We mostly covered K-1 shows, which made updating the site daily more focused on aggregating K-1’s content like their incredible videos, translations of their articles and scouring Japanese message boards and news sites for bits of information. Of course, there was more to kickboxing than just K-1 and that is what really pushed us forward. While our main focus was still K-1, we broadened our scope to promotions like It’s Showtime, FEA, Local Kombat and whatever other European leagues existed at the time. The idea was that we were already doing all of this work to find information for ourselves, might as well share it with everyone else. Then came rankings, first just heavyweight and 70kg, because, you know, K-1, then expanding out to other divisions before it became the behemoth that it is today.
We became the source for kickboxing news and information in a hurry, which on a .wordpress.com site felt a bit silly. The site began in July and in October was renamed to HeadKickLegend, hosted by SBNation and a part of their burgeoning blog empire. The money, to be frank, sucked. Fraser and I split a pittance between ourselves and worked super hard to build up HKL. HKL was quickly the source for kickboxing news, but there also wasn’t enough kickboxing to go around to meet the SBN quota for a blog, meaning that we were pushed into covering Japanese MMA and, well, just strange MMA in general. Alexandru Lungu fighting Bob Sapp? That was our wheelhouse in addition to fawning over Giorgio Petrosyan, talking about how Kyotaro wasn’t that interesting or how Badr Hari was the future of the sport.
HKL’s reign lasted a mere year before Zeus Tipado at MiddleEasy came to me with a better offer. Not just a better offer, but more freedom. SBNation owned everything that we did and ultimately called the shots on HKL. We literally had promoters coming to us asking to buy advertising space, but because of the corporate environment we were told to refer them to SBN’s ad team where they were pressured to buy ads across combats sports blogs on SBN, which was a massive ordeal compared to buying ads on one site. After a year we were promised a review and possible raise, only for that raise to not materialize. Not that we were doing poor work, but because there wasn’t a budget for it considering some of their other combat sports blogs were having a difficult time keeping up, eventually falling to the wayside while the larger sites ate up the combat sports budget, deservedly.
So the promise of joining the “MiddleEasy Network,” having ownership of the site and its content, the ability to sell our own ad space as well as money coming in from being a part of a “network” was a better deal. With great reluctance, we left and founded LiverKick. Things weren’t always the smoothest of rides, though. There were issues with money early on and we had to rebuild our traffic up from nothing once again. So when we launched in December of 2010, just in time for the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals, which would turn out to be the final time that tournament ever ran (don’t @ me about the K-1 Global stuff, alright?). We were there, though, we covered it.
Immediately it became clear that things weren’t going to be as pretty running LiverKick, but the potential was there. After a few months, Fraser made the tough decision to return to SBN and take an offer from BloodyElbow to return to the SBN fold, with one sent my way afterwards, only for me to decline after some back-and-forth. In december of 2010 I had also left my longtime job working in public relations and was ready to dedicate myself to LiverKick and writing. If this was the right call or not is questionable, but it’s eight years later and everything seems fine to me. Things did eventually even out, with ad sales becoming more-and-more common, the site’s traffic picked up and Rian Scalia came on board. Rian was young, enthusiastic and a sponge for the sport until, well, he wasn’t and left to cover boxing instead.
Somewhere along the line, after Rian left, I left a call for writers out in the open and was approached by Vincent Jauncey, the father of Josh Jauncey, who was, at the time, a young fighter that had the patronage of Andy Souwer. I had built a pretty good relationship with the WKX Vancouver folks after sharing and hyping up Josh a bit when he was younger, and Vincent suggested that Jay, his other son, would be perfect for it. Ever since then Jay as been an integral part of LiverKick, from tabulating rankings with me, to co-hosting the podcast that happens occasionally to live event coverage and everything else. Of course, Jay has his own career and family, with two kids of his own and now a burgeoning business as a professional trainer, working with top-level kickboxers and MMA fighters.
For a great deal of years now, my name has been attached to professional kickboxing. Competitors have come and went, came on strong then went idle for years, only to come back and do the whole thing all over. I’ve hired people only for them to fizzle out, sometimes instantly, I’ve gotten good at weeding out people that say they want to work but just want credentials to local shows or an “in” for interviews and making friends. Running one of the few sites to cover kickboxing (and muay thai at times, although never as extensively) can be both rewarding and lonely at the same time. One of the few constants was the frustrations.
For a while a group of Romanian fans were the bane of my existence: plaguing me at every step for their local fighters not being prominent on rankings, or events not receiving a level of coverage that they felt they deserved. Hell, a few people got into creating “burner” Facebook accounts and leaving threats for a while. The rankings were always a source of contention, with fighters, managers, trainers all venting their frustrations out and at times ignoring how the system works. I get it, there are other rankings systems, but we built them waaay back in 2009 as a “who-beats-who,” not “who-could-beat-who” system. I also don’t enjoy doing math, so I wasn’t about to concoct some algorithm or anything like that. I also had a strange dude that wrote for me for a while about muay thai, but accused me of hacking his email after an argument we had via email and he didn’t know why my email signature showed up in his message. I… Yeah, I don’t even know.
In a way, it’s incredible to look back at all of the things that have happened in the last nine years. I’ve watched promotions crumble, I’ve seen the sport realign itself, I’ve seen young fighters go on to become huge stars, I’ve seen Boyd from Phuket Top Team build his business every step of the way, from him sending me photos of the plot of land he was going to build on all the way to today where PTT is a force to be reckoned with. I saw Rico Verhoeven go from some awkward Dutch kid on a K-1 Hawaii show talking about his love for Dragon Ball Z to the undisputed king of the entire sport.
Hell, I’ve had my life threatened by gangsters across two continents.
But, at the end of the day, I just can’t keep doing it anymore. In July of 2016 my two sons were born, and it’s safe to say that a lot of things have changed since then. Since then I’ve been scaling back my work consistently, to the point now where LiverKick and a few, occasional freelance gigs from friends are about the extent of what I do, workwise, and, sadly, I really don’t have the time to give LiverKick like I used to. I’ve had a difficult time keeping the site running, from the viruses on the old server, to the hacks, to me having to migrate the site, losing the archives and whatever else. A lot has happened in the span of these two years and, truthfully, I can’t do LiverKick the way that it should be done anymore. Finding help is always an issue because, well, there isn’t a lot of money in kickboxing, nor if there much glory (no pun intended) in covering it. Finding people with the expertise and passion is difficult, to say the least, as most who are passionate find themselves wanting to build their own platform for themselves, not join another.
Still, it isn’t about that. The reality is that I can’t stay up until whenever I want anymore to watch shows from all over the globe. When I do have free time I tend to not want to spend the entirety of it watching kickboxing shows for the site to be able to properly cover it. The sport grows and contracts and right now, with the boom in China and Japan picking up again, it’s growing and it’s simply too much for me to keep up with. Without being able to watch as much, there’s less room for editorials and breakdowns, nor is it possible to flesh out posts with information like before. Instead posts have become dry and clinical, instead of informed and valuable. I could keep going this way, the site would still have an audience and there would still be sponsors, but over two years of basically phoning it in feels like enough for me.
Thank you, truly, to everyone for reading, commenting, talking via Facebook, Twitter and everything else. It’s been a really fun ride and I really wouldn’t have done it without your support and interest. To all of the folks in the business, I’m sorry, I know this is a disappointment, but you and I both knew it was coming for a while now. I’m not sure if this is farewell forever because it never is in combat sports, much like Peter Aerts has broken my heart repeatedly by always coming back, but for now, I wish you all the best and hope that the sport continues to flourish.
If you need to contact me for business purposes, feel free to reach out: dave (at) dvewlsh (dot) com. As always, I’m on twitter @dvewlsh, most likely not talking about kickboxing all of the time, usually just kids and Japanese pro wrestling. If you are interested in my other work, there’s always my personal website, dvewlsh.com.
Feel like sending some appreciation my way? I won’t fight it.