There were a lot of doubts leading into this Saturday’s K-1 World Grand Prix in Los Angeles show, and a lot of them seemed valid at the time. The arena selected was not only in a bad part of town in Los Angeles, but it was huge, seating 17,000 fans, which it seemed like there was no way they could hope to fill it. The fighters that were selected to fight on the card were either old and past their primes or young and incredibly unknown, to the extent where one of the main card fighters was making his debut against a seasoned veteran. All of this was compounded by the fact that K-1 Global had yet to put on a show of their own, with the May show being essentially an all It’s Showtime production crew.
Would anyone be there? Would anyone watch this? Would anyone care? Would the fights suck?
These questions were not only asked by fans, but you’d have to believe that they were coming up in the minds of those involved with K-1 as well over the past few months. Those months have been difficult ones, to say the least. In June, after their first show, their partner in It’s Showtime up and sold their company, along with management contracts of fighters, to rival promotion GLORY. This seemed like a death blow to them, with It’s Showtime’s Simon Rutz making a public statement calling K-1 Global’s Mr. Kim a liar and a thief, claiming that payment was never made to the fighters and promoters. It was bringing back the ghosts of K-1 past, where the big issue that brought them down was late payment to fighters and partners. In this case, the payments were made, albeit not within a certain timeframe, and it seemed like a big misunderstanding that turned into a war of words.
Then, to top it off, the one big star they had left -- the biggest one in the sport -- in Badr Hari is currently in prison and won’t be out anytime soon. Going into last night, they were taking a lot of risks, but worked hard to promote the event and the fighters that they did have. On top of that, they made sure to carefully match up fighters to make for exciting fights. A partnership with Romania’s SuperKombat and a new television deal with Spike TV seemed to help invigorate things, and when it came time for showtime last night, it felt like things were really coming together. The press events saw a decent and enthusiastic turnout and as the event unfolded last night, more and more people began filing into the arena.
Sure, there were issues with the stream, and it should have never been a PPV, but things can’t be perfect. With a good, solid crowd watching, a night of exciting fights unfolded and there might have even been a few new stars who were born at this event, with Damian Earley, Gabriel Varga and Jarrell Miller. Looking ahead, I think this event was very important for restoring faith in the K-1 brand and those in charge of the promotion. The K-1 Final 16 will see some of the names we know and love, and while it won’t feature them all, as long as the show is done properly, I’m not sure that it will really matter.
Dave Walsh has been covering MMA and Kickboxing since 2007 before changing his focus solely to Kickboxing in 2009, launching what was the only English-language site dedicated to giving Kickboxing similar coverage to what MMA receives. He was the co-founder of HeadKickLegend and now LiverKick. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works as a writer of all trades.
His second novel, Terminus Cycle, launches on March 24th.