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Tiffany Van Soest and Lion Fight's Crumbling Walls of Perception

  • Published in Muay Thai

If you were to observe Lion Fight Promotions from the outside, it would look like a healthy promotion that’s on the up-and-up. Lion Fight airs on AXS TV, has aired some tremendous fights over that span of time including some of the biggest names in American muay thai as well as big, international names. Over the last few months they’ve picked up even more steam when UFC and comedy personality Joe Rogan started to get excited about Lion Fight and talking about it on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Suddenly Lion Fight went from this thing that hardcore fight fans maybe kinda sorta knew about to the mecca of “high level striking” in the United States. That’s the kind of pull and influence someone like Rogan has. While I can’t fault him for his own tastes and opinions, nor the pull that he has with a good portion of social media fight fans, the hyperbole has been palpable since then, leaving Lion Fight in the position of untouchable darling of the fight scene.

Cracks started to form on the veneer of Lion Fight in January, though, when word broke that the United States Muay Thai Association, the organization that had provided oversight for a total of three Lion Fight events, declared itself “done” with Lion Fight. The claim? Lack of payment as well as cooperation from the promotion. Lion Fight was quick to declare that the switch to IKF for Lion Fight 27 was decided in advance, but the story sort of tapered off into the ether as stories like this tend to do for promotions that aren’t huge and in the national spotlight.

Word was after the event that there were some outstanding payment issues that were bound to surface, only it took nearly two months for anything to bubble up and pour into the public eye. In a now-redacted tweet and corresponding Instagram post from newly-crowned champion Tiffany Van Soest, she claimed to still be owed money for her Lion Fight 27 performance, which the company hadn’t made good on. So she was auctioning off her Lion Fight championship for $500 to pay some bills -- or so was the implication -- and people seemed shocked. The USMTA/IKF bait-and-switch was quick and happened without much visibility, but non-payment for one of their world champions? That was something that would catch some eyes. And it did.

Along with the recent, quiet departure of longtime posterboy for the promotion in Kevin Ross, things might seem a bit off within the realm of Lion Fight. Joe Schilling has gone on record publicly talking down the home of some of his most notable fights before he signed with GLORY and Bellator, going as far as to dub the promotion “Lion Fart” and within some of the more hardcore muay thai circles there are a lot of “I told you so’s” floating around. Needless to say, while the promotion might be picking up steam and exposure, with that exposure has come an increased focus on every aspect of the promotion. There has been talk of a “uniform deal” that sounds a lot like UFC and Reebok’s much-maligned deal, but there have only been whispers of complaints thus far.

Van Soest’s decision to come forward and call out the promotion was a power play, if anything. A fan-backed GoFundMe was launched almost immediately and far surpassed the goal of $500, with many within the community quick to rally behind her to help cover any costs she needed help with an wanted her to keep the belt. Van Soest is a popular fighter who by all reports seems to be done with Lion Fight and should be heading off to greener pastures in the near future, so there shouldn’t be any doubts as to if she’ll be fighting again any time soon thanks to how marketable she is. If she needed to borrow some money she clearly could have, although that isn’t the point. The point here is that the only way that she saw that money was by going public and taking scrapes at Lion Fight’s public perception, which at this point is one of their most treasured assets.

It worked.

This afternoon they were quick to offer up an official statement claiming that there was an issue when the check was deposited, but that they have wired her the money this afternoon to clear up any sort of outstanding payment. But, the issue here feels more complicated than that. Lion Fight owed Van Soest money and the only way for Van Soest and her team to see that money was to make a statement on social media. The IKF, who sanctioned the event after USMTA dropped off, even has rules in place that are meant to avoid situations like this:

Promoter is required to pay to the IKF Representative or Associate directly after the event weigh-ins and before the Official event Rules meeting in CASH or CERTIFIED Checks ALL PRO Fighter Purses made out to each PRO Fighter.

The Official IKF Event representative shall hold all fight purses and distribute them to all pro fighters AFTER the event.

Lion Fight is, for many young fighters and fans, something to aspire to, the place where muay thai fighters in the United States can strive to fight and earn their fame in. Legends and heroes like Kevin Ross, Tiffany Van Soest, Joe Schilling, John Wayne Parr, Cris Cyborg Santos, Malaipet, Cosmo Alexandre, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus and many more have fought within Lion Fight’s ring and while there have been more options for those inclined towards kickboxing, the same can’t be said for muay thai. Lion Fight is pretty much the only game in town on a quasi-national level when it comes to clinching, elbows and knees, utilizing the full thai rules and this is a major blow to that perception that they are the best stand up striking organization in America.

For now they still are, the only problem is that not all fighters have the same sort of voice or platforms available to them like Van Soest does. For the good of the sport here's to hoping that stuff like this doesn't pop up again any time soon, or if it does that it's taken care of behind closed doors, not in the public view.

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An argument for why now is the best time ever to be a kickboxing fan

  • Published in Kickboxing

As usual, I began my weekly prep of the Warman Kickfighting podcast show by writing out my notes. I watched the Thai stadium muay thai fights for critical breakdown. Then I rewatched fights from the Glory 28 participants before this weekends event. As I watched them, I realize that I had just done this for a Glory card two weeks ago. Then it hit me that there seems to be multiple major cards every week. From Enfusion having their most successful card, to Lion Fight having another stoppage filled event, every weekend has been full of fights. In the next two months we have Yokkao, Bellator's kickboxing league, Holland's World Fighting League, and another Glory card. I have been a kickboxing fan for a long time. I cannot remember a better time to be a kickboxing fan, and yet we may be held back from enjoying it by our oldest fan base.

BLESSED AND CURSED BY OUR HISTORY

In the 90s, when K-1 emerged muay thai and kickboxing didn't just have several events. They dominated the martial arts sporting combat culture. UFC at that time was considered street fighting. The term mixed martial artist was not in use. A skilled martial artist tested themselves in kickboxing or muay thai. They had the K-1 World Grand Prix, which put the value of state and country driven world titles and put the athletes to the test in a tournament field of the best. Names like Aerts, Hoost, Bernardo, Hug, and Lebanner emerge as consistent victors and major international stars. But just as important as the star, the major K-1 tournament produced a holy place. Everyone wanted to one day fight in Japan, where there was borderline idol worship of elite combatants. 

Along with this came the advancement of technology. Computers went from novelty to mandatory in homes across the world. With this brought the emergence of fight forums, where people from all around the world would weigh in on the events of their region, stars to look out for, and of course, long breakdowns of the major K-1 fight cards. European based Super League got some attention, but clearly, the leagues of note were K-1’s Heavyweight and 70kg Max divisions. 

Flash Forward to 2011. K-1, due to multiple reasons, ran into financial trouble. They began to do less and less shows and eventually had to cancel their World Cup. They had no K-1 WGP that year. Interests down, the emergence of mixed martial arts and the UFC as the new leader in the culture of combat sports, and many proclaimed the end of kickboxing. 

THE TURN

Then, the Glory group attempted to buy K-1. They decided against it after seeing the mess of contracts and debt they would be absorbing. But, rich people play the game of business best, and they were able to purchase Simon Rutz's It’s Showtime management team. Rutz had almost every major European K-1 star under his roster and they were pulled from K-1 and began fighting in Glory on a regular basis. 

K-1 was also hit with a fantastic turn for the best. The K-1 Global Holdings Ltd. attempted to recreate the old flame of K-1s greatness. A failed attempt of an event in USA and a K-1 World Grand Prix that did not have the best fighters in the world ruined the brand more than helped it. The group that took over at the end of the K-1 Global run decided to focus on smaller weights and remain in the Asian Market of which they had great history. 

In the last two years both companies have overcome rocky starts and have begun to have consistent success. Glory had the early mistake. A failed PPV event and the longest fight card ever on NYE did not push the brand. However, they signed major US television deals with Spike and now ESPN, something K-1 never accomplished. Just as important as being seen is creating stars. Nieky Holzken and Rico Verhoeven are Glory brand created stars. Sure a young Holzken fought in K-1 and lost to superstar Buakaw. That drained down version wasn't his best showing, though. Holzken, now fighting at 77kgs, is considered the must see guy in the sport. His combinations, body shots, knockout power, and fight flow are amazing. Verhoeven went from journeyman heavyweight with no punching pop, to the unchallenged best in the world and the KO power to match his awesome technique. 

Improved K-1 too had some failure. A K-1 Max GP that ended in scandal as one of the fighters(Two time champ Buakaw) said that he was warned of foul play in the judges and refused to fight the extra round of a K-1 MAX FINAL MATCH. Since then they have focused on weight classes that have elite Japanese athletes. K-1 had their most success with Masato, a young, exciting fighter who the girls loved and had the skill to beat the elite. As many of Japan's elite combat sport athletes are shorter, focusing on weight classes like 65kgs, 60kgs, and now 55kgs has produced several athletes from Japan that create Japanese television interests. Masaaki Noiri, brothers Koya and Hirotaka Urabe, Japanese adopted Kimura "Phillip" Minoru and 55kg stud Takeru are their homegrown stars. K-1 puts on five solid shows a year and though they don't have the production value of events past, the crowd and ring action are excellent every card. 

With the success of these two super powers, we have solid paychecks from China. Kunlun is hard to follow because it has a lot of fights, but not a lot of narrative. However they have put together some fantastic 4 man tournaments and super fights on their cards. Kunlun is also not exclusive, meaning that K-1 and Glory athletes are able to pick up a fight here and there and grab good paydays, as long as it doesn't conflict with their major promotions events. 

As for women, this is also the best time to be in the sport. When I first fell in love with kickboxing and Muay Thai it was a three woman list at most. Names like Rijker, De Randamie, Kitchen, Rivera-Parr, and Elmont were amazing competitors, but got very little recognition. Thanks to Enfusion, Kunlun and now Bellator's kickboxing league. There aren't just good paydays out there. There are great exposure opportunities as well. Iman Barlow was the first woman pushed by Enfusion and after a reality show victory, they began pushing Anissa Meksen as well. Denise Keilholtz is an Enfusion champion who will now be fighting for Bellator's kickboxing company as well. Lion Fight was birthed on champions like American Tiffany van Soest. We are truly in a different age. Despite this, older fans are still missing the above improvements and continuing to think kickboxing remains in a down period.

CHANGING MINDS

The struggle with noticing the improvement is the old guard of kickboxing fans that misunderstood success in the kickboxing prime of 1994-2003. They judge today's athletes with old expectations. They recognize kickboxing as K-1, the way people recognize MMA as UFC. With no heavyweights winning tournaments in Japan once a year, they assume the sport is down.

They also struggled to grasp the movement of technology. I think a major reason why older fans feel the sport is dead is because it lived on fight forums. As "Lord Gaul" I was a 1000+ post man on several sites. We would talk about every punch in every fight for months before and after. With that being absent, people see the sport as dead. 

What those fans have missed in these two examples is that K-1 was only good for the heavyweights and Max weight guys. Dimitri Shukuta and Joeri Mes were the elite 77kg fighters of their era. But they had no home. The moment Super League went away they were forced to look for single fights. Mes at the end of his career was able to lean down and take a few K-1 fights. But for the majority of those in-between the weight classes, this was a loss. Guys like Kamel Jamel, Anuwat, Liam Harrison were too small, and guys like Clifton Brown and Nathan Corbett were stuck in the middle. Imagine if they had a middleweight K-1 belt to battle for. Tyrone Spong moving up the weight classes would have gotten even more attention if he won the K-1 belt at every single weight on his way up to heavyweight. We are in a special time when the most prominent company has a home for the majority of the world's weight classes.

The technology evolved for the best. YouTube was pretty new when I got into kickboxing and it was actually looked down upon in kickboxing communities. People wanted links to download for their hard drives. Sendspace and Megaupload where the acceptable modes of sharing and those that didn't share were called "leechers." We are 10plus years past that now. YouTube is the heavyweight champ in the video world. Not only can you find most videos there, but the major promotions upload content for you to watch, as advertising money can be made with viewership. So of course the number of visitors to the fight forums would go down once access to the videos got easier. Twitter is another addition. We use to post and then press reload to see other peoples post. It is far easier posting on the ever scrolling wall of twitter. You can now watch a stream of the event on your computer and tweet on your phone...or vice versa. 

Now I am not saying this changes cover everything we had in the prime years. I personally dreamed of the Japanese crowd when I pursued a kickboxing career. The K-1 tournament was indeed a special event exclusive to kickboxing, with its awesome white belt and massive trophy prize. Also all the cultural challenged aren't gone. Now stand up fighters see kickboxing and Muay Thai as something they do in preparation for MMA careers. However I can't help but be excited for the next generation of kickboxers. Enfusion and Glory do ten plus shows a year. K-1 and Yokkao do five plus, and Kunlun does fifteen plus. There are more opportunities to fight in front of large audiences, have access to more television and online stream exposure, make better paydays, and they can pursue kickboxing combat sports careers with more opportunities to compete than ever before. 

 

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Kevin Ross Talks About Lion Fight 9 With LiverKick

  • Published in Interviews

Kevin Ross (C) Galen OkazakiThe ability to overcome adversity is what can make or break a fighter and take them from being just a fighter to a legend. In the case of American Muay Thai fighter Kevin Ross, the adversity has never been his skill, abilities or drive, but instead an ACL injury that he suffered last year. He spent months rehabbing it after surgery and everything was built up for his comeback fight this January at Lion Fight 8. We spoke with Kevin back then about his comeback trail as well as the details of what he goes through in his personal life, what actually makes Kevin Ross tick and we were all treated to seeing Kevin’s successful comeback against Chris Kwiatowski.

It was the first step of many for Ross after coming back from an injury that would have stopped most fighters in the prime of their career and this Friday, live on AXS TV, Ross looks to once again enter the ring and take on a very game opponent in the UK’s Bernie Mendietta. Part of his last fight was not knowing exactly what Chris would bring to the table, and in the case of Mendietta he expects the same.

“I think that I know less about him than I did Chris,” he joked. “I’ve just really seen clips at this point, where with Chris I had at least seen a full fight or two. I know that he’s a tough guy, though, I know that he likes to brawl, so I know what I’m in for.”

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Jorina Baars Dethrones Cris Cyborg at Lion Fight 4

  • Published in Americas

Cyborg

My god, this fight was just insanity. Cris Cyborg came into this fight as the favorite due to her MMA career, but Kickboxing fans knows who Jorina Baars is and knew that she'd cause some serious problems for Cyborg. Referee Tony Weeks had a hard time following the action and missed at least two knockdowns that should have been scored for Baars, one in round one, another in round four.

Baars

That being said, Baars dropped Cyborg in round one with a huge head kick after a push kick should have been considered a down. Jorina Baars put on the fight of her life, though. The spinning back kick that put Cyborg down in round five secured the fight for Baars in a fight that we were all fearing hearing the scorecards. Incredible fight and, c'mon, let's be honest here, this just makes Cris Cyborg vs. Ronda Rousey hype seem like a distant memory now.

Baars

GIFs are from ZProphet.

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Bud Light Presents Lion Fight 22 Scheduled for May 22nd

  • Published in Muay Thai

Lion Fight 21 may be next Friday, featuring Kevin Ross vs. Tetsuya Yamato in a rematch, but that doesn't mean that we can't plan for the future. They've announced that Bud Light Presents Lion Fight 22 will be going down on May 22. The event will happen at Sunset Station Casino in Las Vegas on Friday, May 22nd. The main event is going to be a big one in Khem Sitsongpeenong vs. Jo Nattuwat for the World Super Welterweight Champinoship.

Also featured will be Tiffany Van Soest vs. Bernise Alldis in the co-main event. Jason Andrada and Anthony Castrejon are set to square off in a 122lbs bought, Gaston Bolanos and Damien Early will clash in a Welterweight bout and Tom Morales faces Brian Del Rosario in another Welterweight bout.

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A Conversation with Lion Fight 8's Kevin Ross on the Comeback Trail

  • Published in Interviews

Ross (C) Can't Stop Crazy / Galen Okazaki

If you follow Muay Thai in America, you know the name Kevin Ross. Hell, if you follow Muay Thai in general, you know Kevin Ross. Ross is one of the few American fighters over the past few years to really move outside of his comfort zone and go to Thailand and fight some of the best in the world. He has long been considered one of the best Thai fighters to come out of the US by fans and is set to make his return to the ring this Saturday night at Lion Fight 8 live on AXS TV.

Kevin is coming off of a pretty bad ACL injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation that left him out of action for all of 2012, but that all ends this Saturday night as he squares off against Chris Kwiatkowski. LiverKick's Dave Walsh caught up with Kevin to discuss this fight, his rehabilitation and a whole lot more.

LK: So obviously it has been a while since you’ve fought, what have you missed the most when it comes to fighting?

KR: I mean, I’ve missed it all. Right after surgery I was in there on one leg punching the bag. I couldn’t stay away, man, I’d start getting depressed, like this is what I love to do, you know? Like the number one passion in my life and to be away from it for any period of time is just impossible. Especially the fighting. The fighting is like the peak of the sport, you know, with what I love to do it is the very top of that. To be away for as long as I have been, it’s been really hard. Even if it’s a month or two, I want to be in the ring. It’s been what, 15 months? It’s been rough.

LK: The ACL injury that you are recovering from could mean the end of a career for some fighters, but you seem to be healing up pretty well from it. What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to heal up from the injury and the surgery?

KR: There’s a list! In the beginning one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was there was all of this scar tissue in my knee. We couldn’t get to the actual rehabilitation until they could get all of that broken up so I could bend my knee back all the way. The first few weeks were some of the most painful things I’ve had to go through in my life, I was like punching holes in the wall, man. Every time I went in there to rehab they had to break up the scar tissue and like smash my leg back down trying to get it to bed all of the way back. That was one of the hardest things. You know, not knowing if I was going to be able to make it back.

There were some days when I really was like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” I knew that I could walk right now, but didn’t know if I could make it back. As soon as I was able to start training again I would look at all of the videos of my training that I did for my old fights, and was like damn dude, I don’t know if I can do that again. While I’m happy to be healthy and all of that, at the same time you realize how hard the sport is. You forget all of the stuff that you have to do. The ups and downs and stuff, you get kind of mixed feelings about it, but they are all temporary things. This is what I love to do and that is what got me through.

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Cris 'Cyborg' Justino vs. Martina Jindrova Added to Lion Fight 11 Card

  • Published in Muay Thai

Lion Fight

Lion Fight 11 on September 20th has already been shaping up to be a pretty incredible card, featuring Kevin Ross vs. Tetsuya Yamato and Nampon vs. Cosmo Alexandre, but now a third big fight has been added by the way of former Strikeforce champion and current Invicta FC champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino (formerly Santos). Cyborg is perhaps best known for her run in Strikeforce which included wins over Marloes Coenen as well as Gina Carano. She is just coming off of a win over Coenen at Invicta FC and it was announced today that she will return to Muay Thai under the Lion Fight banner on September 20th against Martina Jindrova of Holland.

Jindrova fights out of Brutal Gym in Holland with a record of 17-5 and looks forward to making her Lion Fight debut against a star like Cris Cyborg.

“I know Cyborg is a huge MMA star and this is a big challenge for me to fight an opponent like her,” said Jindrova. “She is very strong with hard punches, kicks and knees. But this is not an MMA, this is Muay Thai and she will be fighting me against my rules. I’m very proud to be on this historic Lion Fight 11 card and am ready to make a great knockout win for the fans.”

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Lion Fight 11 on September 20th in Las Vegas

  • Published in Muay Thai

Lion fight

After this weekend's Lion Fight 10 event in Las Vegas Lion Fight is not going to make us wait that long for the next big Lion Fight event, as the next one is coming up quite soon, September 20th to be exact. Lion Fight 11 is set to go down on the 20th and will be at the Fremont Experience in Las Vegas, which is a big, open mall that happens to have an area for performances, the Third Street Stage. Tickets to the event will be handled by the neighboring hotel, The D.

As for the fights that are lined up, there isn't much official yet, but what has been announced is pretty exciting. The main event is to feature former Rajadamnern Stadium Welterweight Champion Nampon PK Muay Thai against a yet-to-be-named opponent, but getting Nampon aboard is pretty cool for Lion Fight. The co-main is a pretty big deal as Tetsuya Yamato will once again fight in the United States against American standout Kevin Ross. Ross is coming off of a loss to Matt Embree at Lion Fight 10, which will make the showdown between Yamato and Ross all the more interesting.

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Lion Fight 18 Results and Highlights

  • Published in Americas

Lion Fight 18 went down tonight in a night featuring Yodsanklai dominating yet again to secure his Lion Fight Middleweight Championship and move on to defend it another day. We apologize for the lack of live results but I recently switched cable providers and lo-and-behold, no AXS TV. Bummer. Anyway, here are the quick and dirty results from AXS TV along with video highlights. Lion Fight 19 takes place on November 21st at Foxwoods in Connecticut.

Yodsanklai Fairtex (R2 - TKO) Salah Khalifa 
Jason Andrada (R5 - Dec.) Stan Mancebo 
Nick Chasteen (R5 - Dec.) Jose Palacios 
Chris Culley (R5 - Dec.) Brian Del Rosario
Damien Earley (R2 - DQ) Eddie Abasolo 

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Kevin Ross Talks Signing with Bellator Kickboxing, Freedom of Expression and Always Entertaining

Perhaps the thing that caught my eye the most about the early leaks for the inaugural Bellator Kickboxing card was some of the names included. Sure, Melvin Manhoef makes a lot of sense, considering he’s signed to Bellator for MMA already, but it was the names Denise Kielholtz, Raymond Daniels and Kevin Ross that really caught my eye. All three were stars in other promotions before; Kielholtz in Enfusion Live, Daniels in GLORY and Ross in Lion Fight. While Daniels departing GLORY came as a bit of a shock, Kevin Ross signing with Bellator Kickboxing was the real surprise.

Kevin Ross is perhaps the poster boy for muay thai in the United States, to the point where Ross himself is sort of a meme. Seriously, Ross is sort of a meme for this photo of him bowing, fists extended towards the camera with the words “muay thai” scrawled across his knuckles. Chances are that you’ve seen that photo before, even if you aren’t super into kickboxing or muay thai. Regardless, Ross made his name among hardcore fans as a tough-as-nails American nak muay who wasn’t afraid to fly over to Thailand and scrap with the best of them or to sign on to face top level Thais in his home of California. The list of Thai opponents stretches from Coke Chunhawat to Malaipet, Sagetdao and even, yes, one of the greatest of all time in Saenchai. 

The Famous Photo of Ross
The Famous Photo of Ross

Win, lose or draw (Ross actually has zero draws to his credit) Ross is always looking to entertain. “I’m there to put on a show for the fans,” he explained to me. “I put everything into my fights, I’m never taking it easy or trying to just hold on, I’m always doing my best even if it means losing.” This is the Kevin Ross that endeared himself to a larger audience thanks to Lion Fight’s television deal with AXS TV that saw Ross as one of Lion Fight’s centerpieces for so long. Much like Ross explained, he entertained in each and every outing with Lion Fight, which is what made the fact that Lion Fight somehow let him go all the more insane. Who let’s a guy like that go?

Bellator’s Scott Coker made a deal that Ross simply couldn’t resist. “What’s important to me is staying active, being able to go anywhere and fight anyone if I have downtime. That’s what they offered me. Of course, Bellator is my home base and takes priority, but part of my deal is that I can take outside fights.” If you’ve never spoken to Kevin before he’s an incredibly nice guy, always easy to talk with. I joked with him about how he had multiple fight offers in China, only for those to fall apart due to his contractual obligations and exclusivity. “Yeah, exactly,” he said. “I can take outside fights now. If you are gonna keep me under lock and key at least keep me active. Fighting once or twice a year just isn’t enough.”

As I mentioned above, Ross is best known for muay thai. In fact, if you talk to Ross he’ll express his love and passion for the sport, but kickboxing has been on his agenda for a while now. Ross has had multiple false starts when it comes to kickboxing, from being booked with K-1 in China to GLORY announcing that they signed Ross only for Lion Fight to impose their will and keep Ross from fighting there. I’ve always seen Ross as sort of a ride-or-die guy for muay thai, but he brushed that off.

“Muay thai is my passion,” he explained, “but I’ve always loved kickboxing as well. I’ve always been a fan of it and it’s a really good fit for me. I can’t throw elbows or anything, but that’s okay.” His style actually adapts incredibly well to kickboxing. Ross has a fluid style that relies a bit heavier on range than your average muay thai fighter. Sure, kickboxing lacks the clinch or the elbows, but that also means we probably won’t have that many more Kevin Ross bloodbaths, which got a laugh out of him. “Yeah, I’m comfortable with kickboxing, for sure. You’ll see the same Kevin Ross that you always see, I’m gonna be fighting my heart out as always.”

And fight he will, because on April 16th he’s schedule against Matteo Taccini, whom we both admitted to not exactly know a ton about. “I know that he’s young, I know that he’s hungry and for me this isn’t anything different. I’m prepared to be myself and to fight like I always do, whatever he brings to the table I’ll be prepared for. It’s gonna be a fun fight.”

The future's looking bright for Ross, who admits that he’s been fighting for over 13 years now. The inevitable question was that now that he’s under contract to Bellator would he consider MMA, something that he had considered for a long time in the past, but was able to avoid. The answer was pretty simple. “If I was going to do it, I would have done it already, you know? For a long time I thought that I was going to, I was getting ready for it. Never say never, I guess? But probably not.” We had agreed that it makes a bigger statement for him to stay where he is, and according to Ross he’s already see the flow move towards kickboxing and muay thai thanks to the popularity of Glory and Lion Fight. “I’m already seeing fighters trying to make their way in kickboxing, choosing it over MMA, I think that you’ll see more of that in the future.”

When I brought up the topic of if MMA and kickboxing needed to be connected closely for kickboxing and muay thai to grow, or if it was detrimental he was optimistic in it finding its own audience as well as appealing to fight fans in general. “It’s a little of both, I think. I don’t think that being closely related to MMA will be a bad thing for it, or that anyone will look down on it. I think that people will realize that it’s different and that it’ll come into its own. I’m just happy that I get to be a part of it and to help move the sport forward still.”

The decision that Ross made to jump to Bellator Kickboxing is a huge one for the sport, with Ross being incredibly upbeat heading into his first fight for the organization and clearly holds Scott Coker and his past accomplishments within kickboxing and MMA in high regards. “I mean, it’s Scott Coker,” he said, “his track record speaks for itself. Nobody has more experience doing what he’s done and how he’s done it, I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out and I’m honored to be an important part of it. He’s got the right fighters, the right team and the right network in Spike TV in place to help to make this a success.” 

Indeed, Scott Coker made his mark on kickboxing a great deal of years ago with his own events before he took the reins of K-1 USA and before Strikeforce transitioned to MMA and took the world by storm. On April 16th (airing on April 22nd on Spike TV) we’ll see the vision start to fall into place with Kevin Ross at the forefront against Matteo Taccini.

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