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Gabriel Varga Talks GLORY Featherweight Title and Upcoming K-1 China Fight

  • Published in Interviews

Canadian featherweight Gabriel Varga has turned some heads over the past few years with his appearances in K-1 and GLORY. In fact, Gabriel Varga is the man who is set to fight for the inaugural GLORY Featherweight Championship against Mosab Amrani. Sadly, that fight was pushed back but luckily enough he’ll be keeping busy as he fights on K-1’s China vs. USA event on January 1st.

We caught up with Varga while he prepares for his fight on January 1st.

Your weight class is incredibly competitive all around the world, where do you feel you stand in that weight class right now?

It depends in what style.  I haven't fought full Muay Thai, but in GLORY rules or modified Muay Thai I know I can be the best.  There was so much hype around Sitmonchai and many people where excited to see him fight outside Thailand, but Kickboxing is a different sport and I know I can win a fight against anybody.  I think with another 2-3 wins I will be recognized as the top kickboxer at –65kg.

Do you feel that Canada has finally gotten a chance to show the world how much talent comes from there over the past few years and are you proud of it?

Canadian fighters have had great opportunities over the past few years and Joesph Valentini, Simon Marcus, Josh Jauncey, Rob Thomas, Matt Embree and myself have risen to the challenge. I'm very happy with my accomplishments so far, but I still want to beat the top names and then Canada will be even more recognized in the Kickboxing world.

You've actually fought in China before, how does it feel to head back to China?

After another 6 months between fights I'm just happy to get a fight anywhere. But I'm looking forward to everything about this fight aside from the 12+ hour plane ride.

There isn't much out there about your opponent, does that bother you or will it not be a problem?

I've watched a few videos of him and I feel I know his style well enough now. I always prefer to learn about my opponents and train specifically for them. That's one of the reasons I dislike tournaments. You can only prepare for your first opponent and after that you just have to do the best you can.

Historically your weight class has been dominated by the Japanese, what kind of shift do you think happened over the past few years?

The Japanese are still great fighters but they haven't always had to fight the best foreigners. Japanese organizations often bring in foreign opponents who aren't necessarily amongst the best.  GLORY has been great for including the best fighters in the world.

I'm sure in the future we'll see more Japanese in the -65kg division, but with Kubo's recent loss and Noiri's absence I don't expect to fight a Japanese opponent in the near future. 

You are still going to be fighting for GLORY's Featherweight title soon, how did you go about taking this fight with K-1?

GLORY was kind enough to let me have a one fight deal with K-1 because of GLORY 19 being postponed.  I'd like to fight at least 3 times per year and in 2014 I only got to fight in June. I asked GLORY if they'd be willing to make a special exception this one time and they said yes. And K-1 was great to me as well. I called them up with a 4 weeks notice pleading for a fight and they put me on the first card they had.

Fighting on the first day of the year is a great way to start. I hope to fight at least 5 times next year and getting the GLORY Featherweight title should help me become a bigger draw.

Kickboxing has struggled in North America, what do you think will help it attract more fans?

Kickboxing simply won't become mainstream in North America in only 2 years. GLORY has been doing a great job and if they continue to hold 8+ events per year and air them on Spike, the audience will grow.  I hear so many people complaining about the UFC and I think within a couple of years, GLORY will capture the attention of those less enthusiastic MMA fans and help the popularity of kickboxing grow.

If GLORY can focus on creating a few more stars who are North American that will help as well. And if there's ever a chance to do some sort of reality show that would be very exciting. My management EPOK Agency recently announced a groundbreaking partnership with a major talent agency in New York, which will open new opportunities in mainstream media. So I think this will also help with growing my popularity as a North American fighter.

Is there anyone out there that you want to face down the line?

The only person I think I should fight for the GLORY belt is Mosab Amrani. He holds a win over Kubo and is ranked number 1. That's the fight I want.

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Tyrone Spong Signs with Glory

  • Published in Glory

SpongThere have been rumors about Spong for weeks now, with the former K-1 Heavyweight being a hot commodity on the open market. It appeared that Spong was linked to K-1 for a while, as he was used in the promotional materials for the K-1 Open Tryouts in Los Angeles, but those close to him in the Netherlands were saying the opposite; that he was unhappy with K-1 and didn't trust them. In a press release yesterday (sorry, we've been down for 24 hours), Glory announced that Tyrone Spong had signed with them and will be a participant in their tournament in December in Japan.

Spong makes a welcome addition to the Glory World Series tournament in what could be one of his last active years as a Kickboxer, as he resides in Florida, training with the Blackzilians team (also known as Team Jaco) and is managed by Authentic Sports Management. Spong is essentially surrounded by MMA and talk of him making a MMA debut at some point in the near future has not died down at all. Whatever his decisions for signing with Glory over K-1 are, they are his own and he has not publicly explained it, but his reasons are his reasons.

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Wayne Barrett ‘That belt will be mine’

  • Published in Interviews

Wayne Barrett steps into the ring next Friday to take on fellow top 10 Middleweight Jason Wilnis. I had the privilege of speaking to Wayne on Monday and here’s what we discussed.

JS: Good afternoon Wayne. You're only six fights into your professional career yet you have already become one of the poster boys for Glory. What do you attribute this to?

WB: I attribute a lot of my success to timing. I don’t like using the word but it’s kind of like destiny. I always said at the start of my pro career I’d give it my all for two years and if I wasn’t successful I’d return to corporate America. Look at me now. 

JS: Next Saturday you make your sixth appearance for Glory taking on the young Dutchman Jason Wilnis. What holes do you see in his game and how do you plan on exploiting those come next Saturday night?

WB: I definitely see some holes in his game and I also see some great things too. I’ve been watching him for a while, he’s got good jab, a good overhand right and he’s started utilizing his kicks a lot more now. I’d say I know his game pretty well. I know I can’t let him come forward because that’s when he’s most dangerous. As for how I’m going to exploit those weaknesses, we’re going to go at it and you guys will see for yourselves.

JS: Do you think a convincing win will be enough to earn a title shot against the champion?

WB: I think that’s what everyone wants to see. I’m here to do my job so if the fans and Glory believe I’m next then I’m not going to turn it down, but also if they think I need to improve then I’ll do that too. It doesn’t matter really as that belt will be mine.

JS: Artem Levin's unique and elusive style has given everyone he's fought problems. How would you attempt to solve the puzzle?

WB: To be honest he fights very similarly to some of my sparring partners; I’m very familiar with his style. He’s similar to Roy Jones Jnr and a little Ali-esque too; he has a different kind of timing. He does not follow the standard Dutch style of timing or pace and that’s what throws everyone off. I recognize it though; I’m ready for it and when it happens it’ll be a great fight.

JS: Besides a shot at the current champion, is there anyone else at Middleweight you'd like to fight or from a stylistic standpoint, you think you would match up well against?

WB: I’ve looked at the whole top ten and personally it’d be a great honor for me to know that at the end of my career, I could sit back and know I ran through the whole top 10. In terms of specific match-ups I’d quite like to fight Perreira and Verlinden. I’m a big fan of Verlinden’s style; his technique is perfect and for me he’s the epitome of a Dutch kickboxer. I’m not looking past Wilnis or Levin, but people couldn’t deny me my credibility if I beat Verlinden.

JS: Give us a little bit of background on how your martial arts journey started.

WB: I came to the US as an immigrant from Jamaica. Obviously being an immigrant we did things a little differently and because of that I was bullied which led to fights at school. So one day my Dad decided my brother and I needed an outlet so we joined a local karate school. Karate helped me straighten up elsewhere, our teacher would ensure our grades were acceptable before coming to class so I wanted to do better at school so I could go to karate. However unfortunately I my lost martial arts teacher in an unforeseen motorcycle accident and lost interest for in martial arts for a while but then fell in love with boxing.

After having a few boxing bouts some friends and myself randomly walked into a Muay Thai school one day. The teacher instantly recognized I was a boxing from my stance and asked me to put my hands up. He kicked me in the leg and it was an instant eye-opener, it completely changed my life. I signed up on the spot and since then I’ve never looked back.

JS: What do you think separates you from the rest of the division?

WB: My brain, I use my brain a lot. I’m always thinking in there. I don’t move the same, I use different angles, my pace and timing are different. I’m not afraid to move, a lot of guys have the one dimensional style where they meet in the middle and duke it out but I like to use as much of the ring as possible, I try to be elusive. I want to take as little damage as possible whilst inflicting as much damage as possible. 

JS: Your rival Joe Schilling is fighting in Bellator soon against Melvin Manhoef. Is competing in MMA something you'd ever consider?

WB: Oh yeah absolutely. It’s not out of the question, but the guys at Glory treat me so well, so I have to represent for kickboxing. They have me fighting on Spike, they pay me really well and I’ve had less than ten fights as pro. MMA is on my mind but my focus right now is on kickboxing.

JS: What’re your thoughts towards a potential third encounter with Mr. Schilling?

WB: He’s the only person who I haven’t knocked out as a professional. I want to knock him out but it’s nothing personal. I just know I can and I don’t know why I didn’t do it before.

JS: Thank you very much for your time and have you got anyone you’d like to thank?

WB: Thank you to Liverkick, you guys have always been awesome. Thank you to everyone who supports me and everyone who supports kickboxing. If you’ve got a dream believe in it and work hard and see what you can accomplish. 

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Yasuhiro Kido: "I Received Fight Money From K-1 Global"

  • Published in K-1

KidoThe rumor mill has been turning about K-1 Global in the past few days, and instead of the rumors coming from upset fighters and managers like it was in the past, this time it was from some of the more powerful titans of the world of kickboxing. K-1 Global forged a partnership with It's Showtime's Simon Rutz, with Rutz and It's Showtime's team helping to promote, produce and essentially handle the entire event in Madrid. According to Rutz, K-1 Global has neglected to pay for the event or the fighters, which has led to a historic event of Glory Sports International and It's Showtime coming to an agreement, with It's Showtime being purchased by GSI and becoming a part of the Glory family.

It appears that this could just be attributed to fighters associated with Simon Rutz and It's Showtime, although we have yet to hear much yet. Yasuhiro Kido aparently spoke out about his situation on his twitter, and he says that he was paid.

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GLORY Possibly Looking to Expand into MMA Waters in 2015

  • Published in Glory

The year 2014 was an interesting one for kickboxing and 2015 is looking to be just as crazy by the looks of it. GLORY 19 will kick off GLORY's 2015 with a GLORY Heavyweight Championship bout between champion Rico Verhoeven and challenger Errol Zimmerman in Virginia. The rest of the year we'll have to wait and see. In Jon J. Franklin's holiday address he gave some insight into what to expect from 2015 and surprisingly enough the term "MMA" appeared.

GLORY 19 will be held in Virginia with the team behind Spartyka Fight League assisting in promoting the event, meaning to expect the local undercard to feature some MMA bouts for sure. Is that a sign of things to come? Here's a passage from Franklin's statement.

2015 will be a year of great fight nights, spectacular new promotions and new exotic locations.  We will be in Dubai, UAE and we will welcome international superstars to our events.  Glory also looks forward to amazing evenings in conjunction with with top MMA promotions and to new television networks all over the world joining the Glory juggernaut.  Stay tuned for the many exciting surprises that are on tap for 2015.

It seems to point to possibly seeing co-promotional events much like GLORY 4 Tokyo was with DREAM. The question is; will they work with Bellator? Will GLORY hold their own MMA fights? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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As Glory Content on Spike Expands, It’s Time to Start Thinking Bigger

  • Published in News

Glory has long accumulated enough content to provide regular programming on SpikeTV, but the extent of its presence has largely been limited to 2-hour live or tape delayed events as well as 30 minute countdown shows. Ratings, while stable overall, have varied the most between long hiatuses with Glory finding it difficult to sustain the momentum generated by a successful event. This is why we’ve maintained that having Spike air Glory content on a more regular basis would help keep the product on the radar of combat sports fans.

Well, it seems like this may be coming to fruition. On July 25, SpikeTV aired a one hour-long special consisting of some of the best Glory fights and highlights thus far. If you tuned in, you might have noticed a small caption reading that the Glory Last Man Standing tournament will be airing Friday, August 8, at 10/9c. In case you missed it before, Glory and Spike are going to bring you the greatest combat sports PPV event of the year for FREE on August 8, filling a relatively quiet night of programming (unless Cops and Jail is your idea of quality prime time entertainment) with must-see TV. While we’re waiting to hear more about Glory’s plans for the second half of 2014, airing the historic LMS event on free TV is more than enough to satisfy Kickboxing fans in the meantime. By the way, if you have friends or know someone who would be interested in Kickboxing, this is the event they need to see.

Could these programming changes possibly signal deepening ties between Glory and Spike? While we don’t know for sure, it is likely. Consider that the once-known “First Network for Men” has lately struggled with its identity as more original programming has been replaced by syndicated content. Its association with the UFC once provided hours of original daytime programming as well as an exclusive live sports entertainment product for primetime. However, it has yet to convincingly compete in this space again, with Bellator achieving only a fraction of the UFC’s former presence. TNA, while not considered a leading brand, has provided steady ratings for Spike with an average of 1-1.2 million viewers every week (as reported on wrestling sites). However, by ending its relationship with TNA, Spike will need to rededicate its efforts to making its original sports programming successful. Bellator and Glory have yet to perform strongly enough on their own, but with the combined strength of these two brands in a co-promotional arrangement, Spike may able to reestablish itself as an outlet for combat sports.

What would be the next step for Glory and Spike? I would personally like to see the 17 or so unaired Super Fight cards that Glory has taped make their way to cable TV. This is ready-made content that could fill any weekend or weekday with solid combat sports action. While The Ultimate Fighter was a breakout promotional vehicle for Spike and the UFC, I would argue that the afternoons full of UFC Unleashed were equally as important because it gave casual and incidental viewers the opportunity to discover the product. The possibility of doing a reality show depends on the viability of the format today; for Glory, I see greater value in developing a television platform for Eldar Gross’s excellent documentary filmmaking than I do for a game show with an uninspired gimmick (Enfusion Reality included). If you doubt this, just consider the star-making impact of Eldar’s documentaries on Alistair Overeem and Tyrone Spong and imagine this in the format of a serious multi-part series with AMC/HBO-style marketing--there’s a chance to reach a wider audience here. This would be the type of promotion that Glory has been looking for with a cast of excellent subjects who have already been chosen.

We’re at a point now where the Glory product itself is in need of no further major refinement. The challenge now is making a connection with a television audience, and while this is a daunting task, there are a few things that we might consider. Let’s think about a time in combat sports when big fights made big news and big names mattered to little people. We talk about combat sports legends like the often-named boxers of bygone generations--men who became icons not only because of their accomplishments (after all, what cultural value do these accomplishments have if no one knows about or appreciates them?) but because of how they were sold to the public. The legend of Muhammad Ali had as much to do with the man as the people who promoted him and publicized him. Television in the cable era is far more fragmented than it was in the broadcast network era, but every now and then, when talent, interest, and marketing come together at the right time, a figure is able to transcend the boundaries of their medium. Far less well-spoken people who compete in sports more obscure than kickboxing get made into national heroes every Olympics; what stops our champions? Is the story of some dopy middle class suburban kid who spent all of their free time swimming more compelling than that of Zack Mwekassa? NBC sells the hell out of stories like that. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for the mainstream to find us--let’s go after their hearts. This product and the people who compete are just as compelling as anything that could get sold on TV; it’s time to market the product with inspiration and creativity. It’s time to think bigger.

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A Look at K-1's Rising Talents From the Los Angeles GP

  • Published in K-1

K-1

For the first time since 2008, K-1 will return to US soil with the K-1 World Grand Prix Los Angeles event, focusing on cultivating US talent. This is the first time in a very long time where K-1 is actually looking to build up new stars in the United States and make a real, honest-to-goodness effort to push into the mainstream in the United States. If you are a Kickboxing fan, you know that the Heavyweight division has a certain lack of depth to it, so the fact that there will be what can be considered a new generation of fighters presented this weekend is exciting to many.

LiverKick is going to run you through the up-and-comers in the Heavyweight division that will be competing on Saturday at the K-1 World Grand Prix Los Angeles, just so that you'll be prepared.

Jarrell Miller - Jarrell is probably the fighter with the most upside at the moment. He is a known commodity in that he has competed in Kickboxing and Muay Thai for years now, and has recently ventured into the realm of Heavyweight Boxing with nothing but success. We’ve already seen Jarrell in “big fight situations” when he competed in the WCL when he was just 19 years old, including a big win over UFC Heavyweight Pat Barry. Be looking out for Jarrell to hit hard and to try to end it early and make a big statement.

Randy Blake - Blake, another WCL veteran, has a lot of hype surrounding him as he competes in the Southeast a lot, mainly in Oklahoma City. Blake went 1-1 in his WCL career and since then has been taking on all comers, but at Heavyweight, Blake will be undersized against most fighters. As we’ve seen in the past though, that doesn’t always mean a death sentence in K-1, as many undersized fighters have had great Heavyweight careers.

Xavier Vigney - Xavier Vigney is still very much a wildcard when it comes to what his potential is. He had a promising future in American Football, being a standout at De La Salle in California before hanging up the shoulder pads and began kicking thai pads. He has fought a number of amateur bouts, but has yet to step into the ring as a professional. What he does have going for him is size and athleticism, which is very important for a fighter. From the amateur bouts of his that are online he looks a bit rough around the edges, but there is definitely something there. If we’ll see that this weekend against tough veteran Seth Petruzelli is another thing entirely.

Jack May - Jack May is a 4-1 MMA fighter who stands at a towering 6’8” who has yet to really make a dent on the Kickboxing world. All of his victories in MMA come by way of Knockout, so it is safe to say that he should feel at home in a stand-up only environment. He trains at CSW in California and works extensively with Josh Barnett, who of course is known for his grappling. There won’t be much grappling for him to do this weekend, so it still remains to be seen how he handles K-1 rules.

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Former K-1 Champion Mark Hunt Gets a Crack at UFC Gold

  • Published in Kickboxing

On November 15th at UFC 180 in Mexico the unthinkable will happen; 40 year old Mark Hunt will have a shot to become UFC [Interim] Heavyweight Champion. The injury-prone Champion, Cain Velasquez, has been forced to pull out of his scheduled title defense against Fabricio Werdum and who else would step forward on a few weeks notice for the shot of his life? Of course Mark Hunt would jump at the chance to be called UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Mark Hunt got his spot with the UFC via a technicality thanks to his contract with PRIDE FC, the UFC opting to honor said contract and give Hunt a shot at the UFC. At the time there were no real hopes to Hunt impressing anyone. Hunt was 36 and he stepped into the ring with Sean McCorkle coming off of a five fight losing streak. McCorkle would make six. Hunt swore that he'd do better and Dana White gave him another shot. What followed was a crazy four-fight winning streak that was finally derailed by former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos. Many would claim that JDS won via knockout, but it always just seemed that Hunt was just exhausted and the kick just put him onto the mat, where he was just too wiped out to stand up.

His next fight was against perennial title contender and one of the men who beat the unbeatable Fedor Emelianenko in Bigfoot Silva. It was a bloodbath of a fight, one of the most beautiful things that a fan could witness, ending in a rare majority draw after five rounds of action. Afterwards Bigfoot Silva tested positive for banned substances, which didn't come as much of a surprise. Hunt's next fight was in Japan against Roy Nelson. Nelson had always been knocking at the door of being a top guy in the division, but was always held back by his stubbornness. Mark Hunt laid him out in just two rounds.

Now Mark Hunt is the man to fill in and is given the opportunity of a lifetime. Fabricio Werdum will no doubt be in better shape, is younger and more well-rounded, but Mark Hunt is Mark Hunt. 

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Superpro Samui TV Episode 2 Featuring Hesdy Gerges

  • Published in Kickboxing

Superpro Samui gym is a peculiar case of a gym in Thailand with heavy ties to the Netherlands, including Black Label Fighters and It's Showtime, two of the premier brands in Dutch Kickboxing. They are really taking to their youtube channel of late, posting videos from the team training at the gym. This is the second episode that they have posted and features Dutch Kickboxer and former It's Showtime Heavyweight Champion Hesdy Gerges.

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