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GLORY 28 Lightweight Contender Tournament Names Revealed

  • Published in Glory

One of the more exciting parts of the announcement of the GLORY 28 card was the Lightweight Contender's Tournament. GLORY's Lightweight division is perhaps the most stacked division on their entire roster at the moment, with Robin van Roosmalmen running roughshod over that division. Many have been calling for a rematch between van Roosmalen and Sitthichai after the controversial decision in their last fight, but the announcement of this tournament proved that Sitthichai will have to win another tournament to get there. 

According to a press release from Glory's French partner, Team 21, the GLORY Lightweight tournament will feature Sitthichai, Davit Kiria, Marat Grigorian and Djime Coulibaly. The match ups have yet to be announced and yes, Djime Coulibaly sort of feels like the obligatory French guy in that tournament, especially after losing in the last Lightweight tournament to Josh Jauncey. From what we understand Jauncey could be fighting on this card as well, although that hasn't been announced yet, either. 

Also notably absent is Giorgio Petrosyan, whom is fighting on the Oktagon/Bellator/Venum event in Italy in early April.

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Kunlun Fight Sets Sights on Europe

  • Published in Kickboxing

China's Kunlun Fight has one of the best kickboxing products around right now, employing some of the very best fighters from around the world as well as top Chinese prospects. Their tournaments have made new champions and brought to light lesser-known talents who have turned out to be some of the very best in the world. The only problem is that much of their product appeals to a wider audience, just that this wider audience has no way of finding these shows.

That seems to be changing with Kunlun's expansion into Europe. A recent report has slated them as working out television deals in Europe with both Eurosport and Canal+ thanks to a working agreement with Amibo TV productions. 

There have also been talks of running events in Europe as well. Neither of those television deals are going to net big money, but they will make the product more accessible to fans outside of China, at least. This comes hot off of the heels of Kunlun announcing its "Superstar Fight" series that will take place monthly in China and be focused on MMA over kickboxing.

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GLORY Announces GLORY 28 with Three Title Bouts

  • Published in Glory

Today GLORY announced that on March 12th in Paris they will be presenting GLORY 28. First thing to get out of the way here is that Gokhan Saki will not be fighting Saulo Cavalari on this card. That bout was scheduled to headline this show, but Saki pulled out of the fight due to an injury, the nature of that injury we've yet to hear anything about just yet. Instead there will be a whopping three world title fights to keep the fans happy. Those title fights are as follows;

GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship: Saulo Cavalari(C) vs. Artem Vakhitov

GLORY Heavyweight Championship: Rico Verhoeven(C) vs. Mladen Brestovac

GLORY Featherweight Championship: Serhiy Adamchuk(C) vs. Mosab Amrani

Also on the card will be Cedric Doumbe vs. Murthel Groenhart as well as a Lightweight tournament featuring Sitthichai.

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Free Agent Alistair Overeem Could Revitalize Kickboxing's Heavyweight Division

  • Published in Kickboxing

(C) Dan Herbertson

Today Bellator announced the signing of former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. Henderson was a free agent after his UFC contract expired and him moving to Bellator is yet another big deal in the wake of UFC's grasp on the industry starting to wane thanks to Viacom's hefty check book and moves by the UFC like the Reebok deal that made fighting in the UFC a lot less attractive to fighters. There is another free agent out there that has interest from many sides and that free agent also has our interest as well, that is Alistair Overeem. 

Overeem's UFC career has been solid, if not average at 5-3 with big wins over Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir and Junior Dos Santos. But now he finds himself as a free agent and it seemingly comes down to taking a lesser offer from the UFC in hopes of getting a run at the UFC Heavyweight Championship, or to look for greener pastures. 

The question on lots of fans' minds is this; will he end up in Bellator. My question is a bit different; will he kickbox again? 

In a way it seems impossible, right? With all due respect to GLORY, the chances of them paying Overeem what he wants seems slim-to-none at this point and no other big kickboxing organization would really benefit from adding Overeem to their roster at his high price point. That is, if you are looking at things in a traditional, binary way of a promotion having only this or that, or just being MMA or just kickboxing. What if a promotion could offer both?

We've known about Bellator's Scott Coker looking to expand into kickboxing for almost a year now, but the wheels seem to be in motion starting at the April Oktagon event (although Bellator has yet to comment on this yet), with Joe Schilling confirming in his recent Reddit AMA that Bellator was going to venture into kickboxing. All of a sudden Bellator seems not only like a logical destination for a fighter like Alistair Overeem's MMA career, but for the final K-1 World Grand Prix Champion (at least under the FEG banner, I guess, are we counting Cro Cop's win?) to return to kickboxing and shake things up in heavyweight kickboxing. 

A huge part of why heavyweight kickboxing has felt so hollow over the past few years has been not only the dissolution of K-1's legendary heavyweight division, but the retirement or fading away of the stars that made that division so great. Alistair Overeem was the man to win the last real K-1 World Grand Prix while K-1 still had its roster in tact. A big part of why the division hasn't felt as vibrant would have to be that for years the champion would continue fighting in tournaments and when a new champion was crowned there were no lingering doubts because the system was clear. The system was incredibly simple; the champion won a one-night, eight man tournament each year. Period. That's it. 

GLORY has held tournaments since then, and K-1 held a World Grand Prix in 2012 that Mirko Cro Cop won, but all of these tournaments felt like they were missing something. In that period of time Rico Verhoeven has risen up to the very top of the food chain, but finding someone to challenge him has been a chore for GLORY. On top of that, some fans still don't accept him as the "real" champion for god know's what reason. I'd argue that a big part of that feeling is that the chain was broken and the champion didn't go on to fight in another tournament. There was no passing of the torch, so to speak. 

If Bellator is truly going to have their own kickboxing promotion this year who better to help build that promotion around than Alistair Overeem, former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion? And yes, he could do that while still fighting in MMA for them as well. Overeem's star power is undeniable at this point and while promotional logistics would make a potential clash between Overeem and Verhoeven difficult, never say never. 

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Wildly Inconsistent Judging Strikes Again, This Time Against Gaston Bolanos

  • Published in Muay Thai

In what has become a plague of sorts, yet another quality combat sports event happened this weekend under the Lion Fight banner and fans were left scratching their heads over it. The fight in question was at Lion Fight 27 between Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet. It was a competitive five round affair, the first decision for Bolanos and the young fighter learned firsthand why everyone always echoes the now empty sentiment of "never let it go to the judges."

Because he let it go to the judges and the decision rendered was not great. While it was a close fight, the body kicks from Kronphet were what scored him points with the judges. Unsurprising to many, but the two Thai judges scored the bout for the Thai fighter, while the other judge scored the fight for Bolanos. Simply watching the fight you can see in the later rounds how Bolanos grew more comfortable, was cutting off the ring and was scoring points with punches, elbows and the clinch sweeps, all of which he was landing consistently against the Thai. 

The IKF was overseeing Lion Fight 27, from what we understand on somewhat late notice, but the rules going into the fight weren't in doubt. Interestingly enough, the referee didn't seem to grasp the concept of the rules and was quickly breaking up clinches between the two men, to the point where I've seen more clinchwork allowed in kickboxing fights, even recent ones. Confusingly enough, the referee wasn't the only problem, because the judges didn't seem to grasp the scoring, either. If in kickboxing what Sitthichai did against Robin van Roosmalen wasn't enough for a win, under muay thai rules what Kronphet did to Bolanos was essentially zilch. IKF's own rules spell it all out.

In fact, from reports that we've received, the two judges in question had scored Kronphet as the winner in round four for one judge and round five for the other, either one of those being objectively insane calls by most educated eyes. From what we understand the IKF is looking at the decision and may even be considering overturning it, but even if not, this fight will just be tossed onto the pile of evidence that officiating in kickboxing and muay thai needs a complete overhaul. Anyone that is to referee or judge a fight should understand the rules and be properly vetted, much like a jury is in a court case, to ensure that fighters won't have to keep working so hard to face this level of uncertainty and fear when they are fighting a tough opponent that they just can't seem to knock out. 

What's especially tough is that the onus here doesn't fall on the fighters or their coaches for failing in any way, or even the promotions, who aren't directly assigning these officials, but the overseeing bodies that exist in combat sports, all of which tend to feel outdated, insecure and relics from a time long since past. If we want to see the sports of kickboxing and muay thai gain a stronger hold not only in America, but in Europe and other parts of the world as well, there needs to be a unified front and we need to stop having these divisive moments happening every few weeks. 

I'm not here to point fingers, to accuse anyone, just at this point a plea for these people to remember that they are helping to frame the careers of all of these fighters and that their decisions carry long shockwaves that don't just stop when the bell rings.

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Weigh-in Results For Tonight's Lion Fight 27

  • Published in Muay Thai

Joe Rogan's favorite stand-up promotion returns to the airwaves tonight on AXS TV with a big, two-title bout fight card that is sure to entertain during these winter doldrums. The main event sees the Welterweight title on the line between Charlie Peters and Fabio Pinca, while the co-main sees Tiffany Van Soest contend for her second championship at Women's Super Bantamweight against Ashley Nichos.

Also on the card is Gaston Bolanos against Kronphet, Brian Del Rosario against Chris Culley and everyone's favorite Coke Chunhawat against Anvar Boynazarov. 

Lion Fight 27 Main Card – Begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on AXS TV

Main Event – Welterweight (147 pound) Title Fight – Charlie Peters (146.4) vs. Fabio Pinca (145.2)

Co-Main Event – Women’s Super Bantamweight (120 pound) Title Fight – Ashley Nichos (119.2) vs. Tiffany Van Soest (119)

Welterweight (143 Pound) Fight – Kronphet Phetrachapat (143.6) vs. Gaston Bolanos (142.4)

Welterweight (147 pound) Fight – Chris Culley (150.2) vs. Brian Del Rosario (146.6)

Super Lightweight (137 pound) Fight – Coke Chunhawat (137.4) vs. Anvar Boynazarov (140.4)

Lightweight (132 pound) Fight – Jared Papazian (133) vs. Travis Clay (131.2)

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Lion Fight 27 Fight Card

  • Published in Muay Thai

Lion Fights 27 is taking place this Friday January 29th at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.

Fabio Pinca will take on Charlie Peters for the welterweight title and Tiffany Van Soest will defend her super bantamweight title. Lets hope Lion Fight can keep the momentum going from their last great show.

Full Card

WELTERWEIGHT TITLE: FABIO PINCA vs. CHARLIE PETERS

WOMEN'S SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT: TIFFANY VAN SOEST vs. ASHLEY NICHOLS

COKE CHUNHAWAT vs. ANVAR BOYNAZAROV

GASTON BOLANOS vs. KRONPHET PHETRACHAPAT

CHRIS CULLEY vs. BRIAN DEL ROSARIO

TRAVIS CLAY vs. JARED PAPAZIAN

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GLORY 28 Clash Between Saki and Cavalari in Danger Due to Injury to Saki

  • Published in Glory

In what the world thought would be one of Glory's best match-ups of 2016, the bout between Brazil's heavy hitter, Saulo Cavalari, and Gokhan Saki will most likely not be happening at Glory 28 in Paris.  Yesterday on social media it was reported that Saki is potentially out with an injury.

 

This leaves us with a veritable who's who in the list of opponents who can take Saki's place. Most formidable a among his contenders are Mourad Bouzidi, Danyo Ilunga, Zack Mwekassa and Artem Vakhitov.  Also within the same division are Filip Verlinden,  Brian Collette and Aleksandr  Stetcurenko.  How it will all hash out in Paris is any body's guess, but it will be an exciting ride.

We've reached out to GLORY for further comment.

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Sam-A and Petboonchu Both Moving to Singapore to Work as Trainers

  • Published in Muay Thai

It’s the end of an era in Muay Thai with Petboonchu FA Group and Sam-A Gaiyanghadaogym becoming the latest in a long line of top Muay Thai fighters to retire from active competition in Thailand and move to Singapore.

Three years ago the likes of Petboonchu, Sam-A, Nong-O Gaiyanghadaogym, Saketdao Phetpayathai, Peneak Sitnumnoi and Ponsaneh Sitmonchai could be found fighting on the biggest cards of the year at Rajadamnern and Lumpinee.

Between them they’ve won just about every title Muay Thai has to offer but now they are all working full time as trainers in Singapore alongside several other big names from the sport like Orono Wor Petchpun and Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn.

Peneak and Petboonchu are still relatively young but both had begun the process of winding down their fighting careers well before moving to Singapore. The rest are veterans of 300+ fights who, while still competing at the pinnacle of the sport when they stopped, are already slightly past their heyday.

In an emotional post on Facebook yesterday Sam-A thanked everyone who had contributed towards his 24 year fighting career. The multiple time Lumpinee champion stated that with his 33rd birthday approaching he felt the time had come to call time on a career which culminated with him winning the Toyota Marathon tournament last Christmas day.

Sam-A won the Lumpinee ‘Fighter of the Year’ award in 2011 but narrowly missed out on winning the prestigious Sports Writer’s ‘Fighter of the Year’ award a few months later when he was beaten by Peneak. The two will soon be colleagues and can reminisce about the part they played in one of the more memorable fights of the decade.

In terms of silverware few collections can compare to that of Petboonchu. He won an incredible 14 different titles in nine different divisions and will be reunited with several of his former opponents at Evolve MMA including Sam-A, Orono, Nong-O and Saketdao.

While Muay Thai fans will be sad that these legendary fighters are no longer going to be competing in the Bangkok stadiums they have all earned the right to make a comfortable living from the sport without putting their bodies on the line by fighting every month.

And as one era ends another is beginning with young fighters like Panpayak Jitmuangnon, Sangmanee Sor Tienpo, Ronachai Sunti-Ubon, Ginsanglek Tor Laksong and Muangthai PKSaenchaigym stepping up to replace the likes of Sam-A and Petboonchu.

Even the very best Thai fighters only receive purses in the region of 100,000-150,000 Baht at the Bangkok stadiums and their managers and camps often take a cut of around 50 per cent. At Evolve MMA they can earn considerably more than this per month so it seems likely that more of Muay Thai’s biggest names will be moving to Singapore once their competitive careers are done.

For more information visit: Evolve MMA.

 

 

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Opponent Announced for Robin van Roosmalen's MMA Debut and More at FFC 22

  • Published in Kickboxing

Robin van Roosmalen will be making his MMA debut at FFC 22 in Athens on February 19th, that much we knew, but his opponent was unknown still. Now we know that he'll be fighting 6-5 Greek fighter Theo Michailidis, currently fighting out of the UK at -66kg. This should be an interesting challenge for van Roosmalen as it'll involve weight cutting as well as fighting an opponent who is experienced in MMA, although not seemingly a world beater. 

Another fight to look forward to is at -95kg in kickboxing between Pavel Zhuravlev and Brian Douwes. Douwes has proven himself many times over after a few mediocre showings in It's Showtime early on in his career and this fight is a pretty big deal at -95kg.

FFC 22  Athens

19/2/2015, 8PM

 

MMA:

Robin Van Roosmalen (NED) vs. Theo Michailidis (GRE), -66kg

Darko Stošić (SER) vs. Emil Zahariev (BUL), HW

Pavel Doroftei (MOL) vs. TBA, -84kg

David Vasić (CRO) vs. Zauri Maisuradze (GE), -84kg

Alexander Papadimitriou (GRE) vs. Vladislav Genov (BUL), -70kg

TBA vs. TBA

KB:

Pavel Zhuravlev (UKR) vs. Brian Douwes (NED), -95kg

Samo Petje (SLO) vs. Meletis Kakaoubavas (GRE), -70kg

Antonio Plazibat (CRO) vs. Sergei Masloboev (LT), -95kg

Tomislav Čikotić (CRO) vs. Marius Munteanu (ROM), HW

Marko Adamović (SER) vs. Florian Marku (ALB), -70kg

JAsmin Bajrović (CRO) vs. Dimitris Chiotis (GRE), -77kg

 

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Video: Masato vs. KID Yamamoto II From Kyokugen

  • Published in Video

Rizin FF has come and gone, there was some insanity there for sure, but there are always other New Year's Eve shows in Japan and one of those shows was Kyokugen. Kyokugen was a variety show on TBS in Japan that decided to throw together a dream fight. That dream fight was Masato vs. KID Yamamoto. Masato has been retired for a while now and KID Yamamoto is under contract to the UFC still, so the chances of them having an actual fight was slim-to-none.

Instead they had an exhibition, which was legal under KID's contract. KID, who has taken on quite a few new tattoos since his last appearance fighting on Japanese television, was forced to fight with a rash guard on due to Japan's broadcast laws against such yakuza-ish things. That being said, this still happened and damn is it cool to watch. 

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Steven Wright's Newest Highlight Shows How Valentina Shevchenko is Great at Everything

  • Published in Video

Consider my surprise this weekend when I saw the name Valentina Shevchenko showing up on my Twitter feed and not just from the usual kickboxing people, but from your run-of-the-mill UFC fans. Apparently Shevchenko has made it into the UFC and not only that, she just beat up Sarah Kaufman this past weekend. Damn, right? Shevchenko has been a well-known quantity in the world of kickboxing and muay thai for quite a while now, one of the premier female talents anywhere.

Our pal Steven Wright is celebrating this by delivering one of his absolutely best highlights to date, this time showcasing "The Bullet" throughout her storied career. Don't miss it.

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December 2015 LiverKick Rankings Update: Badr Hari Returns to the Rankings

  • Published in Rankings

Yes, it's that time again. That time is for the official LiverKick Rankings to be updated. The last major show for the year has happened in GLORY 26 and while we prepare for 2016 Jay Jauncey and myself took a look at the rankings and spent hours hashing out who goes where. The LiverKick rankings date back to 2010 when Fraser Coffeen and myself began ranking fighters across multiple divisions, with the only way to move up the rankings (or being added to them) being defeating a ranked opponent. Therefore, these rankings are based upon who beats who, not talent, potential or anything else. They are also current, meaning that past wins or losses are not taken into account when ranking a fighter. 

Heavyweight is, for a lack of a better term, a mess. Rico Verhoeven is firmly at the top, but everything after that feels like an amorphous blob of traded wins, confusing losses and strange additions. The first thing is, yes, for the first time since his incarceration, Badr Hari returns to the LiverKick rankings. His recent victory over Ismael Londt secured his spot for the time being. Adegbuyi, after two unsuccessful title challenges, moves up to #2 without much of a hope of moving up for a while. Jahfarr Wilnis, after a tournament victory in Kunlun and a second place finish in a GLORY tournament jumps up to #3. Everything from there is an existential nightmare. Jamal Ben Saddik lost to Brian Douwes, who enters the rankings for the very first time in the unthinkable spot of #4 and, well, not much else changed, although I get the distinct impression that Gerges might go inactive at some point.

Gokhan Saki's stranglehold on the Light Heavyweight division continues with the announcement of his return to GLORY. The one fight he had this year kept him from being expunged due to inactivity and hopefully we'll have some order at the top of that division soon as the #1 and #2 are set to meet in early 2016. Artem Vakhitov and Mourad Bouzidi picked up wins over Danyo Ilunga, seeing both of them bump up and Jorge Loren's win over Andrei Stoica earned him a spot on the rankings.

Middleweight has seen very little movement of late, with Dustin Jacoby earning the #7 spot after a win over Wayne Barrett and Barrett dropping down to #10 with his future looking doubtful at the moment.

Welterweight sees Holzken hold onto the division via a controversial decision while Groenhart gets the coveted #2 spot. Yoann Kongolo made a splash on the division while Karapet faced a tough loss that sent him down.

Nothing changed at Lightweight. Seriously.

Featherweight saw the usual reshuffling that we tend to see, with Glunder rising in the face of a loss in muay thai and a few strange wins at way higher weight classes, but still doing well at his home weight of 65kg. Noiri moves up, Soda moves down and Serhiy Adamchuk earns that #7 spot by defeating Gabriel Varga for the GLORY Featherweight title, continuing the trend of the GLORY FW champion not being near the top of the division due to the depth of talent in Japan and the lack of depth in GLORY's division. Zouggari holds onto his spot on the rankings amidst all of the shifting by finally booting Suzuki out of the rankings and all is right with the world.

Heavyweight (Per 12/15)

1 Rico Verhoeven
2 Benjamin Adegbuyi
3 Jahfarr Wilnis
4 Brian Douwes
5 Jamal Ben Saddik
6 Anderson Silva
7 Hesdy Gerges
8 Andrei Gerasmichuk
9 Zabit Samedov
10 Badr Hari

Light

Heavyweight (Per 12/15)

1 Gokhan Saki
2 Saulo Cavalari
3 Artem Vakhitov
4 Mourad Bouzidi
5 Danyo Ilunga
6 Michael Duut
7 Jorge Loren
8 Andrei Stoica
9 Zack Mwekassa
10 Reduon Cairo
Middleweight (Per 12/15)

1 Artem Levin
2 Simon Marcus
3 Joe Schilling
4 Filip Verlinden
5 Jason Wilnis
6 Alex Pereira
7 Dustin Jacoby
8 Israel Adesanya
9 Fang Bian
10 Wayne Barrett
Welterweight (Per 12/15)

1 Nieky Holzken
2 Murthel Groenhart
3 Artur Kyshenko
4 Hicham El Gaoui
5 Raymond Daniels
6 Yoann Kongolo
7 Karim Ghajji
8 Karapet Karapetyan
9 Paul Daley
10 Bai Jinbin
Lightweight (Per 12/15)

1 Robin van Roosmalen
2 Sitthichai
3 Davit Kiria
4 Andy Ristie
5 Giorgio Petrosyan
6 Yodsanklai Fairtex
7 Marat Grigorian
8 Dzhabar Askerov
9 Enriko Kehl
10 Josh Jauncey
Featherweight (Per 12/15)

1 Kaew Fairtex
2 Minoru Kimura
3 Massaro Glunder
4 Masaaki Noiri
5 Yasuomi Soda
6 Yuta Kubo
7 Serhiy Adamchuk
8 Gabriel Varga
9 Mosab Amrani
10 Zakaria Zouggari
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Steven Banks on His Time in Kunlun Fight and How Phuket Top Team Transformed Him as a Fighter

  • Published in Interviews

Before GLORY came to America and helped to bring kickboxing back into the discourse of the average combat sports fan kickboxing in America was a very different beast. There was a small cluster of names that you'd hear all of the time who would be fighting throughout the country without a lot of fanfare, one of those was Steven Banks. Banks, a larger heavyweight was doing his best to capture the attention of bigger international leagues but it has always been a bit of a slow road for Banks.

This included fighting in shows in Europe on short notice for bad pay, taking fights that weren't going to be good for his career because it was worth a shot and everything else in between. Things finally seem to be turning around for Banks and a lot of that he credits to his time training in Thailand at Phuket Top Team. His time in China has helped to give him a new perspective on fighting and on October 31st he'll return to China for Kunlun Fight 33. We caught up with Banks to talk to him about the past, the present and the future.

LK: So you’ve done both MMA and kickboxing in your professional career, what is it about kickboxing and muay thai that has drawn you in as a fighter as opposed to focusing solely on MMA like so many fighters today?

SB: I love the art of striking. I enjoy every bit of it, the culture and the tradition... my 1st love was and will always be Muay Thai... I think the reason that I prefer to do Muay Thai or kickboxing over MMA is because alot of fighters will go out there and get a takedown, and cuddle for a win... I actually still train for MMA as well...I will be fighting in MMA again soon...

LK: You are an American living and training in Thailand right now. What prompted that move and what kind of results have you seen?

SB: When Phuket Top Team offered me the chance to train full time,  I had to take it! Best decision I have ever made... I have seen amazing results... it was really hard to try and train effectively while having a full-time job, competing against the best in the world is tough already... most of the guys I have been fighting were training full-time already... I decided that if I wanted to go out and become one of the best American heavyweights I needed to go and train with some of the best... training full-time and having a camp that pushes you to become better and better each day is incredible... my head trainer Neung pushes me everyday, Neung took me under his wing as soon as I got to PTT... no day is easy...its put all the effort in it... getting to train everyday with world class trainers is a great way to spend your time...

LK: You’ve gone through your share of a transformation when it comes to your body, from what I understand losing a great deal of weight. How has that impacted your career?

SB: Oh yes... since I have been training at PTT... I have dropped over 60 pounds... I have been told by promotions that I didnt look "pretty" enough for the sponsors of the show.  As a heavyweight, I have always been one of the heavier fighters... I'm a fighter, not a model... I love food... since dropping this weight I have noticed my cardio is 100 times better than ever... when I finished my last fight, I walked over to my coach and told him I felt like I could go a couple more rounds and that I felt great... my coaches at Phuket Top Team have made it a point to push me to become one of the best...

LK: I’ve gotta ask -- the fight with Lungu where you guys spilled out of the ring. What went through your mind at that moment and when the fight was declared a loss for you?

SB: Oh man... I wish I could get that changed on my record... that accident should have been called a no contest... we knew he was going to try and take me to the ground from the very beginning of the fight... just wasn't expecting the ropes to be so low...  the ropes were at the correct height, but when you have almost 700 plus pounds moving in 1 direction its hard to stop... I didnt understand why they gave Lungu the win. I have asked for several rematches to set the record straight... but to no luck...

LK: You’ve seen some success of late in Kunlun Fight in China and are currently preparing to fight in a few weeks time here, how has your experience fighting in China been thus far?

SB: Yes, I fight again for Kunlun Fight October 31st against another Chinese fighter...I absolutely love fighting in China... they treat every fighter with so much respect. I have fought in China 6 times... and every time I have, it has never been a bad experience...I got my nickname from fighting in China... I have so much respect for the fans. I will stay after the fights to meet as many fans as i can... I wamt them to know how much I respect them as a fighter...

LK: Your success in China has been interesting, with your only loss to the guy who beat Rico Verhoeven, do you see yourself as a threat to these guys on the top tier of the division?

SB: That loss was my 1st loss in China... he caught me with a great jumping knee to the ribs... I really believe I can beat many of the guys on the top tier of the division...  I was able to compete against top level guys with part-time training. Now its time to show everyone what I can really do... I see guys fight and I feel that I can trade with the best there is... I might not be pretty, but I will give the crowd a show they will never forget...

LK: Do you think that kickboxing or muay thai will ever really take off in the United States, especially after seeing China of late and how it’s growing there?

SB: I really hope it does take off in the United States... I know that it is currently growing... I think the reason more fighters choose to go to MMA rather than kickboxing or Muay Thai is because they have a background in wrestling... not like most of the dominant countries in the world of Muay Thai or kickboxing...

LK: You started off in football and transitioned to fighting, have you been able to take anything from your time in football with you into combat sports?

SB: One of the biggest things that I have been able to take to fighting from football has been the will not to give up. With all sports comes injuries... I played football for many years, I finally started to listen to my body on recovery and injuries...I think that has helped me to stay active in fighting over and over...

LK: What can we expect in the future from Steve Banks?

SB: Keep your ears and eyes open... I am planning on dominating the heavyweight division... I want to take on everyone... I will be fighting in Muay Thai,  kickboxing, boxing,  and MMA in the very near future...  to be the best, you got to take on the best... I'm here to do that... we make our own future... I'm here to show everyone that America does have great heavyweight Muay Thai and kickboxers... and we will be taking on all...

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Wayne Barrett Ready to Return to Greatness at GLORY 24

  • Published in Interviews

This Friday at GLORY 24 Wayne Barrett is set to return from an absence from the ring to fight recent GLORY tournament winner Dustin Jacoby. For many, Wayne Barrett is one of those raw talents in kickboxing who could easily become a major player for years to come, which is especially rare considering that he is an American. Perhaps the feather in the cap of his relatively young kickboxing career is a win over Joe Schilling. The Schilling win came at a time when many saw Schilling as unstoppable, putting a considering dent in the armor of the myth that was Joe Schilling at the time. The win over Bogdan Stoica that came at GLORY’s Last Man Standing tournament was purely academic at that point.

After that, though, things haven’t been all sunshine and happiness for Wayne Barrett. On a three fight skid right now, Barrett elected to take time off to get his head back into the game. “You know, they offered me fights, man. They offered me fights to get myself a win, to build my confidence up and everyone thought that I should do it, but I turned them down. What’s the point if I’m not the Wayne Barrett that I truly believe that I can be? I took time for myself,” he explained. “And let me tell you, I feel incredible right now. This fight is all about me, it’s all about Wayne and getting everything right.”

What he means is that during his time away from the ring he made sure that everything was in order in his personal life as well as his professional life. As a father it was important to him to feel that he was doing his best and to set the right kind of example. A lot of that had to do with how he was training, as well. “I went through so many coaches at this point, I’ve had coaches telling me what to do, trying to change me and make me more of an orthodox fighter. But that isn’t who I am. I’ve got, for lack of a better word, a sort of swagger to me and how I fight. I’m unlike anyone else in the world in the ring and that’s what I bring to the table, so I’m not trying to be someone else anymore, I’m just being me right now.”

I brought up a young Rico Verhoeven, who at the time was incredibly talented with a ton of potential, but if you would go back and watch Rico’s early fights you’ll see a stiff, rigid and uncomfortable Verhoeven. The confidence to be himself wasn’t quite there yet compared to the Rico Verhoeven of today. “Oh man, absolutely,” he was getting excited now. “I love Rico, man. He’s just incredible. He’s his own man out there. Does he honor the whole Dutch style? Of course he does, but he’s making it his own, what he’s doing is an evolution. That’s how I view myself. They wanted me to do this you kick-I kick thing and that wasn’t who I am so it just didn’t work.”

Barrett, while in his late 20’s, is still relatively fresh into his professional career. “My second professional fight,” he said, “that was in the GLORY ring against a guy like Mike Lemaire.” Indeed it was his second professional fight, that fight being a knockout of Lemaire. What is astonishing about Barrett’s professional career is that upon joining GLORY he was immediately thrust into the spotlight, fighting some of the biggest names in the world. He stepped into the ring for his fourth professional fight against Joe Schilling, arguably the top dog in the division at that time, and he didn’t only handle himself well, but he won. There was no carefully curated career here, Barrett was simply there, with a rocket strapped to his back going full steam ahead.

When it came time for him to step into the ring with the notorious Romanian slugger Bogdan Stoica he felt ready, although the more that we talked about how kickboxing worked overseas, the more he opened up about how different his career has been. “There is no padding on my record,” he laughed. “I remember looking at Stoica’s record and thinking -- as a fan -- that I had no clue who some of these people that he was crushing were. Even some of the guys who beat him I had never heard of before.” The fight ended with Stoica going down to a left hook, Barrett moving forward in the tournament only to meet Joe Schilling. When I brought up the decision and how there was controversy over it he quickly interjected, “You could say that again.” 

Even if his next two fights were indeed losses, one to Jason Wilnis and one to Simon Marcus, they were still against two of the top fighters within the division. While most would look at that, shrug and take an easy fight, Barrett decided to go back to the drawing board and wait for another opportunity down the line. Now, though? “I’m going full force now,” he said. “I want to fight again this year, as long as they’ll let me. I think they probably will. Then next year I want to stay as active as I can.”

Tournaments, though, don’t seem to be in the immediate future for Wayne Barrett. “Nah,” he said. “Just single fights for me right now. Too much is out of your control in those tournaments. In the future? Yeah, if there is a big tournament I’ll be a part of it, but I want to focus on one opponent for right now and I want to prove to everyone that Wayne Barrett really is as good as everyone thinks that he can be. Man,” he laughed. “Now I’m talking in third person about myself. I still can’t believe that I’m at that point where I can talk to people about myself in third person.”

What I took away from my time talking to Wayne Barrett is that he’s in a very, very good place right now. He’s both mentally and physically ready for the road ahead and understands that while it was sort of shocking to initially see himself on a list as a top middleweight that he has to keep proving himself and earn his top spot. We’ll see what he brings to the table against Dustin Jacoby at GLORY 24 on Friday night in Denver.

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Joe Schilling Talks Once Again Chasing Artem Levin for Rubber Match and GLORY 24

  • Published in Interviews

(C) Glory Sports International/James Law

Few names have become as synonymous with the American kickboxing movement within GLORY over the past few years like Joe Schilling. Schilling was originally a standout muay thai fighter who made a name for himself taking on all comers within his division and rising among the ranks until it was time to fight the top dogs in the world. There may have been some bumps, bruises and cuts along the way, but when it comes to Joe Schilling the word “pretty” isn’t often in the vocabulary. With a nickname like “Stitch ‘em Up” due to his proclivity for throwing lacerating elbows one can quickly understand why Joe Schilling rose up from being a cult favorite to one of GLORY’s American poster boys. 

This Friday evening at GLORY 24 he returns to the GLORY ring to face top middleweight Jason Wilnis. Originally Schilling was going to get his chance at a rubber match with career-adversary Artem Levin and his GLORY Middleweight championship, but an injury forced Levin off of the card and left Schilling with a tough, young and hungry Jason Wilnis looking to make a name off of one of the men who earned his spot on the Mount Rushmore of the division. For Schilling there is a lot riding on this fight outside of just another kickboxing fight, this is his first kickboxing fight since two back-to-back losses in Bellator, the latter being via knockout.

“You know, people have been talking a lot of shit, saying a lot of things, but really, I’m a multi-sport athlete,” he explained to us. “How many fighters can say that? I got caught in MMA, it happens, but now I have to show the world what I can and always have done in the ring and too bad for Wilnis, it’s going to be against him. I’m in demand right now, like they wanted me for the Dynamite show but the medical suspension got in the way of that happening.”

For a time the fight with Artem Levin was Schilling’s white whale, the one fight that eluded him. Scheduled and rescheduled a number of times in their respective pre-GLORY careers, their clash finally happened at GLORY 10 in the middleweight tournament that saw Schilling pull off the victory in an extension round of the finals. Once again Schilling finds himself frustrated with Levin pulling out of a fight with him. “I feel like I’m chasing him all over again. GLORY called me up and said they wanted me to fight Levin in Denver and, you know, this was the fight that I was asking them for, so I took it. Then a few weeks later they call and tell me that Levin was out and Wilnis is in and I was really pissed off.”

Schilling doesn’t seem certain that he’ll get that third fight with Levin any time soon, that he’ll be able to settle the score and have one man walk out victorious in their series, but he seems dead set on moving forward. As for where that future will be for Schilling, it seems to be on Spike TV for now. “I signed a new deal with Bellator, for MMA and kickboxing on Dynamite shows. I know not everyone loved that show, but it was incredible, a lot of vision went into that. There are going to be more and I’m gonna be fighting on them, be it kickboxing or MMA.”

The future within the GLORY ring seems to be less certain for Schilling, though, although he does seem open to more fights in the future. “Kickboxing is always my preference and if the offer is there and it’s the right offer I’ll take it without a second thought. The fights that I want are in GLORY right now.”

There has been a lot of talk about the future of kickboxing in America as well as GLORY’s future, which Schilling of course has had on his mind of late. His thoughts on the matter diverge from the common line of thought, though. “I never buy this line of bullshit about how you need an American champion to make it big here in the US. GLORY has been diluting their product in the name of finding this big American star and it has meant putting on weaker cards not featuring the top talents in the world. Put on big fights between the best fighters and the fans will react to that, who cares if they speak english or if they don’t? What matters is what happens in the ring, not the post-fight interviews.”

Schilling himself is of course one for leaving it all in the ring, with some of the most exciting fights in GLORY’s history under his belt, including the two dramatic fights with Artem Levin that have helped to define GLORY’s middleweight division. That doesn’t mean that he’s overlooking Wilnis on Friday at all, though. “Wilnis is a tough guy, he’s hungry and a win over me would mean a lot for his career. In no way am I overlooking Wilnis, though, I think that I’m on a mission here to prove those doubters wrong. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Joe Schilling makes his return to GLORY on Friday at GLORY 24 against Jason Wilnis live on Spike TV in the main event.

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Prize Fighter Ben Edwards Ready for GLORY 24 Heavyweight Tournament

  • Published in Interviews

GLORY 24 will see a new heavyweight contender crowned, the winner moving on to fight champion Rico Verhoeven for the top spot in the world of heavyweight kickboxing. Over the past year we’ve seen Verhoeven fight Errol Zimmerman and Benjamin Adegbuyi, defeating both to retain his title. Fans have been starved for a good heavyweight tournament from GLORY, the last one at GLORY 16 Denver.

Interestingly enough, a man that we last saw at GLORY 16 Denver will be making his return to the GLORY ring at GLORY 24 looking for another crack at the GLORY Heavyweight Championship. That man is Australia’s own Ben Edwards. We caught up with Ben Edwards as he finishes up his preparations for the tournament and will be heading back to the United States.

Edwards had announced that he was leaving kickboxing after his loss last year, but the return is a welcome one for fans of the Aussie slugger. For Edwards, it is about making a living. “With kickboxing the last 3 of my last 4 losses were to guys pretty much the top 3 in the world (Rico, Errol and Overeem the year he won) and they are the guys that were at least making a living. If I couldn't crack that top tier I couldn't make a living and kickboxing is very hard to train for in Canberra so I decided to concentrate on boxing which is easy to train for in my home town. I won the national title 2 fights in returning to the sport so it wasn't a bad decision,” he explained. The offer from GLORY took him by surprise, actually. “The offer from Glory was unexpected and appreciated and I am very much looking forward to making the most of this second chance.”

Heavyweight kickboxing has seemed to be less of a focus of late, with the lighter weight classes taking a lot of the spotlight and there being a lot of fighters -- much like Edwards -- looking for opportunities outside of kickboxing. “As a hard-core combat sport fan I really feel kickboxing is the most exciting format. Its sad the sport has lost some of the bigger names but I still feel the sport has a healthy future.”

As for this tournament especially, Edwards seems ready to finally show the world what he’s made of after what he considered disappointments before. “The main difference in training is I've been spending a lot of time in Sydney, I've don't 6 trips in 5 weeks to train with Stu McKinnon and the boys at Castle Hill Bulldog,” he explained. “It’s world class padwork and sparring there and for the first time in  long time I am excited to fight. I had a lot of personal problems going into the last fight and I have fixed every single one and I am looking forward to being back to my best. I'm sick of feeling disappointed and letting people down, being considered a journeyman etc. Those days are over.”

When it comes to the first opponent for the night, Jahfarr Wilnis, Edwards seemed more focused on himself and his preparations, instead. “I only ever watch a little bit of footage on my opponent when the fight gets signed, get a feel for them, come up with a game plan then I don't think about them anymore. He appears to be a busy fighter with not much power which should leave plenty of openings to land one of my ghetto whoppers.”

Edwards has been a busy guy of late if you follow him on Facebook, taking a few acting gigs and looking happy to be going outside of his comfort zone. He explained to us how he found himself in front of the camera without gloves on. “I trained a guy who ended up being a producer on a local film that ended up starring Billy Zane, they have finished filming but they were running short on money to finish the production. Blue World Order is the film's name and they have a website to visit. This latest project stemmed from people I met on that, this one is called Tech Noir and the director is attempting to get it into the aussie short film festival Tropfest. I had a great experience on both films and definitely look forward to participating in more projects.”

What does the future hold for Edwards? Only time will tell. Edwards has done it all from boxing to kickboxing to even dog walking, but will he keep fighting even if he loses? “There will be plenty of dog walking, I can't express how much I enjoy doing that and I am a prize fighter, whatever the rules if there is a prize I'll be there.”

Any man who loves dogs is okay by me. The same with any man who genuinely loves fighting and Ben Edwards fits that bill. Ben Edwards is participating in the GLORY 24 Heavyweight tournament, facing Jahfarr Wilnis in the first round.

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The 20 Greatest Kyokushin Karate Fighters of All Time: #16-13

  • Published in News

The 20 Greatest Kyokushin Karate Fighters of All Time was first published by Liver Kick in 2013, with #20-17. It has taken us some time to get around to completing that list, but finally we have done it!

As mentioned in the first installment, Kyokushin Karate was founded by Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama, and considered to be the first and most influential style of full contact karate, and one of the most hard-hitting, brutal, and intense forms of organized combat in the world. A style that has spawn fighters the likes of Andy Hug and Georges St. Pierre, to name just a couple. But aside from the big name kickboxers and mma stars there lays an array of combat sports athletes whose neither names nor accomplishments often see the light of day. This is the reason the "Top 20 Greatest Kyokushin Fighters of All-Time" was first started.

As stated before, this is by no means the definitive list, and I am sure there are names missing, but I have done my best to complete the list with fighters based mainly on impact, achievement, quality of competition and technical skill. The list is in no particular order, as it’s next to impossible to select one fighter over another, and further, it is something that no one would agree on. But I am sure we can all agree that the names on this list deserve recognition.

A little information on the different types of tournaments before we begin: A World Tournament includes every weight class. There are no divisions and no upper weight limit. Any Weight Tournament splits fighters into one of three weights: Lightweight (Under 70 kg) Middleweight (70 kg to 80 kg) and Heavyweight (Over 90 kg). That's it. Pretty simple, right?

 

So without further ado, here are #16 - 13 on our list....

#16: Makoto Nakamura

Nationality: Japanese

Achievements

  • 3rd World Tournament – 1st place 1984
  • 2nd World Tournament – 1st place 1979
  • 13th All Japan Tournament – 2nd place 1981
  • 12th All Japan Tournament – 2nd place 1980
  • 11th All Japan Tournament – 1st place 1979
  • 10th All Japan Tournament – 3rd place 1978
  • 9th All Japan Tournament – 3rd place 1977

Makoto Nakamura is the only winner of two Kyokushin World Open tournaments and was known for his power style of karate. He is the epitome of “power karate” and truly represented the old guard of Kyokushin. At 110 kg (245 lbs) he was large man be any accounts, let alone against usually much smaller Japanese. He used his size and power to full advantage.

After competing, winning or always placing in the top 3 in the All Japan Tournaments, Nakamura was selected to be on the Japanese team for the 2nd World Tournament in 1979, where he would win first place, but not without controversy.

In that 2nd World Tournament he would face 18-year-old Dolph Lundgren from Sweden. Then only a green belt, Lundgren had to borrow a brown belt (one level higher) to be able to fight. As he recounts, "Full-contact-karate was something new at the time. Nobody really knew a lot about it, and neither did I." Held at the Japan Metropolitan Gymnasium, Nakamura was the favourite to win. When he faced Lundgren, who weighed 93 kg (205 lbs) Nakamura (a 2nd degree black belt at the time) attacked immediately and Lundgren caught him with a mawashi-geri (roundhouse kick) to the head. It is reported the crowd gasped and Nakamura probably thought he had more on his hands then he had bargained for. The fight went the distance; plus two extensions and Nakamura was awarded a controversial decision. This proved to be the eventual world champions hardest fight.

Nakamura would go on to compete in the 3rd World Tournament 1984 and win 1st place as well.

 

#15: Sam Greco

Nationality: Australian

Achievements

  • K-1 World Grand Prix 3rd Place1999
  • W.A.K.O. Pro World Muay Thai Super Heavyweight Champion1999
  • The Best of the Best Tournament Champion1995
  • W.K.A. World Muay Thai Super Heavyweight Champion1994
  • Karate World Cup Champion1994
  • Commonwealth Karate Champion 1989-1991
  • 6 time Australia Full Contact Karate Champion

Sam "Slam 'em" Greco trained in Kyokushin Karate from a young age and started competing in full contact karate tournaments at age of 21. He is a retired super heavyweight fighter, who fought in Kyokushin Karate, Professional Kickboxing, K-1 tournaments and MMA. To put it simply, Sam Greco is a legend. He was an aggressive fighter who epitomized raw physical power and technical precision. Greco was an absolute dream to watch in the ring, as he would bring punishment forward and raining down. 

After winning the Australian Full-Contact Karate title six times Greco would meet the founder of Kyokusin, Mas Oyama and eventually the founder of Seidokaikan Karate, Kazuyoshi Ishii. Ishii himself was a student of Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin under Hideyuki Ashihara. 

Greco would go on to have an impressive career, 147 fights overall, and holds notable victories over many of the greats of kickboxing, like Branko Cikatic, Ernesto Hoost, Mike Bernardo, Stefan Leko, and Ray Sefo.

Greco is quoted as saying "My biggest achievement to date was taking on all the best fighters in the K1 world. Fighters that I would only read about and thought one day I will get to fight them. I never took a back step on anyone."

 

#14: Takashi Azuma

Nationality: Japanese

Achievements

  • 1st place at the 9th All Japan Tournament 1977
  • 3rd place at the 8th All Japan Tournament1976
  • 6th place at the 1st World Tournament1974
  • 2nd place at the 6th All Japan Tournament1974

Azuma Takashi was born in 1949, began martial arts through the practice of Judo and in 1971 discovered Kyokushin Karate. He became a student of the founder, Mas Oyama. Azuma was a fiercely dominant fighter in the early days of Kyokushin and stood out among other fighters not only because of his physical strength, but also his strength of spirit, which never accepted defeat. A true warrior in every sense of the word, who encompassed Budo, or the Japanese Martial Way.

Azuma Takashi is the founder of the martial art Daido Juku, also known as "Kudo", and the President of the Kudo International Federation. Daido Juku is a martial art group practicing Kudo, a strike-based Mixed Martial Art/Budo. Noticeable by the use of a helmet that sort of looks like a space helmet, which allows fighters to strike to the head and not impede vision. Daido Juku introduced "Kakuto Karate (Combat Karate)" a safe, practical and popular form of tournament karate using the face protector and allowing attacks to the head level attack, throws, grabs, joint locks and chokes. Essentially, it’s like Japanese Budo MMA. 

 

Photo Credit WKO Shinkyokushinkai

Photo courtesy of WKO Shinkyokushinkai

#13 Norichika Tsukamoto

Nationality: Japanese

Achievements

  • All Japan Weight Division Tournament: The 11th all Japan weight division heavy weight 4th place, The 15th all Japan weight division heavy weight 1st place, The 21st all Japan weight division heavy weight 1st place, The 25th all Japan weight division heavy weight 3rd place
  • All Japan Tournament: The 28th all Japan 1st place, The 29th all Japan 1st place, The 34th all Japan 3rd place, The 36th all Japan 6th place, The 38th all Japan 1st place/Mas Oyama Award, The 41st all Japan 1st place, The 42nd all Japan 1st place
  • Karate World Cup: The 1st karate world cup heavy weight 1st place, The 3rd karate world cup heavy weight 4th place, The 4th karate world cup heavy weight 2nd place
  • World Tournament: The 6th world championship 1st place, The 7th world championship Japan national member, The 8th world championship 7th place, The 9th world championship 7th place, The 10th world championship 1st place/technique award
  • Tsukamoto was part of the new breed of Kyokushin fighters, known for his innovative and progressive fighting style. 

In the earlier days of Kyokushin, fighters were recognized for their “stand and bang” style of fighting. Pitting strength and brawn against one another. As the sport evolved you began to see fighters becoming more intelligent in their training practices and fighting. Fighters probably began to realize the old style of training and fighting would not have much longevity on the body. So, as fighters became smarter with their conditioning, the styles of fighting became smarter as well. Tsukamoto was one of the first in Full Contact Karate that began to apply new ways of thinking and new performing techniques, and we began to others changing and adapting. Marius Ilas is another one of this new breed of fighters.

Tsukamoto has proven that his unconventional way of fighting works, based on the many championships he has won, and the way fighters have a hard time dealing with and defending his approach. From unorthodox kicking methods to his use of hiza geri jodan (knee kick to the head) to KO opponents, Tsukamoto has influenced a whole new generation of Kyokushin fighters.

Tsukamoto is now part of the World Karate Organization - Shinkyokushinkai, the Kyokushin offshoot led by former world champion, Kenji Midori. We’ll be visiting him on the list shortly! 

Click here for #20-17 and tune in soon for fighters #12-09. 

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Zack Mwekassa Promises That His Fight Will be Epic

  • Published in Interviews

"It's going to be epic!" That is Zack Mwekassa's prediction for the rematch between he and Saulo Cavalari and at the event called 'Dynamite' .With an event name like that, it's only natural to expect to see some bombs being dropped in the ring. Zack Mwekassa promises you will not only get bombs but some drama as well! If you're curious about what bombs and drama means and the hashtag (#bombsanddrama) that has captivated fans of Mwekassa around the world, the originator explained, "A lot of people think my punches are like bombs and they believe the whole persona of Zack Mwekassa with the bombs just makes it spectacular and just brings the drama. Look at the fight with Pat Barry, when I walked in people booed me, I walked in the ring thinking what have I done to these people, they don't know me, but I stopped him and they played my entrance song, 'There is Power in the Name of Jesus', and that was the drama. I walked in with the bombs and that was drama. When Pat Barry walked in they all were shouting 'HD, HD, HD!' but booing me, but again that was drama too". In fact bombs and drama is one of Mwekassa's goals as a fighter, to give a spectacular performance to his fans during every fight. Mwekassa stated that he doesn't come to win fights, he comes to bring emotions. He makes a distinction between simply winning and trying to offer more. Mwekassa stated that trying to win fights is easy to do, but his overall goal, is to give fans something they can talk about, and that is the drama side of it. If his past is any prediction of his future Zack Mwekassa will definitely bring both bombs and drama to the SAP center.

Taking a look back, you will recall Cavalari and Mwekassa first met in November 2014 during the light heavyweight qualifying tournament in Oklahoma at Glory 18. Mwekassa's first opponent in the tournament was Brian 'The Lion' Collette. Mwekassa easily dispatched Collette with a devastating blow that left Collette dazed and down for the count. Phase two of the tournament brought together Cavalari and Mwekassa. In was beginning the bout seemed to be an unending slugfest but ended with Mwekassa getting caught and knocked out. Since that time Mwekassa has made a commitment to step up his level of training and stretch the boundaries of his performance as an athlete. Chiefly among the changes Mwekassa has made was his decision to spend time in Holland at Hemmers Gym to give himself exposure to different fighting styles, higher level sparring partners and other things that had been unavailable to him while training in Africa.

Mwekassa makes no excuses about his loss to Cavalari despite any training disadvantages he might have had prior to the bout. This however is the nature of Zack Mwekassa and the basis of his #Mwekassance. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to talk to Mwekassa, fighters and fans alike, I'm sure can testify to his character and his desire to strive, on a daily basis, to be a better man. Mwekassa is both a fighter and a business man, at this time in his career seeing fights not just on the basis of what stylistically or intellectually makes sense but also as opportunities to continue to hone his craft and to build the means to give back to his family. Like most fighters, Mwekassa laments the grueling amount of time and energy the life of a fighter requires. It's however, a sacrifice he's willing to make for achievement of his ultimate goal, light heavyweight champion. Stylistically, Mwekassa mentions Gokhan Saki as an opponent with whom he could have had a very interesting and challenging fight. He is also, however, quick to add that he is willing to take on whoever Glory places in front of him and that he feels very fortunate to have arrived at his current place in life. For that he gives glory to God.

When it boils down to it both he and Cavalari are similar in nature. Both men arose from very humble beginnings in their respective countries and both had achieved a certain level of success in their combat sports careers prior to their Glory debuts. Both have made it their life's goal to be the best. Now both men have set their sights on the light heavyweight title which on Saturday, September 19th only one man can be victorious, but if nothing else we can all expect some bombs and drama until the end.

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Steven Wright's New Tiffany Van Soest Highlight Shows Timebomb at Her Best

  • Published in Video

Our pal Steven Wright is at it again, once again doing more than his part for the striking arts with his new highlight reel of none other than Tiffany Van Soest. This new highlight of the Timebomb showcases her unique skill set while showing her heart and struggle while she has clawed her way to the top of the sport. 

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K-1

K-1 The Championship: Title Fights Breakdown

  • Published in K-1

Since this next K-1 Card is so exciting we've decided to breakdown the 4 title fights and get everyone as pumped up as we are. The full card is listed AT THIS LINK.

This card will be played on NICO NICO TV, we posted instructions on the easiest way to order from this site earlier in the year for the S-cup, you can order these the same way just instead of looking for the name S-cup u should look for the name K-1 WGP 2015 The championship. Here is the link on how to order through NICO NICO.

Kaew Fairtex(c) vs Kimura "Phillip" Minoru

We will start with the 65kg fight between Kaew Fairtex and Kimura Minoru. This fight is a rematch from January of this year where Minoru won a very controversial decision. First of all here is the video of the fight.

Now lets talk about the elephant in ring... that referee! I believe that by being so involved in the fight and constantly touching, pushing, and breaking up the fighters he actually ruined the outcome of the fight. In the 2nd round Fairtex had Minoru badly hurt yet the ref kept interfering because of the clinch and then spending extra time talking and pushing the fighters around for no reason which gave Minoru plenty of time to recover. Also it seemed that Kaew won the first two rounds quite decisively but then he got an 8 count in the 3rd, I was sure there was going to be an extra round but was proven wrong by the bad judging.

Since their last meeting which was almost a year ago both fighters have been very active and made great improvements. Fairtex is getting much more confidant with his boxing which is showing us the power he has in hands but for this fight its best if he sticks with his left body and head kick. The only time he was ever in any danger the first fight was when he decided to come in and punch, which eventually got him an 8 count and cost him the fight. He can use that kick all fight to keep himself out of range of the dangerous hands of Minoru.

There is no doubt that Kimura has huge power and speed in his hands for this weight class, it seems no matter who he touches on the chin, they fall down. He will really need to work on keeping his left foot on the outside of Kaews right foot and using his explosiveness to get past the kick and land punch combinations. I'm really expecting fireworks with this fight, now lets just hope they have a better referee this time.

Marat Grigorian(c) vs Sanny Dahlbeck

Grigorian vs Dahlbeck is once again the typical orthodox boxer vs southpaw kicker which seems to be happening a lot lately but always makes for an interesting fight.

Armenian fighter Marat Grigorian is the current K-1 70kgs champion and is now training at Hemmers gym in Holland. He is predominantly a boxer who throws in low kicks and knees every so often. His strongest attributes are the constant pressure he can put on fighters and his great combinations. He will really have to use this against Dahlbeck, the last time Grigorian fought a good southpaw it was against a much smaller fighter in Serhiy Adamchuk the newly crowned Glory 65kgs champion. To be fair Adamchuk took the fight on 24 hours notice, which of course is a disadvantage for Adamchuk but everyone forgets that Grigorian had been training for an Orthodox fighter for 4-6 weeks and now he gets sprung with a tricky southpaw last minute. This led to Marat having a really bad performance and losing to Adamchuk who was really making Grigorian look sloppy. For this fight Grigorian cannot just plod forward, get into range and throw punches like he usually does, he must use more explosiveness and push Dahlbeck to the ropes then unleash his combinations. If Marat can keep close to Dahlbeck and keep him on the ropes I feel Sanny will get tired and eventually get stopped in the later rounds.

Sanny Dahlbeck is a Swedish fighter who spends lots of his time in Thailand training at Sitmonchai. He is an extremely explosive southpaw with a very hard and fast left hand. Southpaws always have a small advantage over orthodox fighters because for the most part they always fight and train with right handed fighters, where as orthodox fighters only meet left handed fighters once in a while and to find a good southpaw for training is quite difficult. Dahlbeck will need to use this as much as possible, he will need to use his left kick and straight left as much as possible and make sure he angles off after throwing. If Sanny can keep Marat off balance with his body kick, angle to maintain the center of the ring and clinch up to avoid damage he can make this an easy night just like Adamchuk did. Dahlbeck is taller than Adamchuk, this is a good thing because he can land his straight left from further away and get the angle without too much danger but it could also mean that Marat is able to keep him off balance more due to his higher center of gravity in which case Sanny will end up on the ropes and be in big trouble.

I really do feel that conditioning is going to play a huge part in this fight, with Grigorians pressure if Dahlbeck gets tired in the last round he will not make it to the decision but if Dahlbeck has trained hard and made sure he is ready to move the whole fight he should be fine.

Koya Urabe(c) vs Hirotaka Urabe 

In case you didn't notice yes, these guys have the same last name and yes they are brothers. Koya is Hirotaka's younger brother, they have already fought once before in the final of the 60kgs tournament in January of this year.

Now keep in mind after watching that fight that they had both already won two fights, Hirotaka got one first round KO but in the semi-finals he ended up winning an extra round decision and Koya got two first round knockouts. You can tell that Hirotaka already had a damaged leg going into the final and Koya took advantage of it like a good little brother would do.

Koya is a southpaw and maybe a little bit slicker and more skilled but Hirotaka is tougher, grittier and will never give up especially now that his younger brother already beat him once. Both fighters love to use their hands so the southpaw to orthodox thing plays less of a role plus I'm sure they know each other very well since they have probably been training together their whole lives before this fight. I personally feel the fight is going to play out quite similar to the previous one but it will be very interesting to see what Hirotaka can do without a damaged back leg. Hirotaka has to find a way to surprise his younger brother, it seemed in the first fight that Koya was always one step ahead.

Whatever happens with this fight these two are always non-stop action from bell to bell and Hirotaka seems very motivated to take that belt from his younger brother as he feels that he deserves it.

Takeru(c) vs Charles Bongiovanni

I had not heard much about the Frenchman Charles Bongiovanni until his last fight on the K-1 Survival wars card where he took on Danial Williams. Williams is usually the hard puncher for this 55kg weight class but Bongiovanni proved he was right up there as well by landing a perfect counter right hook to drop Charles and then showed great finishing skills to drop him twice more. Its quite unusual to get first round knockouts in the 55kg division but Charles has proven he has the power to do it. Once again there is a pattern with all the fights here and Bongiovanni is a Southpaw and looks like he will be the taller of the two fighters so we will see how well he is able to work that on the current champion Takeru.

Takeru is not a big power puncher like Williams or Bongiovanni but he can score knockdowns with well placed punches due to his great technique. He will definitely be the more technical fighter of the two and he has great eyes to see what openings he can capitalize on as you can see in his fight above with Alexandre Prilip. Takeru lands one overhand right, and then its just a matter of time before he lands another to put Prilip down for an 8 count to end the first round. I really feel that both of these fighters are not the type to move backwards and they will meet in the middle and stand toe to toe until one fighter falls down. I'd be quite surprised if this one gets to the judges scorecards.

 

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K-1 WGP 2015 The Championship Fight Card

  • Published in K-1

K-1 WGP 2015 "The Championship" is taking place on November 21, 2015 at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. We are hoping this will at the very least be streamed through NicoNico because this is an amazing card.

Once again K-1 is giving us an absolutely ridiculous card with all 4 of their champions (Takeru 55kgs, Koya Urabe 60kgs, Kaew Fairtex 65kgs, and Marat Grigorian 70kgs) defending their belts plus super fights including Masaaki Noiri, Yasuomi Soda and Massaro Glunder, we cannot wait!

FULL CARD

65kg(Thailand) Kaew Fairtex (c) vs. (Brazil) Minoru Kimura (-65kg Championship)

70kg(Armenia) Marat Grigorian (c) vs. (Sweden) Sanny Dahlbeck (-70kg Championship)

60kg(Japan) Koya Urabe (c) vs. (Japan) Hirotaka Urabe (-60kg Championship)

55kg(Japan) Takeru (c) vs. (France) Charles Bongiovanni (-55kg Championship)

65kg(Japan) Yasuomi Soda vs. (Japan) Masaaki Noiri

70kg(Japan) Hiroki Nakajima vs. (Russia) Dmitrii Grafov

60kg(Japan) Taiga vs. (Japan) Leona Pettas

60kg(Japan) Kotaro Shimano vs. (Japan) Fumiya Osawa

65kg(Netherlands) Massaro Glunder vs. (Japan) Ren Hiramoto

65kg(Japan) Yuta Shinohara vs. (Japan) Kensei Kondo

55kg(Japan) Haruma Saikyo vs. (Japan) Tatsuya Tsubakihara

PRELIMS

60kg(Japan) Taishi Hiratsuka vs. (Japan) Yuki Miwa

70kg(Japan) Daisuke Fujimura vs. (Japan) Jin Hirayama

65kg(Japan) Kazuhiro vs. (Japan) Daiki Matsushita

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K-1 Japan's Survival Wars Card is Packed

  • Published in K-1

This weekend might not have delivered on the kickboxing action that you have hoped it would have, but there is still hope by the way of K-1 Japan. On September 22nd K-1 Japan will put forth their latest effort in Survival Wars. K-1 Japan have been putting on some of the very best shows anywhere in the world for quite a while now and this show looks to be no different including an awesome main event between Kimura Minoru and Ren Hiramato. 

As always, it will be airing on NicoNico. There is also word of them having a big announcement in regards to airing on a broadcast television network in Japan. There is hope yet.

Main Card

Main Event - 65KG Super Fight

Kimura 'Philip' Minoru VS Hiramoto Ren

Co-Main Event - 55KG Challenger Finals

Daniel Williams VS Charles Bongiovanni

70KG Fight

Shintaro Matsukura VS Tian Xin

Super Exhibition (2x2)

Koya Urabe VS Takeru

70KG Fight

Kazuya Akimoto VS Keiji

55KG Fight

Taisuke Degai VS Yuichiro Ito

55KG Fight

Namito Izawa VS Satoshi Katashima

Heavyweight Fight

Hitoshi Sugimoto VS Hidekazu Kimura

65KG Fight

Minamino Takayuki VS Waki Mitsuharu

Undercard

70kg Fight

Jinbo Katsuya VS Yasuhi Hitoshi

70kg Fight

Tsuyoshi Oh VS Daisuke 

Heavyweight Fight

Yoshinari VS Hase

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RIP Andy Hug 15 Years Ago Today

  • Published in K-1

So much has changed in the past 15 years in the world and in kickboxing that it's almost impossible to think of how different both would be if Andy Hug were still around. Hug was a rare ambassador for a sport that likes to kick itself when its down continually. While we only had a brief amount of time with Andy Hug he provided us with some of the most memorable moments in kickboxing history and taught us all that hard work, dedication, belief and spirit can get you very far in the world.

RIP Andy Hug. 

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K-1 World Amateur Championships in November, Plus K-1 Japan 70kg in July is Amazing

  • Published in K-1

After a bit of radio silence from K-1 over the past few months K-1 has announced that they will be holding a world amateur championship this November in Italy. It will run on November 13-15th in Tuscany and if you are an amateur fighter interested in testing your mettle and being crowned as an amateur world champion you can contact them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On the K-1 Japan front they are still gearing up for the K-1 Japan 70kg Championship tournament on July 4th. It features a one-night tournament featuring eight 70kg fighters, one could even argue some of the best in the world, while the rest of the card is up to the usual K-1 Japan standards of excellence. Seriously, I dare you to find a better card than this from this year. You won't.

70kg Tournament

Reserve: Sergey Adamchuk vs. Kazuya Akimoto

Quarterfinal: Marat Grigorian vs. Yoichi Yamazaki

Quarterfinal: Dylan Salvador vs. Makahira Keita

Quarterfinal: Hiroki Nakajima vs. Sanny Dahlbeck

Quarterfinal: Daiki Watanabe vs. Jordan Pikeur

Super Fights

Hirotaka Urabe vs. Toshi

Minoru Kimura vs. Massaro Glunder

Takeru vs. Hakim Hamech

Koya Urabe vs. Konstantin Trishin

Kaew Fairtex vs. Yasuomi Soda

 

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Peter Aerts Officially Retires

  • Published in K-1

After perhaps one of the most legendary careers in the sport of kickboxing, the trailblazing Peter Aerts has finally hung up the gloves. Aerts, originally promoted to be retiring at GLORY 13 wasn't too pleased with being pushed into retirement when he didn't quite feel ready for it just yet. Aerts has been aware of father time since at least 2012 when he first started planning his retirement, with the bout against Tyrone Spong being his "BeNeLux retirement."

Since then it has all been about winding down and while Aerts was scheduled to participate in the BLADE.2 event in Japan on August 1st, yesterday at a press conference in Japan he instead sent along a video announcing his retirement. He had sustained a few injuries after his last fight with Ernesto Hoost and has had difficulties getting back into fighting shape and recovering, which has pushed him to finally retire. He will now focus on training fighters and building up the next generation of kickboxers.

For me, personally, it is tough to see the end of the Aerts era considering he was the first fighter that really caught my eye as a kid. After watching Aerts' first K-1 World Grand Prix victory I was hooked for life. That being said, it is all about safety and health. Aerts has a family and a gym right now and leaves behind a legacy as one of the all-time greats of the sport. My favorite memory of the past few years will still be Aerts making it to the finals of the 2010 World Grand Prix against Alistair Overeem and having that feeling that anything could happen, that Aerts could win it one last time. That was the kind of magic that Peter Aerts brought to the ring with him.

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Video: Noiri vs Glunder and Hiroya vs Minoru

  • Published in K-1

During the 55kg tournament K-1 held on April 19th in Japan there were a few big upsets in the super fights and K-1 has just released the videos. 

First of all Kimura "Phillip" Minoru vs Hiroya, since I didn't get to watch this event live I have to say it was pretty surprising to read that Minoru KO'd Hiroya in 1 round even though Hiroya can be hot and cold sometimes. Now after watching the fight, honestly Minoru looks really damn good. He has improved leaps and bounds, his timing, speed and power all looked amazing, very impressive.

Next we have Massaki Noiri vs Massaro Glunder, Glunder looks so much like a mini Andy Ristie its crazy and even has a similar style but i think hes a little bit less awkward. When I read that Noiri had lost by cut the first thing I thought was that it must have been lucky but after watching the fight Glunder not only beat Noiri but he did it in Japan, and on short notice, I definitely do not think Glunder was losing the fight. Great breakthrough win for a young up and comer in Massaro Glunder.

 

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Fight Card For K-1's China vs. Japan Feb. 1st Event

  • Published in K-1

K-1 is continuing to go full speed ahead with their Chinese home base with their second event of the year in Changsua, China. This time around the theme is China vs. Japan and will feature some of their Chinese standouts against a few Japanese fighters. Sadly a lot of the talent they wanted were already booked due to New Year's and early January events, but they still pulled together a pretty good card.

I assume there will be a free stream via Hunan TV like the last time as well. Stay tuned for that. Also Jungle Koki is the coolest name ever.

60kg Tomohiro Kiyai vs. Wu Ze
63kg Keisuke Nakamura vs. Wang Zhiwei
65kg Kuji Yoshimoto vs. Hanji
70kg Hideaki Kikkawa vs. Tien Xin
70kg K-Jee vs. Zang Lei
70kg Jungle Koki vs. Ba Te Er
53kg Syuri vs. E Meidie
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Final Card for K-1 Japan on January 18th

  • Published in K-1

K-1’s Japan contingent have promised us what looks to be a pretty amazing card on January 18th. The event features a classic K-1 one night tournament, this time at 60kg. It features a mix of names that we know from the Japanese scene to some heavy hitters from around the world including Javier Hernandez, Karim Bennoui and Denis Puric.

The rest of the card is an awesome, eclectic mix of styles with some really fascinating fights on the card. Kaew Fairtex vs. Minoru Kimura is an awesome, awesome fight and I’m very happy to see Sanny Dahlbeck back in the mix against the very awesome Yoshihiro Sato. This event will be broadcast on NicoNico on the 18th.

HW: Manabu vs Fujita Tomoya
60kg: Yuma vs Kanbe Shota
65kg: Goto Masanobu vs Saito Yuta
65kg: Hiramoto Ren vs Ishikawa Yuki
60kg GP Reserve Fight: TOSHI vs Kim Hun Jae
60kg GP: Shimano Kotaro vs Javier Hernandez
60kg GP: Urabe Hirotaka vs Karim Bennoui
60kg GP: Yamamoto Masahiro vs Gagny Baradji
60kg GP: Urabe Koya vs Denis Puric
65kg: Kaew Fairtex vs Kimura Minoru
70kg: Sato Yoshihiro vs Sanny Dahlbeck
55kg: Takiya Shota vs Shou Rong
55kg: Tobe Ryuma vs Horio Ryuji
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Gabriel Varga Out of K-1 USA vs. China Event

  • Published in K-1

GLORY fighter Gabriel Varga was set to compete at the K-1 USA vs. China event on January 1st in China but it looks like all of that has gone up in smoke over the past day. Varga is reporting on having visa issues. Upon entering China they found that he did not have the proper paperwork to enter the country, which meant that he had to turn around and go right back home to Canada. 

Definitely a bit of a bummer for those looking forward to seeing Varga fight. The good news is that there are no other issues as of press time with the event and it should go off without a hitch. We'll keep you posted on any further news for the K-1 China vs. USA event.

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GLORY 28 Lightweight Contender Tournament Names Revealed

  • Published in Glory

One of the more exciting parts of the announcement of the GLORY 28 card was the Lightweight Contender's Tournament. GLORY's Lightweight division is perhaps the most stacked division on their entire roster at the moment, with Robin van Roosmalmen running roughshod over that division. Many have been calling for a rematch between van Roosmalen and Sitthichai after the controversial decision in their last fight, but the announcement of this tournament proved that Sitthichai will have to win another tournament to get there. 

According to a press release from Glory's French partner, Team 21, the GLORY Lightweight tournament will feature Sitthichai, Davit Kiria, Marat Grigorian and Djime Coulibaly. The match ups have yet to be announced and yes, Djime Coulibaly sort of feels like the obligatory French guy in that tournament, especially after losing in the last Lightweight tournament to Josh Jauncey. From what we understand Jauncey could be fighting on this card as well, although that hasn't been announced yet, either. 

Also notably absent is Giorgio Petrosyan, whom is fighting on the Oktagon/Bellator/Venum event in Italy in early April.

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GLORY Announces GLORY 28 with Three Title Bouts

  • Published in Glory

Today GLORY announced that on March 12th in Paris they will be presenting GLORY 28. First thing to get out of the way here is that Gokhan Saki will not be fighting Saulo Cavalari on this card. That bout was scheduled to headline this show, but Saki pulled out of the fight due to an injury, the nature of that injury we've yet to hear anything about just yet. Instead there will be a whopping three world title fights to keep the fans happy. Those title fights are as follows;

GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship: Saulo Cavalari(C) vs. Artem Vakhitov

GLORY Heavyweight Championship: Rico Verhoeven(C) vs. Mladen Brestovac

GLORY Featherweight Championship: Serhiy Adamchuk(C) vs. Mosab Amrani

Also on the card will be Cedric Doumbe vs. Murthel Groenhart as well as a Lightweight tournament featuring Sitthichai.

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GLORY 28 Clash Between Saki and Cavalari in Danger Due to Injury to Saki

  • Published in Glory

In what the world thought would be one of Glory's best match-ups of 2016, the bout between Brazil's heavy hitter, Saulo Cavalari, and Gokhan Saki will most likely not be happening at Glory 28 in Paris.  Yesterday on social media it was reported that Saki is potentially out with an injury.

 

This leaves us with a veritable who's who in the list of opponents who can take Saki's place. Most formidable a among his contenders are Mourad Bouzidi, Danyo Ilunga, Zack Mwekassa and Artem Vakhitov.  Also within the same division are Filip Verlinden,  Brian Collette and Aleksandr  Stetcurenko.  How it will all hash out in Paris is any body's guess, but it will be an exciting ride.

We've reached out to GLORY for further comment.

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GLORY Announces Full Line-Up for GLORY 27

  • Published in Glory

On February 26th at the Sears Center from Chicago GLORY will be presenting GLORY 27. The show, headlined by Artem Levin vs. Simon Marcus, has a co-headliner in a Featherweight rematch between Giga Chikadze and Anvar Boynazarov. The two met at GLORY 23 in a bout that saw Boynazarov walk away with the decision, but both men are looking to climb the ladder in the Featherweight division and this is the place to do it. 

Also announced is the American Middleweight tournament. Dustin Jacoby vs. Mike Lemaire and Wayne Barrett vs. Robert Thomas is on tap, with the winner getting a shot at the winner of the headliner between Artem Levin and Simon Marcus. 

The show is set to air live at 10pm eastern on ESPN3 on the 26th and will replay on ESPN2 on Sunday, February 28th.

GLORY 27 CHICAGO

Middleweight Title Headline Bout: Artem Levin (c) vs. Simon Marcus

Middleweight Tournament Final Bout: Winner of Bout A vs. Winner of Bout B

Featherweight Co-Headline Bout: Giga Chikadze vs. Anvar Boynazarov

Middleweight Tournament Semi-Final Bout B: Dustin Jacoby vs. Mike Lemaire

Middleweight Tournament Semi-Final Bout A: Wayne Barrett vs. Robert Thomas

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GLORY 27 Announced for Chicago on February 26: Levin vs. Marcus Rematch

  • Published in Glory

Artem Levin and Simon Marcus have been locked into a battle for what seems like forever, two of the biggest names in their weight class, always vying for that top position. Their last meeting was a controversial draw at GLORY 21 San Diego, which left fans frothing over an immediate rematch. Joe Schilling was in that mix as well, initially getting a shot at Levin again, only for Levin to fall prey to an injury and for Schilling to close out his GLORY contract in a fight with Jason Wilnis before taking departing the company to focus on Bellator.

On top of this, GLORY has promised a one-night tournament at middleweight containing North American fighters, the winner gaining a shot at the champion in the future. No names have been announced yet, but a cursory glance at their rankings would hint at Dustin Jacoby, Wayne Barrett, Robert Thomas and, well, I don't know. This is, of course conjecture on our part, but logical conjecture at that.

The show will be at the Sears Centre, much like their last trip to Chicago, which means Hoffman Estates, and also note the ESPN logo in the corner. So never fear, it seems that GLORY and ESPN will continue their relationship moving forward. 

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CBS Sports Airing Six Hour GLORY SuperFight Series Marathon on New Year's

  • Published in Glory

New Year's has a strong tradition of bringing fights to the world, letting us all say goodbye to the year with some violence while welcoming a new year. This year will be no different and while tonight may be Rizin FF's second show, plus there will be a KID vs. Masato exhibition in Japan as well, that doesn't mean that there won't be fights to watch in the US, either. CBS Sports Network will be airing a six hour marathon of GLORY starting at midnight Eastern (9pm Pacific) on January 1st.

CBS Sports will be airing the SuperFight Series from both GLORY 25 and GLORY 26 in succession, so if you haven't checked those shows out yet and aren't going to be standing out in the cold for New Year's this seems like a thing to do, doesn't it?

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GLORY 26 on Sunday Night Ratings Hurt by the NFL

  • Published in Glory

GLORY 26 was perhaps one of the best combat sports shows of the year, that much shouldn't be surprising, just like the GLORY 26 replay having a tough time going against the NFL. Everything has a tough time going against the NFL these days. ESPN currently doesn't release any numbers outside of quarterly accumulations of viewers for their web-based ESPN3 platform, so it's nearly impossible to know how many people in the US were watching GLORY 26 live.

According to the numbers, GLORY 26's replay at 8pm on ESPN2 this Sunday pulled in 168,000 viewers, which isn't counting DVR numbers. That's a bit of a drop off from GLORY 25, which aired in a late night time slot almost 12 hours later. To contrast, GLORY 26 aired a full two days later and was competing against the NFL, which drew a monstrous 20 million viewers on Sunday night at the same time. 

It should be noted that MMAPayout has the number at 184,000, although it's not clear where this came from.

Once again, it's hard to really gauge these numbers right now, especially considering there wasn't much lead time for promoting the event. Hopefully ESPN and GLORY come to a longer term agreement for 2016 and get a time slot nailed down so that we can really see where the promotion stands on the network. Until then it is very gracious of ESPN to find a spot for the promotion while they negotiate. 

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Rico Verhoeven is no Longer the Prince, But the King of Kickboxing

  • Published in Glory

James Law/GLORY

The career trajectory of Rico Verhoeven has been nothing but up, but for many years there were detractors who saw the young Dutch fighter as a mere shadow of the past Dutch champions that ruled the sport for years. Names like Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts and Ramon Dekkers all stood out as all-time greats that created such a huge legacy for a champion like Rico to live up to. Verhoeven has not always been the most confident fighter, which has led to a lot of narrow decision victories and a lot of criticism from both past opponents and fans alike. 

There was never any point in denying Verhoeven's talent, though. Verhoeven got into the game at a young age and turned a lot of heads quickly. Rico is tall, muscular, quick and skilled. Knocking out opponents never seemed to be something in Rico's repertoire, though. He'd win most of his fights, but he was never doing so in a fashion that felt dominating or exciting. The thing is, he was always evolving and growing as a fighter and tonight at GLORY 26 we saw the culmination of the years of hard work against Benjamin Adegbuyi.

Adegbuyi was able to control the early rounds in their first meeting before Rico's technical skills and Adegbuyi's fatigue were too much for him to handle. This was the Verhoeven that we all had grown to know and love. Without a doubt Rico was a great fighter, but many wanted to see more from him, that wanted to see those flashes of brilliance turn into tangible, epic moments that would go down in history.

That is exactly what they got when Rico's right hand landed flush on Adegbuyi's jaw and flattened him to the mat. This was the full realization of Rico Verhoeven, this was the man that was going to help bring the heavyweight division in kickboxing into the next generation with style. What a knockout.

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GLORY Announces Return of Gokhan Saki to Challenge Saulo Cavalari in 2016

  • Published in Glory

During the live broadcast for the GLORY SuperFight Series at GLORY 26 GLORY made a huge announcement that in 2016 we'll see the return of the Rebel when Gokhan Saki returns to the GLORY ring in hopes of regaining his GLORY Light Heavyweight Championship. There was no specific date given, but we do know that GLORY's projected return in 2016 is for February, although it's unclear which event this will be on.

GLORY also announced that in 2016 we can look forward to the rematch between Artem Levin and Simon Marcus after their draw at GLORY 20. Those are two big fights and GLORY is looking to show the world that they plan to deliver in 2016. The return of Saki is huge, just huge.

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Danyo Ilunga's Eyes are on the Prize at GLORY 26

  • Published in Glory

The terms humble and ferocious are difficult to equate, however, they are two of two of the first words that come to mind when describing Danyo Ilunga. Although still quite young by industry standards,  Ilunga has already fought the best of the best in his weight class and strives to, in the end be the best. Conversations with Ilunga are philosophical,  at times existential, but very well grounded, shaped largely by his past trials and the visions he intends to mold into future realities.  

His current reality is a rematch with Mourad Bouzidi who he is scheduled to face at Glory 26 in Amsterdam at the RAI arena on Friday, December 4th.   2015 has been filled with triumphs and losses for Ilunga,  but he plans to end the Glory combat sports year on a high note.  Improvements in his overall skill levels are what Ilunga states will make the difference in his match with Bouzidi and in 2016. At this moment the light heavyweight belt is in Brazil,  in 2016, who knows. Ilunga's eye is on the prize. 

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Steven Banks on His Time in Kunlun Fight and How Phuket Top Team Transformed Him as a Fighter

  • Published in Interviews

Before GLORY came to America and helped to bring kickboxing back into the discourse of the average combat sports fan kickboxing in America was a very different beast. There was a small cluster of names that you'd hear all of the time who would be fighting throughout the country without a lot of fanfare, one of those was Steven Banks. Banks, a larger heavyweight was doing his best to capture the attention of bigger international leagues but it has always been a bit of a slow road for Banks.

This included fighting in shows in Europe on short notice for bad pay, taking fights that weren't going to be good for his career because it was worth a shot and everything else in between. Things finally seem to be turning around for Banks and a lot of that he credits to his time training in Thailand at Phuket Top Team. His time in China has helped to give him a new perspective on fighting and on October 31st he'll return to China for Kunlun Fight 33. We caught up with Banks to talk to him about the past, the present and the future.

LK: So you’ve done both MMA and kickboxing in your professional career, what is it about kickboxing and muay thai that has drawn you in as a fighter as opposed to focusing solely on MMA like so many fighters today?

SB: I love the art of striking. I enjoy every bit of it, the culture and the tradition... my 1st love was and will always be Muay Thai... I think the reason that I prefer to do Muay Thai or kickboxing over MMA is because alot of fighters will go out there and get a takedown, and cuddle for a win... I actually still train for MMA as well...I will be fighting in MMA again soon...

LK: You are an American living and training in Thailand right now. What prompted that move and what kind of results have you seen?

SB: When Phuket Top Team offered me the chance to train full time,  I had to take it! Best decision I have ever made... I have seen amazing results... it was really hard to try and train effectively while having a full-time job, competing against the best in the world is tough already... most of the guys I have been fighting were training full-time already... I decided that if I wanted to go out and become one of the best American heavyweights I needed to go and train with some of the best... training full-time and having a camp that pushes you to become better and better each day is incredible... my head trainer Neung pushes me everyday, Neung took me under his wing as soon as I got to PTT... no day is easy...its put all the effort in it... getting to train everyday with world class trainers is a great way to spend your time...

LK: You’ve gone through your share of a transformation when it comes to your body, from what I understand losing a great deal of weight. How has that impacted your career?

SB: Oh yes... since I have been training at PTT... I have dropped over 60 pounds... I have been told by promotions that I didnt look "pretty" enough for the sponsors of the show.  As a heavyweight, I have always been one of the heavier fighters... I'm a fighter, not a model... I love food... since dropping this weight I have noticed my cardio is 100 times better than ever... when I finished my last fight, I walked over to my coach and told him I felt like I could go a couple more rounds and that I felt great... my coaches at Phuket Top Team have made it a point to push me to become one of the best...

LK: I’ve gotta ask -- the fight with Lungu where you guys spilled out of the ring. What went through your mind at that moment and when the fight was declared a loss for you?

SB: Oh man... I wish I could get that changed on my record... that accident should have been called a no contest... we knew he was going to try and take me to the ground from the very beginning of the fight... just wasn't expecting the ropes to be so low...  the ropes were at the correct height, but when you have almost 700 plus pounds moving in 1 direction its hard to stop... I didnt understand why they gave Lungu the win. I have asked for several rematches to set the record straight... but to no luck...

LK: You’ve seen some success of late in Kunlun Fight in China and are currently preparing to fight in a few weeks time here, how has your experience fighting in China been thus far?

SB: Yes, I fight again for Kunlun Fight October 31st against another Chinese fighter...I absolutely love fighting in China... they treat every fighter with so much respect. I have fought in China 6 times... and every time I have, it has never been a bad experience...I got my nickname from fighting in China... I have so much respect for the fans. I will stay after the fights to meet as many fans as i can... I wamt them to know how much I respect them as a fighter...

LK: Your success in China has been interesting, with your only loss to the guy who beat Rico Verhoeven, do you see yourself as a threat to these guys on the top tier of the division?

SB: That loss was my 1st loss in China... he caught me with a great jumping knee to the ribs... I really believe I can beat many of the guys on the top tier of the division...  I was able to compete against top level guys with part-time training. Now its time to show everyone what I can really do... I see guys fight and I feel that I can trade with the best there is... I might not be pretty, but I will give the crowd a show they will never forget...

LK: Do you think that kickboxing or muay thai will ever really take off in the United States, especially after seeing China of late and how it’s growing there?

SB: I really hope it does take off in the United States... I know that it is currently growing... I think the reason more fighters choose to go to MMA rather than kickboxing or Muay Thai is because they have a background in wrestling... not like most of the dominant countries in the world of Muay Thai or kickboxing...

LK: You started off in football and transitioned to fighting, have you been able to take anything from your time in football with you into combat sports?

SB: One of the biggest things that I have been able to take to fighting from football has been the will not to give up. With all sports comes injuries... I played football for many years, I finally started to listen to my body on recovery and injuries...I think that has helped me to stay active in fighting over and over...

LK: What can we expect in the future from Steve Banks?

SB: Keep your ears and eyes open... I am planning on dominating the heavyweight division... I want to take on everyone... I will be fighting in Muay Thai,  kickboxing, boxing,  and MMA in the very near future...  to be the best, you got to take on the best... I'm here to do that... we make our own future... I'm here to show everyone that America does have great heavyweight Muay Thai and kickboxers... and we will be taking on all...

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Wayne Barrett Ready to Return to Greatness at GLORY 24

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This Friday at GLORY 24 Wayne Barrett is set to return from an absence from the ring to fight recent GLORY tournament winner Dustin Jacoby. For many, Wayne Barrett is one of those raw talents in kickboxing who could easily become a major player for years to come, which is especially rare considering that he is an American. Perhaps the feather in the cap of his relatively young kickboxing career is a win over Joe Schilling. The Schilling win came at a time when many saw Schilling as unstoppable, putting a considering dent in the armor of the myth that was Joe Schilling at the time. The win over Bogdan Stoica that came at GLORY’s Last Man Standing tournament was purely academic at that point.

After that, though, things haven’t been all sunshine and happiness for Wayne Barrett. On a three fight skid right now, Barrett elected to take time off to get his head back into the game. “You know, they offered me fights, man. They offered me fights to get myself a win, to build my confidence up and everyone thought that I should do it, but I turned them down. What’s the point if I’m not the Wayne Barrett that I truly believe that I can be? I took time for myself,” he explained. “And let me tell you, I feel incredible right now. This fight is all about me, it’s all about Wayne and getting everything right.”

What he means is that during his time away from the ring he made sure that everything was in order in his personal life as well as his professional life. As a father it was important to him to feel that he was doing his best and to set the right kind of example. A lot of that had to do with how he was training, as well. “I went through so many coaches at this point, I’ve had coaches telling me what to do, trying to change me and make me more of an orthodox fighter. But that isn’t who I am. I’ve got, for lack of a better word, a sort of swagger to me and how I fight. I’m unlike anyone else in the world in the ring and that’s what I bring to the table, so I’m not trying to be someone else anymore, I’m just being me right now.”

I brought up a young Rico Verhoeven, who at the time was incredibly talented with a ton of potential, but if you would go back and watch Rico’s early fights you’ll see a stiff, rigid and uncomfortable Verhoeven. The confidence to be himself wasn’t quite there yet compared to the Rico Verhoeven of today. “Oh man, absolutely,” he was getting excited now. “I love Rico, man. He’s just incredible. He’s his own man out there. Does he honor the whole Dutch style? Of course he does, but he’s making it his own, what he’s doing is an evolution. That’s how I view myself. They wanted me to do this you kick-I kick thing and that wasn’t who I am so it just didn’t work.”

Barrett, while in his late 20’s, is still relatively fresh into his professional career. “My second professional fight,” he said, “that was in the GLORY ring against a guy like Mike Lemaire.” Indeed it was his second professional fight, that fight being a knockout of Lemaire. What is astonishing about Barrett’s professional career is that upon joining GLORY he was immediately thrust into the spotlight, fighting some of the biggest names in the world. He stepped into the ring for his fourth professional fight against Joe Schilling, arguably the top dog in the division at that time, and he didn’t only handle himself well, but he won. There was no carefully curated career here, Barrett was simply there, with a rocket strapped to his back going full steam ahead.

When it came time for him to step into the ring with the notorious Romanian slugger Bogdan Stoica he felt ready, although the more that we talked about how kickboxing worked overseas, the more he opened up about how different his career has been. “There is no padding on my record,” he laughed. “I remember looking at Stoica’s record and thinking -- as a fan -- that I had no clue who some of these people that he was crushing were. Even some of the guys who beat him I had never heard of before.” The fight ended with Stoica going down to a left hook, Barrett moving forward in the tournament only to meet Joe Schilling. When I brought up the decision and how there was controversy over it he quickly interjected, “You could say that again.” 

Even if his next two fights were indeed losses, one to Jason Wilnis and one to Simon Marcus, they were still against two of the top fighters within the division. While most would look at that, shrug and take an easy fight, Barrett decided to go back to the drawing board and wait for another opportunity down the line. Now, though? “I’m going full force now,” he said. “I want to fight again this year, as long as they’ll let me. I think they probably will. Then next year I want to stay as active as I can.”

Tournaments, though, don’t seem to be in the immediate future for Wayne Barrett. “Nah,” he said. “Just single fights for me right now. Too much is out of your control in those tournaments. In the future? Yeah, if there is a big tournament I’ll be a part of it, but I want to focus on one opponent for right now and I want to prove to everyone that Wayne Barrett really is as good as everyone thinks that he can be. Man,” he laughed. “Now I’m talking in third person about myself. I still can’t believe that I’m at that point where I can talk to people about myself in third person.”

What I took away from my time talking to Wayne Barrett is that he’s in a very, very good place right now. He’s both mentally and physically ready for the road ahead and understands that while it was sort of shocking to initially see himself on a list as a top middleweight that he has to keep proving himself and earn his top spot. We’ll see what he brings to the table against Dustin Jacoby at GLORY 24 on Friday night in Denver.

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Joe Schilling Talks Once Again Chasing Artem Levin for Rubber Match and GLORY 24

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(C) Glory Sports International/James Law

Few names have become as synonymous with the American kickboxing movement within GLORY over the past few years like Joe Schilling. Schilling was originally a standout muay thai fighter who made a name for himself taking on all comers within his division and rising among the ranks until it was time to fight the top dogs in the world. There may have been some bumps, bruises and cuts along the way, but when it comes to Joe Schilling the word “pretty” isn’t often in the vocabulary. With a nickname like “Stitch ‘em Up” due to his proclivity for throwing lacerating elbows one can quickly understand why Joe Schilling rose up from being a cult favorite to one of GLORY’s American poster boys. 

This Friday evening at GLORY 24 he returns to the GLORY ring to face top middleweight Jason Wilnis. Originally Schilling was going to get his chance at a rubber match with career-adversary Artem Levin and his GLORY Middleweight championship, but an injury forced Levin off of the card and left Schilling with a tough, young and hungry Jason Wilnis looking to make a name off of one of the men who earned his spot on the Mount Rushmore of the division. For Schilling there is a lot riding on this fight outside of just another kickboxing fight, this is his first kickboxing fight since two back-to-back losses in Bellator, the latter being via knockout.

“You know, people have been talking a lot of shit, saying a lot of things, but really, I’m a multi-sport athlete,” he explained to us. “How many fighters can say that? I got caught in MMA, it happens, but now I have to show the world what I can and always have done in the ring and too bad for Wilnis, it’s going to be against him. I’m in demand right now, like they wanted me for the Dynamite show but the medical suspension got in the way of that happening.”

For a time the fight with Artem Levin was Schilling’s white whale, the one fight that eluded him. Scheduled and rescheduled a number of times in their respective pre-GLORY careers, their clash finally happened at GLORY 10 in the middleweight tournament that saw Schilling pull off the victory in an extension round of the finals. Once again Schilling finds himself frustrated with Levin pulling out of a fight with him. “I feel like I’m chasing him all over again. GLORY called me up and said they wanted me to fight Levin in Denver and, you know, this was the fight that I was asking them for, so I took it. Then a few weeks later they call and tell me that Levin was out and Wilnis is in and I was really pissed off.”

Schilling doesn’t seem certain that he’ll get that third fight with Levin any time soon, that he’ll be able to settle the score and have one man walk out victorious in their series, but he seems dead set on moving forward. As for where that future will be for Schilling, it seems to be on Spike TV for now. “I signed a new deal with Bellator, for MMA and kickboxing on Dynamite shows. I know not everyone loved that show, but it was incredible, a lot of vision went into that. There are going to be more and I’m gonna be fighting on them, be it kickboxing or MMA.”

The future within the GLORY ring seems to be less certain for Schilling, though, although he does seem open to more fights in the future. “Kickboxing is always my preference and if the offer is there and it’s the right offer I’ll take it without a second thought. The fights that I want are in GLORY right now.”

There has been a lot of talk about the future of kickboxing in America as well as GLORY’s future, which Schilling of course has had on his mind of late. His thoughts on the matter diverge from the common line of thought, though. “I never buy this line of bullshit about how you need an American champion to make it big here in the US. GLORY has been diluting their product in the name of finding this big American star and it has meant putting on weaker cards not featuring the top talents in the world. Put on big fights between the best fighters and the fans will react to that, who cares if they speak english or if they don’t? What matters is what happens in the ring, not the post-fight interviews.”

Schilling himself is of course one for leaving it all in the ring, with some of the most exciting fights in GLORY’s history under his belt, including the two dramatic fights with Artem Levin that have helped to define GLORY’s middleweight division. That doesn’t mean that he’s overlooking Wilnis on Friday at all, though. “Wilnis is a tough guy, he’s hungry and a win over me would mean a lot for his career. In no way am I overlooking Wilnis, though, I think that I’m on a mission here to prove those doubters wrong. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Joe Schilling makes his return to GLORY on Friday at GLORY 24 against Jason Wilnis live on Spike TV in the main event.

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Prize Fighter Ben Edwards Ready for GLORY 24 Heavyweight Tournament

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GLORY 24 will see a new heavyweight contender crowned, the winner moving on to fight champion Rico Verhoeven for the top spot in the world of heavyweight kickboxing. Over the past year we’ve seen Verhoeven fight Errol Zimmerman and Benjamin Adegbuyi, defeating both to retain his title. Fans have been starved for a good heavyweight tournament from GLORY, the last one at GLORY 16 Denver.

Interestingly enough, a man that we last saw at GLORY 16 Denver will be making his return to the GLORY ring at GLORY 24 looking for another crack at the GLORY Heavyweight Championship. That man is Australia’s own Ben Edwards. We caught up with Ben Edwards as he finishes up his preparations for the tournament and will be heading back to the United States.

Edwards had announced that he was leaving kickboxing after his loss last year, but the return is a welcome one for fans of the Aussie slugger. For Edwards, it is about making a living. “With kickboxing the last 3 of my last 4 losses were to guys pretty much the top 3 in the world (Rico, Errol and Overeem the year he won) and they are the guys that were at least making a living. If I couldn't crack that top tier I couldn't make a living and kickboxing is very hard to train for in Canberra so I decided to concentrate on boxing which is easy to train for in my home town. I won the national title 2 fights in returning to the sport so it wasn't a bad decision,” he explained. The offer from GLORY took him by surprise, actually. “The offer from Glory was unexpected and appreciated and I am very much looking forward to making the most of this second chance.”

Heavyweight kickboxing has seemed to be less of a focus of late, with the lighter weight classes taking a lot of the spotlight and there being a lot of fighters -- much like Edwards -- looking for opportunities outside of kickboxing. “As a hard-core combat sport fan I really feel kickboxing is the most exciting format. Its sad the sport has lost some of the bigger names but I still feel the sport has a healthy future.”

As for this tournament especially, Edwards seems ready to finally show the world what he’s made of after what he considered disappointments before. “The main difference in training is I've been spending a lot of time in Sydney, I've don't 6 trips in 5 weeks to train with Stu McKinnon and the boys at Castle Hill Bulldog,” he explained. “It’s world class padwork and sparring there and for the first time in  long time I am excited to fight. I had a lot of personal problems going into the last fight and I have fixed every single one and I am looking forward to being back to my best. I'm sick of feeling disappointed and letting people down, being considered a journeyman etc. Those days are over.”

When it comes to the first opponent for the night, Jahfarr Wilnis, Edwards seemed more focused on himself and his preparations, instead. “I only ever watch a little bit of footage on my opponent when the fight gets signed, get a feel for them, come up with a game plan then I don't think about them anymore. He appears to be a busy fighter with not much power which should leave plenty of openings to land one of my ghetto whoppers.”

Edwards has been a busy guy of late if you follow him on Facebook, taking a few acting gigs and looking happy to be going outside of his comfort zone. He explained to us how he found himself in front of the camera without gloves on. “I trained a guy who ended up being a producer on a local film that ended up starring Billy Zane, they have finished filming but they were running short on money to finish the production. Blue World Order is the film's name and they have a website to visit. This latest project stemmed from people I met on that, this one is called Tech Noir and the director is attempting to get it into the aussie short film festival Tropfest. I had a great experience on both films and definitely look forward to participating in more projects.”

What does the future hold for Edwards? Only time will tell. Edwards has done it all from boxing to kickboxing to even dog walking, but will he keep fighting even if he loses? “There will be plenty of dog walking, I can't express how much I enjoy doing that and I am a prize fighter, whatever the rules if there is a prize I'll be there.”

Any man who loves dogs is okay by me. The same with any man who genuinely loves fighting and Ben Edwards fits that bill. Ben Edwards is participating in the GLORY 24 Heavyweight tournament, facing Jahfarr Wilnis in the first round.

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Zack Mwekassa Promises That His Fight Will be Epic

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"It's going to be epic!" That is Zack Mwekassa's prediction for the rematch between he and Saulo Cavalari and at the event called 'Dynamite' .With an event name like that, it's only natural to expect to see some bombs being dropped in the ring. Zack Mwekassa promises you will not only get bombs but some drama as well! If you're curious about what bombs and drama means and the hashtag (#bombsanddrama) that has captivated fans of Mwekassa around the world, the originator explained, "A lot of people think my punches are like bombs and they believe the whole persona of Zack Mwekassa with the bombs just makes it spectacular and just brings the drama. Look at the fight with Pat Barry, when I walked in people booed me, I walked in the ring thinking what have I done to these people, they don't know me, but I stopped him and they played my entrance song, 'There is Power in the Name of Jesus', and that was the drama. I walked in with the bombs and that was drama. When Pat Barry walked in they all were shouting 'HD, HD, HD!' but booing me, but again that was drama too". In fact bombs and drama is one of Mwekassa's goals as a fighter, to give a spectacular performance to his fans during every fight. Mwekassa stated that he doesn't come to win fights, he comes to bring emotions. He makes a distinction between simply winning and trying to offer more. Mwekassa stated that trying to win fights is easy to do, but his overall goal, is to give fans something they can talk about, and that is the drama side of it. If his past is any prediction of his future Zack Mwekassa will definitely bring both bombs and drama to the SAP center.

Taking a look back, you will recall Cavalari and Mwekassa first met in November 2014 during the light heavyweight qualifying tournament in Oklahoma at Glory 18. Mwekassa's first opponent in the tournament was Brian 'The Lion' Collette. Mwekassa easily dispatched Collette with a devastating blow that left Collette dazed and down for the count. Phase two of the tournament brought together Cavalari and Mwekassa. In was beginning the bout seemed to be an unending slugfest but ended with Mwekassa getting caught and knocked out. Since that time Mwekassa has made a commitment to step up his level of training and stretch the boundaries of his performance as an athlete. Chiefly among the changes Mwekassa has made was his decision to spend time in Holland at Hemmers Gym to give himself exposure to different fighting styles, higher level sparring partners and other things that had been unavailable to him while training in Africa.

Mwekassa makes no excuses about his loss to Cavalari despite any training disadvantages he might have had prior to the bout. This however is the nature of Zack Mwekassa and the basis of his #Mwekassance. Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to talk to Mwekassa, fighters and fans alike, I'm sure can testify to his character and his desire to strive, on a daily basis, to be a better man. Mwekassa is both a fighter and a business man, at this time in his career seeing fights not just on the basis of what stylistically or intellectually makes sense but also as opportunities to continue to hone his craft and to build the means to give back to his family. Like most fighters, Mwekassa laments the grueling amount of time and energy the life of a fighter requires. It's however, a sacrifice he's willing to make for achievement of his ultimate goal, light heavyweight champion. Stylistically, Mwekassa mentions Gokhan Saki as an opponent with whom he could have had a very interesting and challenging fight. He is also, however, quick to add that he is willing to take on whoever Glory places in front of him and that he feels very fortunate to have arrived at his current place in life. For that he gives glory to God.

When it boils down to it both he and Cavalari are similar in nature. Both men arose from very humble beginnings in their respective countries and both had achieved a certain level of success in their combat sports careers prior to their Glory debuts. Both have made it their life's goal to be the best. Now both men have set their sights on the light heavyweight title which on Saturday, September 19th only one man can be victorious, but if nothing else we can all expect some bombs and drama until the end.

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New challenges - An interview with Gábor Görbics

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For the first time in Muaythai Mania's history the event will not be at it's usual location of Szentendre but Budapest. Looking at the card fans can expect some great fights in a guise of women's and a man's tournament with four participants in each and some superfights.

In the female fights Irén Rácz, Alexandra Kovács, Tímea Bélik and Fruzsina Nagy will clash in 63,5kg (~140lbs) while Roland Berényi, Dániel Bodnár, Ádám Gaál and Krisztián Kovács will meet in the 71kg (~156lbs) category. The organizers are looking for a fourth member in full swing as aninjury left Daniella Éltető without an opponent.

As it was revealed earlier in the men's superfight freshly crowned Venum Fights world champion Gábor Görbics will meet none other than Phetsangkhat "Check Bin" Deo, a former Rajadamnern champion, Russian K-1 Grand Prix tournament champion thai fighter with nearly 200 muay thai fighst under his belt.

Without further ado Gábor Görbics on his last fight, trying muay thai, his preparation and more!

Q: - How was the Debrecen show from the inside? Can you talk about the fight and your opponent a bit?

A: - I knew that I'm going to go in there with a very confident, tough opponent who has solid skills, a nice record and that according to the books I'm not the favorite so I went in there with the underdog's calmness. I trusted myself although I knew that anything can happen. I have tons of experience against good fighters in boxing, K-1, so I have plenty of experience but this was certainly something different. I was really focusing on this one and managed to pull it out.

Q: - We knew that for some time now you've been thinking about giving muay thai a try but it has been quite a busy year for you so far. How did you get to the decision to jump into it right now with the Venum show just behind your back?

A: - You know I always try to get better, focus on my kickboxing a bit more and fill some gaps while boxing still remained my big love, because it is my base, where I'm coming from . If I'm on my phisycal and mental game, I'm ready for anything.

Q: - You have quite the dance partner for your debut. Did you want your hands that full yourself by picking a guy like Phetsangkhat "Check Bin" Deo?

A: - I look at muay thai as a brother to kickboxing and I really don't have anything to lose here. I want to test myself and obviously I'm going in there to win. It is an honor for me and I want to give fans a great fight!

Q: - How do you prepare for the fight? To what extent is it different than a usual fight camp? Do you visit muay thai gyms or bring in people to work with you?

A: - I have a number of days at our gym, Titan, but I try to visit a few guys who have plenty of experience and work with them. Also my head coach Gábor Juhász is trying to add his insights to the whole so I feel we'll bring an A game and make a fun fight for everyone.

Hereby I would like to thank Gábor Juhász, Gábor Kádár, Csaba Lelekács, Jenő Svasznek, Zsolt Erdei, Zsolt Bedák, Benji Bacskai, Norbert Szentkúti and everyone else who has added to my game, my training or results and helped ous out along the way. It would be way too much to mentione them all. This is a result of teamwork. And the team includes my wife and child as well, who always support me and endure when times are tough or when I'm cutting weight.

Thank you for the interview! Wishing you best of luck in your preparation and for the fight!

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Raymond Daniels is Out to Prove Himself Against Nieky Holzken at GLORY 23

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At GLORY 23 Las Vegas there is a tall task laid out for Raymond Daniels, one that many fans and insiders have proclaimed to be impossible: defeat Nieky Holzken and take the GLORY Welterweight Championship home with him. Back at GLORY 19 during a contender’s tournament the two men met for the first time in a fight that Holzken largely dominated with his smart cutting off of the ring and use of his experienced hands to keep Daniels from getting comfortable and doing what he does best, which is kicking from a distance. Since then the champion Joseph Valtellini was forced to vacate the championship due to complications from a concussion and GLORY has placed Holzken against Daniels in a rematch, the winner taking home the title.

Many see it as a foregone conclusion for Holzken. To them he’ll clearly be walking away with the championship, but there is just one thing that they are forgetting in this equation: Raymond Daniels. Daniels is known throughout martial arts circles as one of the best competitive martial artists of all time. That isn’t an exaggeration, if you look through the worlds of sport martial arts you won’t find anyone quite like Daniels. His record is immaculate, his accolades could fill a warehouse, yet he still looks for further challenges and his ultimate challenge is in the GLORY ring right now, his ultimate challenge is taking on Nieky Holzken. 

Their first fight was a tough loss for Daniels, but he reflects on the fight as a positive learning experience for him. “It was a learning experience for sure,” he explained. “I get to watch that fight and see what I need to do to fix the holes in my game and to make myself a better fighter. That’s how you improve as a fighter and a person, by learning from your mistakes.”

When analyzing Daniels as a fighter and his game, it’s difficult not to see where his weaknesses lie. His background in Karate meant less of a focus on using his hands, but since turning professional in kickboxing there has been a marked improvement. “There’s always a learning curve, there’s always something that you can do better. I’ll never be perfect, even if I strive for perfection. You can see the maturity of myself as a fighter, you can see the evolution of my style over my last few fights. It’s a great feeling, I’m just so much more comfortable, so much more calm and collected in that ring now. I used to be really excited, hopping around a lot and trying to get things over quickly. Now I’m able to get my energy out in spurts.”

Daniels is a living legend in the world of sport karate, so the question has to be raised why he would even make such a transition to professional kickboxing. “I’ve been very fortunate in my sport. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve met great people but I’ve accomplished everything that I possibly could a few times over. The next realm with a similar system is kickboxing and GLORY is that vehicle that gets me out there, just like the World Combat League did before. Now GLORY is the biggest league on the planet, so they give me the opportunity to use my skillset. Everyone looks at my sport and says ‘oh it’s pitter patter, it’s Karate Kid, it’s Best of the Best’ or something. This gives me a chance to go out there and show that just because my sport is about control and technique, that I’m able to translate that technique into kickboxing and add speed and power to it. That’s what I love about this, I get to test my skills against guys with different skill sets and style and show them what my sport is capable of doing.”

The World Combat League, organized by Chuck Norris, was dismissed at the time for it’s relatively strange rules and team format, but it’s undeniable that they produced a ton of talent. WCL’s roster included not only Daniels but Uriah Hall, Jarrell Miller, Pat Barry, Anthony Njokuani, Lyman Good, Carlos Brooks, Rick Cheek, Felice Herrig and more.

“What was great was that my sport was dismissed in combat sports, written off as impractical or too old fashioned, but then you look at the WCL and some of the fighters that came from there,” Daniels said. “But you got to see the athletes from the WCL start to blossom afterwards.”

This quickly brought us to the topic of being dismissed and how Daniels has been dismissed by kickboxing fans and pundits almost across the board. “You know, I find it kind of comical in a way. I look at it like; the people that don’t understand a burning desire couldn’t understand what it is, what I want and how I feel. Just because you fail or you fall short on something that you want to accomplish doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is defined by those moments. I lost a fight, but that doesn’t define me. I see people who have that outlook as very close-minded individuals. Everybody has a setback in life. If this wasn’t challenging to me, why would I do it? If I wasn’t fighting world class athletes like Nieky why would I be doing this?

“This gives me an opportunity to grow,” he continued. “Not just as a fight, but as a person. It allows me to step outside of my comfort zone. It allows me to strive to be better, to learn more about myself. I see people who will dismiss a fighter as people that would probably give up as soon as they have a setback in life as opposed to finding a way to make it work, finding a way through and to persevere. I have a fire underneath me and am more motivated than ever. I have an opportunity to go out there and fight someone who has beaten me before, there aren’t a lot of people that can say that they’ve beaten me before in my career. With that being said, people that are overlooking me, I have that knock-it-out-of-the-park ability with every move that I throw. So I always find it funny. Don’t get me wrong, Nieky himself is a great fighter, but he’s a flawed fighter. He’s lost before and he has holes in his game -- just like I do -- that I can exploit. Nobody's perfect. I’m looking forward to going in there and being able to silence people. If you don’t believe, just watch. I want to show people what it is to have faith in myself, in my skillset and to prove these people wrong.”

There is another side to GLORY’s push of Raymond Daniels, though, one that is hard to explain. Daniels possesses a magnetism that many fighters don’t. His ability to do things in the ring that no one thought was practical and not only land, but score crazy knockouts with has earned him a reputation among fans as a can’t miss fighter. I got to see this first hand live at GLORY 16 where fighters like Rico Verhoeven, Errol Zimmerman, Andy Souwer and Ben Edwards were walking around throughout the night and went relatively undisturbed, but Daniels was a different story. He was being stopped for selfies, autographs and high fives throughout the night. He’s fought on some of the most-viewed GLORY cards of all-time on Spike TV and has been one of their featured attractions. 

“That’s my whole goal at the end of the day, outside of fighting, I want to give fans something to talk about. I want to be able to give back to them,” he explained. “I want them to look at something that I did and say ‘my god, I saw that in a movie last week and he did it,’ you know what I mean? I also want the die hard fans to say ‘that stuff doesn’t work in a fight, Nieky has this Dutch style that’s gonna light him up’ and say, okay, come watch. As long as people want to come to watch, that’s cool. At the end of the day I don’t believe my own hype. You know, that’s not who I am. I have a Martial Arts school and I don’t even advertise what I do. Most of my students don’t even know that I’m going to fight for the world title right now.

“Some of my students will see some of my fights later,” he jokes, “and they’ll be like ‘oh my gosh that’s my sensei in there? He’s not like that when he’s in the karate school.’ It’s a different persona, you know, like wrestling. Wrestling isn’t real, but how many people follow that, watch it -- I mean people have tattoos of it. People watch it because they put on a show.  What I’m doing is real, but it’s still entertainment. If I go out there and I can knock a guy out with a kick that you’d only see in the movies, how much entertainment value does that bring? That’s how I look at my fighting.”

Daniels brings all of this and more to the table, also bringing with him one of the gaping holes in the combat sports world of late by the way of traditional martial arts. Martial Arts are indeed about self-defense and technique, but are centered around improving the self and becoming a better person. “I feel that is missing from sports right now. The focus isn’t on that, the focus is on who is the best, who is the flashiest and who is making the most money. It’s absolutely missing from combat sports right now and I’m just glad that I can help bring some of those values with me into the ring.”

It is a monumental task for Raymond Daniels at GLORY 23 against Nieky Holzken, but Daniels seems ready for whatever might come his way. Tune in this Friday at 11pm Eastern time on Spike TV to witness Raymond Daniels vs. Nieky Holzken vying for the GLORY Welterweight Championship and see for yourself who comes out victorious. 

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GLORY CEO Talks About Preparing for a Bright Future with GLORY 23 and Dynamite on the Horizon

  • Published in Interviews

James Law/GLORY

GLORY’s next event is August 7th in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Las Vegas is known for being one of the fight capitals of the world and GLORY will finally make their debut there in the historic Hard Rock. The main event of the show is a GLORY Welterweight Championship bout between Nieky Holzken and Raymond Daniels, two men that have fought before and will meet for the newly-vacated championship. 

In a way, Daniels vs. Holzken is a perfect way to sum up GLORY as an organization at the moment. GLORY began with a bang, pushing out nothing but star-studded cards with fights between top names from K-1 and It’s Showtime, but things have changed quite a bit since then. Some would say the changes were unwelcome, while others would argue that the health of the organization and the sport in particular should come before glitz and glamour. Chief among them would be GLORY’s CEO Jon J. Franklin.

Franklin was involved with GLORY previously, but his role was in assisting them with television rights deals and not running the entire organization. After some reshuffling after GLORY Last Man Standing failed to deliver in PPV sales last year Franklin was placed into the unenviable position of the CEO of GLORY and basically just told, “fix it.” GLORY started off big, just as big as the shows it was replacing from Japan, but the problem was there was really no market for it anymore and the shows, while impressive, helped the organization to bleed money for the first few years. 

“You know,” Franklin explained to me when talking about the difficulties of taking over. “First thing I thought was that I was going to come in and trim the fat. Just come in and cut out everything that we didn’t need, make the whole operation leaner, more profitable and to ensure that we’ll still be running shows down the line. You can’t just cut everything, though, which I learned the hard way early on. There are contracts in place and if you don’t honor those contracts things can get messy in a hurry, even if those contracts were expensive for us at the time.”

That included some of the older, bigger name fighters who have now mostly retired or moved on to what they consider greener pastures for the time being. There was a marked change in direction for the organization after Franklin joined, which he is willing to admit wasn’t always perfect, but has been adjusted with some fine tuning. “Was the Oklahoma show maybe a bit of a stretch for us? Probably, in hindsight, yeah. That might have been a bit too far in the other direction, but if you look back at our recent shows I think that we’ve really found the right mix for us that keeps the fans in the arena happy and is enjoyable to viewers.”

Part of the change was removing some of the more costly aspects of the production, which meant cutting back on production staff that were attending events and even scaling back on travel expenses. “As cool as the ramp was to have, it was an expense and due to how tight our shows are on Spike TV, you’d never really see them anyway. On top of that, most of our more memorable entrances were fighters interacting with the crowd more, like Gokhan Saki at GLORY 15 Istanbul.” 

As for the travel? “I travel coach now, which a few of the older guys were kind of shocked by. ‘How does it look that our CEO is traveling coach?’ They asked me, just not understanding it, still worried about image. I think that it shows that we are very serious about our organization and for its longevity that we aren’t spending frivolously or concerned about things like that. I don’t mind doing it and I believe that it sets a good example for everyone else.”

In a way, Nieky Holzken vs. Raymond Daniels is the perfect GLORY title fight under Jon J. Franklin’s leadership, especially in the Hard Rock, a venue that as a boxing promoter he had worked to put on shows numerous times in the past. Holzken is one of the most renowned and revered kickboxers in the world while Raymond Daniels is an American fighter who might not have the same level of credentials as a professional that Holzken does, but has worked tirelessly to transfer his skills in karate to the sport of kickboxing. His work has resulted in some of GLORY’s most spectacular knockouts and for Daniels becoming one of the more viral and notable stars for the organization. 

“He’s incredible,” he said about Daniels. “I think that showcasing a fighter like Daniels helps to set us apart and really stand out. Nieky is an incredible boxer and Daniels is an incredible athlete who does things that nobody else does inside of the ring. The two-touch kicks, spinning back kicks, just everything that he does takes your breath away and leaves an impression.”

Many older fans see the fight between Daniels and Holzken as a forgone conclusion, but Franklin isn’t worried about a loss for either man hurting their image, instead noting that fighters with heart and personality tend to stand out. “I know that I’ll take some flak for this, but how can you not love a fighter like Dustin Jacoby? He’s still learning the ropes in our sport, but he entered the Road 2 Glory tournament on a day’s notice and won the whole thing, he fought Mourad Bouzidi on short notice and in Bellator stepped into the cage against King Mo on short notice. The guy is a fighter and he’s exciting to watch. I don’t think that losses define a fighter at all and I think that fans have certain connections with fighters and that doesn’t just fade away after a loss or two.”

GLORY is, of course, involved with the big Dynamite event in September that will showcase Bellator fights in a cage and GLORY fights inside of the GLORY ring. The event was in the works for quite a while and Franklin talks about how pleased he has been in the whole process. “How can you not like working with Scott Coker? I’d say he’s one of the top promoters in the world. He’s been a pleasure to work with and we are looking forward to putting on a great show. I mean, Bellator has an amazing platform that they’ve grown since Scott came in and we get to be a part of that with Dynamite.”

The inclusion of GLORY seems almost academic considering the caliber of events that they’ve produced in their short tenure and how Franklin and crew have been able to work miracles out in the previous few events with their reduced budget. Franklin does credit the fighters for sticking with them through the transition, as well. “What people don’t realize is that 95% of our fighters stuck with us through lean times. That is incredible, they really believe in what we are doing and believe that this is where they belong. Look at guys like Errol Zimmerman or Rico Verhoeven who stuck with us through everything and are just excited to get out there and fight.”

The card isn’t settled yet for Dynamite, but GLORY has promised to bring their A-game for this. There was talk of the event possibly happening without GLORY’s assistance, but the reality here is that GLORY’s stable of fighters are some of the very best in the world. The Dynamite event is a huge stage for kickboxing in general and GLORY has top talent in healthy supply to wow both old and new fans alike. It also speaks further for the health of the relationship with Spike TV, which Franklin feels strongly about.

“I was just out there at the Bellator show and I walked away from my meetings with Scott and everyone at Spike TV feeling very positive about it,” he explained. “We have a longterm deal with Spike with extension options and everyone who see GLORY programming feels strongly about it. Could the landscape change in the future, could our relationship change? It could, but that is the nature of television. We aren’t concerned, though, we have a healthy relationship and a lot more shows that we are planning right now.”

The market is ever-changing for combat sports but what is clear is that GLORY is in this for the long haul and is looking to help to grow the sport worldwide as well as the United States. While Spike TV is usually the hot topic, Franklin made sure to mention that they don’t plan on abandoning their international markets any time soon. They have healthy television relationships all throughout Europe and Asia and he notes how it is easier to fill up arenas throughout Europe with their top talent, like in Lille, France where Rico Verhoeven defended his GLORY Heavyweight Championship against Benjamin Adegbuyi.

In a way, it is refreshing to speak with Franklin and to hear him be so candid about the past and future of the organization. They are very aware of their product and aware of any possible missteps that may have happened in the past and are always looking for ways to provide quality entertainment to all of their fans across the world, all while spending responsibility and ensuring that the company has a bright future. Because, as Franklin told me, having less opportunities for fighters to work and make money is good for no one, so all of the fighters are invested in the future of both the sport and the organization.

GLORY 23 is Friday, August 7th live on Spike TV from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

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Exclusive Interview with Mike Zambidis Prior to June 27th Retirement Bout

  • Published in Interviews

On June 27th in Greece the K-1 legend that is Mike Zambidis will step into the ring one last time in his retirement fight. The 34-year old fighter will cap off a long and storied career by fighting one of the world's toughest Lightweights in Steve Moxon. In a way, Zambidis fighting Moxon for his retirement fight is a very Zambidis thing to do; he didn't have to fight someone as tough and relevant as Moxon. Zambidis is going out on his own terms, which is rare for many fighters, it also meant that he could choose someone that he could just easily plow through for a memorable knockout for his retirement. Instead Zambidis chose a challenge.

I think when we all look back on Mike Zambidis it should be that fighting spirit that we all remember. We had a chance to talk to Zambidis prior to his big fight this coming weekend and a reflecting Zambidis had a lot to say about his career, his fans and even his most memorable fights. Mike Zambidis fights Steve Moxon on June 27th in Athens, Greece under the Iron Challenge banner.

LK: First of all, thank you for all of the great memories in the ring. I'm not sure that there are many fighters out there as entertaining and full of heart like you. 

MZ: Thank you very much for your kindness.  It is very important for an athlete to be respected by the audience and especially by the insiders of his field with such great experience.

LK: After a successful 15-plus-year career you are retiring, what was the decision making process like for this? What finally pushed you to move into retirement?

MZ: I am involved in kick boxing for 24 years and in times that kick boxing was not popular in my country but I dreamed and looked up with my head down and after huge sacrifices and endless hours of training, I have achieved 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 Kos. I had the honor to compete during the golden years of kick boxing in major events and with the best athletes worldwide.

After all this wonderful and demanding journey , I feel enormous gratitude that I manage to finish my career healthy and in high competitive level. Now, I feel full inside so as to go on with the next chapters of my life. 

LK: How important is it for you to be able to retire in front of your friends, family and fans in Greece?

MZ: There is nothing better than to give my last battle in Greece, although there have been ​​several interesting proposals by others countries, but my decision was the only way.

The Greeks support me in many ways, either daily out on the street, on social media, or filling each stadium where my battles are organised and transfer their energy, which is very valuable for me.

LK: Reflecting back on your career, what was your favorite fight?

MZ: I have many favorite fights … But I will pick the first that came to my mind.  It was the first time I stepped my foot in Japan and my first battle there with the champion of K-1 in 2003. For a long time, I was dreaming to participate in K-1. I won the eight-fold in the K -1 Oceania Australia and John Wein Parr in the finals and so I found myself opposite to the Dutch Albert Kraus.  In the beginning of the second round, I managed to knock him out, diving in the deep sea of K-1. A shocking experience for a young unknown Greek athlete back then.

LK: What made you select Steve Moxon as a final opponent? Moxon is an incredibly tough, top-ranked opponent. Is this just the Mike Zambidis warrior spirit that wouldn't accept an easy fight for his retirement?

MZ: I respect Steve Moxon and he has provoked me many times in the past. As he said in the past, I was his idol due to the similar fighting style and I think that it is very interesting for the audience to see. The experts of martial arts predict a spectacular battle between two strong athletes that are chasing the knock out.  As you said, I could accept an easy fight at this moment but I love challenges a lot. I am not just an athlete, I am a warrior and I learned in my life to fight, aiming high. This is a challenge I would like to take, as I think it will be a Titans’ battle.

LK: What do you think that your legacy will be on the sport after you retire?

MZ: The fights I have given in K-1, my wins over the world’s greatest champions of kick boxing, my «iron» fists and my fighting style, I think will be my legacy. Also, the fact that I was a Greek warrior fighting alone in the biggest kick boxing events worldwide, I think is going to be a nice thing to remember about me.

LK: What kind of plans do you have for your retirement? Do you plan on working with fighters and training them, running events, running a business or are you just planning to relax?

MZ: In Greece I own two fighting clubs where I give kick boxing lessons, so I will continue to run them giving more time and train athletes. In parallel,  I plan to offer kids seminars for nutritional education, sports education, self-defense, in order to strengthen their self-confidence and any other important experience I can offer.

LK: Is there a fighter out there that you believe could help the Mike Zambidis legacy continue on, or do you think that you are retiring as a one-of-a-kind talent?

MZ: I believe that every athlete is unique; no one can be the same with the other. Of course nowadays, there are many good athletes in the world who can offer many things to kick boxing and achieve great things. On the other hand, I believe that the Golden Era of kick-boxing has ended and strong teams like the ones gathered in Japan or in heavyweights like Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hust, Le Banner, Bernado, Loginidis, Andy Hug and in K-1 max 70 kg with Masato, Kraus, Kyshenko, Drago, Buakaw, Souwer and many others won’ t exist again for 2 reasons: Firstly, it is rare to have good fighters in their best physical condition to compete in the same event and secondly the global economic crisis which dissolves dreams and shrinks everything. 

LK: Are there any regrets from your career, or are you satisfied with your accomplishments?

MZ: After 178 fights, 155 wins and 87 KOs, I would be ungrateful if I said that I am not satisfied with my accomplishments. Thank God,  I don’t have second thoughts and I am happy. I would be ungrateful if I was not happy with what I have accomplished. Definitely, there were a lot of difficulties, frustrations , injustices and  injuries during all this wonderful trip but I keep the good moments, that were definitely more and I am glad because I used all the bad ones to become more mature and get myself in the next battles more «angry» in a creative and investing way and complete human and fighter.  

LK: Is there anything that you'd like to say to your fans and supporters all throughout the world?

MZ: I would like to thank them personally, one by one. Their support, energy and love are precious for every step I take. I’ ve always felt very honored for the  people who supported me in my fights around the world. That’s why I was training and I gave 100% of  my soul and body in my battles so that I could please them.

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Jason Andrada Dishes on Rematches, Lion Fight 22 and how Kevin Ross is the Keanu Reeves of Muay Thai

  • Published in Interviews

Lion Fight 22 is on Friday evening on AXS TV, live from Las Vegas and as always, they are promising a night of high octane muay thai action. They’ve yet to fail to deliver since they’ve gone live on AXS TV and even though there was a last minute change to the main event, the show is still primed to deliver a lot of full rules muay thai action. A part of that action is Jason Andrada vs. Anthony Castrejon at 122lbs.

When it came time for me to decide who to focus on for this event, as much as I respect Kevin Ross and Tiffany Van Soest or the main eventer Jo Nattawut, it was hard not to be drawn to Jason Andrada. Andrada is not the most experienced fighter on the card -- even though he had a long, storied amateur career before turning pro -- but he’s been featured on Lion Fight events for a while now. He’s coming off of a tough loss to John Nofer that came via an elbow TKO but he was all smiles after that loss, showing more character in loss than most show in victory. 

Andrada is one of those guys that you might not see main eventing Lion Fight events, but more often than not you see him on the card and when you see him, you know to expect a fun fight and for him to leave it all in the ring. It’s not a coincidence, either, because his disposition is that of a laid back guy that is always looking to put on a show. Andrada sees himself as one of the many guys who is just trying to make an impression.

“You know, I think for some guys, guys like the ones that I’ve been fighting like Nofer, they’re all looking to make a name for themselves just like I am. There are a lot of guys out there that aren’t getting featured on TV like I am and they are clawing for those spots,” he explained. “All of these guys out there they go out there swinging, not many fighters that I’ve encountered are gonna take a shot and not want to go down swinging. Look at a guy like Pedro Gonzalez, for example. A lot of people in muay thai want to see someone demonstrating their perfect muay thai technique, but he’s more of a brawler, an MMA guy. I like watching him fight and so do a lot of other people, if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.”

He was quick to point out some of the more established names in the world of muay thai like Kevin Ross, Chad Mulkey, Joe Schilling and Tiffany Van Soest earned their spots through not only being skilled, but through their humility, personalities and experience. Andrada is quite accomplished in his own right, but he’s quick to point out those that have accomplished more than him and how he strives to be better and achieve what they have. 

Muay Thai might be a career for Andrada now, who spends most of his time at the gym training for fights or holding classes, but he likes to get some distance sometimes as well. “I love fighting, of course,” he said. “But sometimes I need time away from it, so I’m not one of those guys that has to watch every fight ever. I’ll watch my friends, you know? If Kevin, Chaz, Joe, any of my friends are fighting I’ll watch it and look, I could read off a pretty long list of fighters that I’m friends with and watch them fight, but I’m not a junkie for it anymore or anything. It’s nice to take time away. You know, I come home, I watch TV, watch Netflix, just relax sometimes and get some distance. It keeps the passion there.”

His fight on Friday is a rematch with Anthony Castrejon, the two of them meeting a few years back when they were both amateurs in a bout that Castrejon won via a head kick knockout. Andrada is open to any and all challenges, but was not really looking for this rematch. “I mean, we’ve fought before, he landed a nice head kick, which was good for him, but we are professionals now. A few of my recent professional fights have been rematches from my amateur days, which is fine,” he explained. “But look, like 1/3rd of my pro fights have been rematches from my amateur days. He’s been calling me out since before he fought Victor Saravia, so he’s wanted this for a while. I’m looking to grow as a fighter and be ready to challenge these international guys. I’m not saying that I’m looking past anyone,” he said. “I’m really not, I just want to be fighting guys from all over the world now. I want to be fighting guys from Japan, Europe and Thailand, I want to be ready to be able to go overseas and make a big impression. I don’t know if these rematches are going to really prepare me for that.”

He goes on to explain that it isn’t a great fight for either of them, considering that a loss for either guy could be the end of their Lion Fight careers. “I look at how UFC handles losses and you know, once you start racking up a few in a row they tend to cut a guy. I don’t want to be that guy and I’m sure that Castrejon doesn’t want to be that guy, either. Two straight losses wouldn’t be a good thing.”

Andrada is a guy that isn’t afraid to talk about his shortcomings, although he admits talking about losses can be tough. “Man, it sucks when I meet somebody new and they are like; ‘what do you do?’ I tell them that I’m a fighter and they ask about my last fight and it’s like, you gotta tell them that you came in second place,” he joked. “Nobody wants to have to say that, to say that you lost, but you gotta look forward.”

When it comes to Kevin Ross, it’s hard for Andrada to not talk about his friend and cohort with nothing but respect. “Kevin is a great guy, really. I mean, I learn so much from him still and no matter how much success he has, he’s always the same guy,” which spiraled into us discussing how Ross handles himself in the ring, how he’s always entertaining and composed, but always easy to talk to and deal with. “Yeah, I mean, he’s like the Keanu Reeves of muay thai in a way. He has all of this success and he hasn’t changed, he’s still the same guy. At the same time, he’s been through a lot of tough stuff in his life and he doesn’t let it drag him down. He’s always that guy that I like to be around.”

It should be noted that Andrada himself is heading down that same path right now; the amiable guy that seems always cool to be around. He loves to eat and is eagerly awaiting his favorite part of his post-fight life; feasting on some pizza. What struck me the most was that I was talking to him while he was gearing up to head out to the weigh-ins for Lion Fight 22, him just having stepped out of an epsom bath and he was not only in good spirits, but exhibited the same easy-going, friendly demeanor that Ross always projects while still focused and prepared for his fight. 

Becoming a star in any sport is difficult, there will be setbacks, there will be moments of glory and there will be those quiet, contemplative moments. Andrada has experienced many of these throughout the span of his professional and amateur career thus far and tomorrow night looks to be another in those collection of moments that will make up his career while he continues to strive for greatness and move up the ladder. What we know is that no matter what Andrada is looking to put his body on the line and to entertain us and that he’ll do it with a smile. Because he’s that ridiculous.

Lion Fight 22 airs tomorrow night, May 22nd on AXS TV at 10:00pm Eastern time.

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