K-1 was at one time the undisputed king of the Kickboxing world, with the brand emerging from Japan and helping to bring the sport into the limelight. A sport which was at one time fractured and confusing due to the multitude of rule sets and championships all of a sudden brought structure and uniformity to the ring. Most Kickboxing events held globally still use “K-1 Rules,” even if they have no affiliation to K-1, and the reason is because K-1 made itself a household name. Sure, K-1 didn’t always do things from a pure sport perspective and should be considered mostly an entertainment company that ran sporting events, the formula worked and made them one of the most powerful brands in combat sports, ever.
The past few years have seen that brand slip from combat sports royalty into a mockery. Fighters were owed money, events became more and more sporadic and a once-reliable brand started to become a joke. So when EMCOM’s “Mike” Kim was awarded the company and made big promises, there was some optimism among the Kickboxing community of what could be. Part of the problem was that the once-strong brand was now known in many circles as a tainted one associated with screwing fighters and being bankrupt. Even if the K-1 brand was under new management and was treating fighters fairly, the lead-up to the last few K-1 events I’ve seen a lot of, “I thought they were dead” and “they don’t pay their fighters” talk. For K-1 to recover they would need to have an absolutely sterling record over the next few years, and sadly, things are looking a bit rough around the edges.
It isn’t treating fighters unfairly that is the problem, per se, as much as it is general lack of organization and composure. The build-up to the K-1 Los Angeles show was a case study of how to do a lot of things correctly while building upon a foundation of sand on the shore. Without a solid foundation, anything you build, no matter how well it is constructed, is bound to fail. Los Angeles is not a bad spot to promote in, but the arena selected was not exactly a prime location and was simply too large. I understand having big aspirations and wanting to put a best foot forward, but if you know you cannot fill an arena at least 75%, you quite simply do not book that arena as it will look awful on television.