Last night was of course GLORY 21, which has seen mixed reviews. A lot of hardcore kickboxing fans were upset with the card and of course the outcome to Artem Levin vs. Simon Marcus. A lot of MMA twitter seemed to be enjoying the event, though, which was an interesting contrast. While those are topics to take into account, I performed a bit of an experiment last night of my own. I had a good friend come over to watch the fights with me who had never watched kickboxing or GLORY before, but had seen his share of boxing and MMA to have a base level understanding of combat sports.
Last night's GLORY 21 event was a further extension of the search for the homegrown GLORY kickboxing star. The first attempt was the Heavyweight Qualifying tournament featuring three American Heavyweights and the British Chi Lewis Parry. The tournament, originally announced as an all-American affair could have been an all-American affair, but the man known as "Chopper" had proven to be adept at promoting himself and was coming off of a knockout win, meaning that if he could back up his talk with more knockouts GLORY could have another star in Chi Lewis Parry.
The tournament itself was perhaps best suited for the undercard, although I understand the logic of it being on the main card in hopes of big knockouts and building stars. I knew that I'd be able to see through certain things (like Maurice Jackson's 31-0 record that nobody can find much proof of), but would my friend? His comments on the tournament bouts were "most of these guys seem like amateurs, they just aren't impressive at all, is the whole sport like that?" There in lies the problem with promoting fights like this. While there will indeed be people who say "wow, lots of knockouts here! What action!" There will be people who compare the action to your average UFC event that they've seen and see telltale signs of fighters who aren't at the elite level and the entire affair will unravel.
Now, while Justin Baesman did not do much to impress, the feats that Raymond Daniels were capable of immediately caught his attention and he commented on how Daniels was doing things that you'd only see in movies. The main event was another story altogether, where he commented on how Levin and Marcus moved unlike anyone he had ever seen before and that they were clearly many levels above anyone else on the card that night. This was coming from a guy who spent time in Thailand last year and checked out some muay thai, so there was some recognition of the muay thai style that both bring over, albeit diluted and different due to GLORY's modified rules.
I commend GLORY on looking to build up new stars on Spike TV, but the GLORY name comes with a certain level of prestige and history to it for a young promotion. That history and prestige involves the best of the best fighting in the ring for our collective amusement. A gimme fight or two is never going to hurt the product, but a card like GLORY 21, if we are brutally honest, was a one-fight card. I'm not attempting to take anything away from any of the competitors, but the truth is that as much promise as we see in Demoreo Dennis, Xavier Vigney and Chi Lewis Parry, they've yet to prove themselves on the big stage just yet. The level of competition that they faced was about right to help nurture their growth, but sadly, it was not the right level of competition for a GLORY television show while some of the best fighters in the planet are sitting by waiting for the phone to ring for their opportunity on a Spike TV main card.
As an entertainment product it would be hard to call GLORY 21 a failure by any stretch. It delivered two hours of exciting, fast-paced action that was capped off by a fight between two of the very best fighters in the world. I could think of shows from the UFC within the past few years that have been endless marathons that tested my patience to a level that pushed me to just stop watching. I'm not sure that GLORY will ever be able to promote anything on that level. The result between Levin and Marcus was not perfect, no, but that was outside of the control of just about everyone involved and there is no way that I'll be able to complain about a rematch between the two.