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China Making Big Plays for Kickboxing in 2015

If you've been paying attention to kickboxing, you'll probably recognize that 2014 has been a strange year for the sport. We started things off with GLORY as the clear #1 promotion in the world, with the top talents, biggest events and the most promise. As we enter into 2015 things are a bit more muddy and confusing. In fact, they are a lot more confusing. 

GLORY 19 is in February, featuring Rico Verhoeven vs. Errol Zimmerman for the GLORY Heavyweight Championship, but to say that things seem to be in disarray in the GLORY camp is an understatement. The postponement of the show raised a lot of eyebrows and now we are seeing more and more GLORY contracted fighters taking fights somewhere else, or, like Joe Valtellini, petitioning for a shot at the UFC against CM Punk. I wouldn't count GLORY out just yet, but at the same time, if we look at the upcoming Kunlun and Wu Lei Feng cards in China, it's hard not to notice the sheer amount of GLORY talent on those cards

On January 3rd and 4th
#Kunlun Fight 15
– Rico Verhoeven vs Andrei Herasimchuk
– Sittichai Sitsongpeenong vs Murthel Groenhart
– Jafharr Wilnis vs Alireza Karbasi
Other fights:
– Andy Souwer vs Jaio Fukai
– Steve Moxon vs Aikpracha Meenayothin
– Tomas Hron vs Roman Kryklia
– Victor Nagbe vs Mostafa Rajabi
 
On January 31 and February 1st
Kunlun Fight 16 and WLF
– Albert Kraus vs ??
– Simon Marcus vs ??
– Arthur Kyshenko vs Bai Jinbin
– Andy Ristie vs Aikpracha Meenayothin
– Robin van Roosmalen vs Dzianis Zuev
 
Other fights:
– Hesdy Gerges vs Alexy Ignashov
– Colin George vs Mighty Mo
– Cosmo Alexandre vs Li Yankun
 

This is kind of revealing. In addition to that, on K-1's USA vs. China event happening in China on January 1st the #1 contender for GLORY's Featherweight Championship, Gabriel Varga, will be fighting with GLORY's blessing. K-1 also announced a huge partnership with some of the biggest networks in China for ten live events in 2015. While it isn't clear if K-1 will be making big money from that just yet, the potential viewership for them is out-of-this-world. 

As of right now it is looking like China is making huge moves to be the new home of kickboxing and could potentially be the "new" Japan, possibly even ushering in a boom period. We'll just have to wait and see.

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Yokkao 13 Headlined by Pakorn vs. Liam Harrison for Yokkao World Title

On March 21st in the UK Yokkao will return with Yokkao 12 and 13, featuring some of the world's best muay thai fighters in what has quickly become one of the most talked-about promotions in muay thai. The event is set to be headlined by a huge world title match between defending champion Pakorn and the UK's own Liam Harrison. Harrison has received universal acclaim over the past few years as one of the UK's top fighters by fighting anyone and everyone all across the world.

He'll have a chance to vie for Yokkao's newly-crowned 65kg World Championship facing off against one of Thailand's most exciting exports in Pakorn PK Saenchai MuayThaiGym. Pakorn won that championship at Yokkao 11 against the very tough Greg Wootton.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GLORY 19 Scheduled for February 6th in Hampton, Virginia

Kickboxing fans have been anxiously awaiting more details for the postponed GLORY 19 and today is that day. GLORY 19 is scheduled for Friday, February 6th and will take place in Hampton, Virginia. GLORY 19 will still be headlined by a GLORY Heavyweight title fight between Rico Verhoeven and Errol Zimmerman and the undercard will feature a one-night, four-man Welterweight contender tournament. 

GLORY 19 will take place at the 10,000 seat Hampton Coliseum. We'll have more details when they come.

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