When it comes to Kickboxing, there is nothing hotter right now that GLORY Sports International, best know for the GLORY Kickboxing events. GLORY houses some of the Kickboxing world’s greatest talents and have been putting on some of the best shows in the sport for over a year now. GLORY began when Pierre Andurand and Marcus Luer teamed up with Golden Glory, who had some success with their own Ultimate Glory and Glory World Series events, to make the promotion that we know now, and since then it has been growing rapidly into one of the top combat sports leagues in the world.
LiverKick sat down with GLORY Sports International’s CEO, Andrew Whitaker, to discuss all things GLORY and what is in store for the promotion in the near and far future. Whitaker initially served on the board of directors for GLORY Sports International before transitioning to the CEO position this January and it has been an interesting transition for him, coming from a background in entertainment and sports entertainment, previously working at Kings Highway Media and most notably for WWE. His career within the WWE spanned many years and many positions, placing him in a rather unique position when it comes to producing sports entertainment television and expanding a business on an international scale.
The transition for Whitaker was one that forced him to get down and really learn about the business before he took the reins of the company this year. “Obviously there was a period of immersion to all things GLORY kickboxing. As you know, I obviously worked in entertainment for many years, albeit working with the sports business as well with my former employer. It was more the sports and entertainment businesses, as it was more efficient to do so. In that sense, the licensing people in sports, the live events people in sports on a global basis, the media rights people in sports on a global basis are all people that I’ve been working with for a very, very long time. While I come from what is a very successful entertainment brand and helped grow a global entertainment brand, the transition for me to sports was more about me learning about the specific sport of kickboxing than it is on a business-to-business basis, or a business-to-consumer basis that we have here in America and globally.”
Whitaker, while he might have a strong background in building up brands and knows his ins and outs, still does admit that there are challenges for the sport of Kickboxing. “I think that the thought behind the formation of GLORY was that; here is a great sport with great athletes from around the world and there hadn’t been a real successful business built off of it with K-1, even if it was a big and successful sport with a lot of great athletes. I think that the thought process was that GLORY Sports International would go out and lock down the world’s top and developing talent, then begin to create television programming with these athletes. When you watch GLORY programming it just lends itself to television. Obviously there are events that would lend themselves better for pay-per-view, but that is something for the future, possibly in 2014 as a major media property, with the 8-man tournaments. For television though, and the limited time windows, this property lends itself extremely well to that. Most importantly you have the top athletes in the world and you have that as the building block, then you have the three minute rounds. When you watch GLORY Kickboxing there is no rest, there is no stopping. It is continuous, fast, furious action from tremendous athletes and I feel that the tournament formats, be it the 4-man, 8-man or even 16-man tournaments are very compelling television -- especially when it is done in one night. You get the beginning, the middle and the end in one night.
"As far as challenges are concerned, the biggest challenge beyond refining the management team and the operations, is that the television program and the media platform content needed to be of a certain quality. It was very good, but has been improved even more and will continue to do so with the production team that we’ve built. Then is also the amount of television programming is critical. Having programming on once a month is great, but if you can deliver more than one sports program a month that is very important. We’ll be doing just that starting in September, we’ll be producing four different television programs out of each television shoot. This will allow for extra highlight programming, best of programming, promotional magazine programming and then of course the event programming, which will be the live event and the recorded event, which will air on the heels of that. That is the GLORY SuperFight Series.”
The GLORY SuperFight Series is a big part of the focus for GLORY coming up, as GLORY is looking at it beyond just airing fights, but instead to create a viable platform for fighters to move up the rankings and work towards securing a spot within the next tournament. “It’s built into the rankings system that we’ve established, in the sense that we have the, for example, four-man Middleweight tournament, those are the top four Middleweights in the GLORY rankings. The other top athletes at Middleweight that are in the SuperFight series are all looking to move up the rankings and earn themselves a spot in the next Middleweight tournament. That is the raison d’etre really for the GLORY SuperFight series, it gives all of the athletes in GLORY in a weight category the chance to move up the rankings so that they can get into the tournament.”
A big part of moving the GLORY brand forward has to do with their broadcast partners as well, with them moving to Spike TV in October here in the United States. “Certainly we are interested in our affiliate customers in any given country across the world to carry the best of GLORY television programming, so certainly we’d like for that to be the case, but at this moment I can’t speak to any specific plans in relation to that. We will launch on Saturday, October 12th with GLORY 11 from Chicago. Obviously GLORY 10 takes place before that on September 28th in the Los Angeles Metro area, and then off the back of the premier of GLORY on Spike we have GLORY 12 coming from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Saturday, November 23rd. So that is kind of the next run of quote unquote GLORY events from which the GLORY television programming will be derived.”
What was clear from talking to Whitaker is that there is a vision for the GLORY brand moving forward and that it will be a combination of the tried-and-true approach to promotion a sport as well as some more unique methods that come with producing more programming that we haven’t seen in Kickboxing before. Whitaker was quick to point out that there is a diverse team at play within GLORY from many diverse backgrounds, including that fight background that having someone like Cor Hemmers brings to the table that is indispensable. It sounds like this is just the beginning for GLORY and that over the coming weeks, months and years to expect a lot more.