In less than two weeks, the 2011 K-1 World Grand Prix is scheduled to begin. On October 29 in China, K-1 will hold the Final 16, with the winners moving on to the Grand Prix finals on December 10. It's the biggest yearly event in kickboxing, and a title with 20 years of proud heritage. So this is great news for kickboxing fans, right?
Not so fast.
As of today, the exact status of the Grand Prix remains very much in doubt. When the event was announced in September, 11 of the 16 participants were named, with 3 more later added. They also announced that the show would be co-promoted with Europe's It's Showtime organization. In the weeks since, we have seen some definite cracks forming.
First up, It's Showtime has once again been public about their concerns over payment issues. For well over a year now, It's Showtime (who represents numerous notable K-1 fighters including Badr Hari and defending MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan among others) has complained that many of their fighters are owed substantial amounts for past K-1 fights. The relationship became very rough earlier this year, but with the GP partnership, things seemed to be ironed out. But on September 28, in their announcement of Badr Hari's retirement, It's Showtime stated:
If K-1 will host a World Grand Prix this year, Badr will also participate to that. The Grand Prix Final is scheduled for December 10 in China. If this World Grand Prix will take place, depends if K-1 will be able to pay its debts to IT'S SHOWTIME and others. If not, the fight on January 28 will be Badr's only remaining fight as a kickboxer.
More questions came to the surface this weekend, when Tyrone Spong (another It's Showtime fighter) stated that he was still owed money for last year's Grand Prix, and that he would not fight without being paid.
K-1 has made no public response to these claims, nor have spoken of the Grand Prix since the September announcement.
Despite these troubles, rumors have begun to surface of a possible line-up, with 7 of the 8 fights included. That alleged line-up is as follows:
Xhavit Bajrami vs. Daniel Ghita
Hesdy Gerges vs. Errol Zimmerman
Ben Edwards vs. Singh Jaideep
Mourad Bouzidi vs. Kyotaro
Peter Aerts vs. Melvin Manhoef
Sergei Lascenko vs. Rico Verhoeven
Badr Hari vs. Anderson "Braddock" Silva
Notably absent from that list? Tyrone Spong. Notably ON the list? Peter Aerts. If true, Aerts is a huge addition, as he represents a link to the traditions of K-1. He also gives the tournament at least one former GP winner, and will almost guarantee a greater emotional investment from long-time kickboxing fans.
But this list includes a number of It's Showtime fighters (Hari, Manhoef, Gerges, Bouzidi, Silva, and Verhoeven). If the company pulls their fighters out, it doesn't seem that K-1 can possibly continue on with the event.
So three weeks from now, will we be reporting on the results of the Final 16? And if we do, will the winners actually move on to crown a new K-1 Grand Prix champion? Personally, I remain highly skeptical. I'd love to see it, even with a less than ideal line-up, but I have my doubts.