If you've been following our coverage of K-1 and the 2011 K-1 Grand Prix, you already know what a mess the entire situation is. As we reported last week, the GP appeared to be cancelled after K-1's long-standing financial difficulties could not be worked out. In the days since, we've had a bit more news on the situation.
First up, It's Showtime confirmed what we already suspected - there will definitely not be a Final 16 event for the 2011 K-1 Grand Prix. Originally scheduled for October 29 in China, that event has been officially cancelled. K-1 hasn't actually made this official announcement, or updated their website, but that is not a surprise given the way they normally deal with news like this.
The announcement from It's Showtime was actually quite detailed, which was a breath of fresh air after a year full of rumors and half-stories. It's Showtime president Simon Rutz clarified that FEG, the parent company to K-1, is indeed bankrupt, and the K-1 name is now owned by Barbizon. He also reports that there are a handful of investors interested in rebuilding the K-1 brand - one from Korea, one from the US that Rutz describes as "an American company which also has big opportunities to bring the K-1 brand to high levels," and a third party. These investors are working with long-time K-1 president Tanigawa as well as Golden Glory head Bas Boon to finalize their deals. However, none of these investors can move forward without the signature of Kazuyoshi Ishii, the founder of K-1.
There is a lot of interesting news to unpack in this statement.
- Bas Boon has some official connection to K-1. When the Barbizon sale was announced it was a not discussed, but not very well disguised, secret that Boon was likely connected to Barbizon. Seems that this is probably the case, or at least that Boon does have some official interest in K-1.
- Ishii remains an official part of K-1. Despite leaving the company a few years ago, it's been known that he has some involvement still. But the fact that he must approve any investors is a rather large degree of control that Ishii still holds.
- Despite this year's troubles, there still is hope for the future, as any of these investors could bring K-1 back next year or beyond. It's Showtimer pledges their support in making that happen.
So with that, it looked like we could hold out hope for a future Grand Prix, just not one in 2011. But of course, with K-1, things aren't that easy.
Anil Dubar, the trainer to Daniel Ghita who first announced that the Final 16 was off, now says that K-1 has told Ghita to remain in shape and ready to fight in December. The plan now is to skip the Final 16 and just have 8 participants take part in a one night Final 8 GP in December.
My opinion on that? Wishful thinking on everyone's part. K-1 doesn't like to admit defeat, and I in fact predicted that this would be their next move when we talked about the end of the Final 16 last week. So expect another two months of rumors and fighters being strung along before the ultimate cancellation.
And for the future? I will join in the optimism there. There remains a vibrant international kickboxing scene and great interest in the sport in Europe. If a smart investor can come in, clean house, and run K-1 like a proper business, working with camps like It's Showtime and Golden Glory, we could see the Grand Prix crown once again. Just don't hold your breath.