After six months of teases and broken promises, K-1 has finally announced their official return. On June 25, Japan will host the K-1 WORLD MAX 2011 63kg Japan Tournament FINAL. This will be the first K-1 event since the December Grand Prix finals. The main feature of the card will be a one night, 8 man Grand Prix to determine the 2nd ever 63kg K-1 champion. First round matches include:
2010 K-1 63kg GP champion Tetsuya Yamato vs. Former K-1 Koshien champion Hiroya
2011 Krush Finalist Koya Urabe vs. Yuki
2010 K-1 GP Finalist Yuta Kubo vs. Kizaemon Saiga
2009 Koshien champion Masaaki Noiri vs. 2011 Krush 63kg champion Ryuji Kajiwara
In addition to the tournament, the show will include 2-3 70kg Superfights, including Albert Kraus vs. Yoshihiro Sato and one or two more to be announced. The hope is to stream the show online (which K-1 did once last year with great success), although it likely will not air on TV in Japan.
There definitely are some drawbacks to this announcement - the lack of TV is a big one, as is the focus on the lower profile 63kg division. But the simple fact that K-1 has not permanently closed its doors is enough to get me excited. And while this division lacks the star power of the higher weight classes, this is a fantastic tournament with strong match-ups. Last year's 63kg GP was K-1's best show of the year, and this year's tournament has the potential to top that one. My early favorite is Urabe, but almost anyone has a shot here.
At the same press conference, K-1 head Tanigawa addressed a few other important points:
- They still hope to hold a Heavyweight Grand Prix this year, and are tentatively looking to begin it in August somewhere in Asia other than Japan. No mention of possible participants, though I would doubt we will see defending champion Alistair Overeem take part.
- There is a hope to hold another MAX event in August, either at 70 or 63kg, but K-1 admits that this may not happen.
- Tanigawa admits there have been financial troubles and that some fighters still need to be paid, including JZ Cavalcante, who recently tweeted about his frustrations.
- He also says he knew nothing about the new It's Showtime Japan promotion, and that he will not use any fighters who work there. This is particularly notable because K-1 MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan will be headlining the It's Showtime Japan card, which could mean Petrosyan's time in K-1 is done. With him out, and last year's falling outs with Andy Souwer and Buakaw Por. Pramuk, there's honestly not much point in them even holding a 70kg tournament this year.
- K-1 is looking to work with smaller Japanese promotions in order to cultivate new fighters. This likely means an emphasis on Japanese talent and smaller weight classes like 63kg instead of the traditional Heavyweights.