In 2011 and much of 2012, fight fans collectively wondered just how much farther the sport of kickboxing would fall. 2012 saw further aftershocks of K-1's collapse, including more fighter pay accusations and mudslinging between the two remaining players in the industry, It's Showtime and Glory. There were many false starts during this time period, with promises made and broken, as well as outrageous rumors and bizarre stories of crime and villainy. Meanwhile, Badr Hari stomped on people, went to jail, came back, and then stomped on people again (and went to jail again).
Then two things happened that no one ever saw coming: It's Showtime was sold to bitter rivals Golden Glory after operating independently for about fifteen years, and K-1 came back and landed a live broadcast TV deal with SpikeTV (and as a bonus, hosted a successful event in America!). Oh yeah, and Cro Cop came back and knocked a guy out.
At the risk of making a statement that future events invalidate once again, it seems that kickboxing has achieved a level of financial stability and exposure that for the time being brings optimism back to the kickboxing game. This development could not come at a more vital time for the combat sports market as a particularly dismal year of fighter injuries and now, two card cancellations, have left MMA fans without the big caliber fights that they have wanted. MMA is at a low point for the moment, affording kickboxing the most important opportunity that it has had in years.
To emphatically oversimplify, fight fans want action, they want to see high intensity fights, stunning knockouts, and world class technique, all things which kickboxing can deliver in spades and which for the moment, MMA is not delivering. It's Showtime has demonstrated during its tenure that some of the most exciting fights can be made with a fairly minimal investment of resources, and K-1 proved that yet again during its Los Angeles show. This show featured one of the most violent knockouts of the year among other very action-packed fights. While this show was not without its missteps, particularly the pay-per-view, it demonstrated the raw ability of kickboxing to entertain for hours. With SpikeTV now in a position to promote and air K-1, the opportunity exists for kickboxing to achieve the gains that the UFC did during its run.
Fight fans also want superstars, who will emerge from this process and who already fill the Glory rosters. Fans can look forward to seeing Daniel Ghita one day colliding with the likes of Tyrone Spong, Semmy Schilt, Errol Zimmerman, and Gokhan Saki--of seeing the likes of Robin van Roosmalen, Artur Kyshenko, and Andy Souwer clash with the technically flawless Giorgio Petrosyan. Rather than dealing with a saturated market of crumbling cards, fight fans should expect a packed competition between the world's best, all under one roof.
The fighting talent in kickboxing has never gone away and is constantly discovering new challengers. The real question is whether the people in charge have the ability and professionalism to run a business, and that remains to be seen. If all goes according to plan, expect kickboxing to make an impact in 2013.