All around me, people stand with their mouths open, mutely looking around, trying to comprehend what they have just seen. Giorgio Petrosyan, the best kickboxer in the world, lies unconscious on the mat. Andy Ristie, the +650 underdog, has pulled off the impossible. And people can not believe it.
Those watching Glory 12 last night, either live at Madison Square Garden or on TV on Spike or other outlets, can now say that they saw history. They saw the night Petrosyan lost.
Because of the Spike broadcast, this was a show that was being watched by more than just your diehard kickboxing audience. All week, newer fans looking to get into kickboxing were asking what to watch for at Glory 12, and the answer was always the same: watch for Petrosyan. When he lost, the questions came flying. The big one - just how big of a deal is this? The answer: absolutely huge. Bigger than Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra. On par, at least, with Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman. Petrosyan was the sport's Floyd Mayweather, a man whose supreme technical acumen made him not only seemingly impossible to defeat, it made him virtually impossible to even get into trouble. He was not Fedor Emelianenko, who routinely came back from trouble - he was prime GSP who never even found himself in that trouble. So how big? Think St. Pierre losing to Dan Hardy, Floyd Mayweather losing to Robert Guerrero.
Yet both of those comparisons are unfair to one man - Andy Ristie. Ristie has been making his way up the international ranks for the past 2 years. An explosive fighter, Ristie uses flashy knees and an aggressive style to great effect. He is also relatively new to the highest levels of the sport, and he has not always been consistent when facing world class opposition. At Glory 12, he was far more than consistent, he was superb.
Leading up to the Petrosyan fight, Ristie talked non-stop about Petrosyan being too defensive a fighter, and how fighters never really pushed him, instead allowing themselves to fall into The Doctor's technical game. Ristie vowed to break that pattern. For much of the first two rounds, he failed to live up to that vow. Ristie fought a good fight, staying in there with Petrosyan, but it was more of a Petrosyan fight and we looked on the way to another decision win. Then, in round 3, Ristie flipped a switch and did exactly what he said he would - he came out hard and fast, crowding Petrosyan, refusing to let up. He turned it from a technical fight into a brawl. And in that brawl, he knocked Petrosyan out.
It was an incredible performance, but what is even more remarkable is that Ristie's night was still not over. Just in case knocking out the best in the world was not enough, he returned later for the finals and knocked out Robin van Roosmalen, the division's clear #2 fighter.
Last time out, at Glory 11 Chicago, Rico Verhoeven put on one of the single best one night performances seen in combat sports, defeating Daniel Ghita and Gokhan Saki in one night. It was a remarkable performance from Verhoeven. And at Glory 12, Andy Ristie topped it. That's how big this was.
In the aftermath of the big win, there are plenty of things to unpack. This was obviously a huge night for Ristie, but can he keep it going? When I spoke to the champion post-fight, I asked him if he was now #1. His answer was simple: "Yes. I am the best in the world." He certainly looked it last night - now he has to prove it next time.
As for Petrosyan, where does the disposed king go from here? He's still quite young, but also has a history of hand problems. He obviously remains one of the sport's very elite, but how much hunger does he have to get back to the top?
But those are questions for another day. For now, in the wake of Glory 12, we can all pick our jaws up off the floor, look around, and recognize that we have seen kickboxing history unfold in a single night in the world's most famous arena. It's a new era, and if the thrills provided by Glory 12 are any indication, it's going to be a great one.
The king is dead, long live the king.
Follow me at @FCoffeen for more kickboxing and Glory coverage.