Glory 13 Tokyo was an incredible end to a landmark year of exceptional fight cards for Glory that brought about the greatest change in the kickboxing landscape in over a decade. Long-entrenched divisional hierarchies were overturned, legendary kingpins were dethroned, and superstars were born. Glory brought elite level kickboxing to American TV screens, establishing itself as a brand name for fast-paced, high drama sports entertainment. Glory ends the year offering the sport of kickboxing the brightest future it has ever had, free from the lingering shadow of K-1.
2014 will likely see a seismic expansion of the Glory brand, with huge fights and more television penetration. For SpikeTV, Glory represents a massive opportunity to reclaim its status as a premiere combat sports outlet, providing Viacom with the best product it has had since the UFC. To achieve that level of success, Glory will need stars, marketable fighters whose popularity will reach the mainstream. Here are five fighters who I think have the potential to be successful on American television.
1. Rico Verhoeven. The newly minted Glory Heavyweight tournament champion could not have arrived at a better time. Rico is young, charismatic, and knows how to present himself well for the cameras. He is an incredible athlete and a talented technical fighter, a great face for the Heavyweight division.
2. Daniel Ghita. A former Secret Service agent turned philanthropist, Ghita combines devastating, brutal stand-up fighting with a likable persona. Doing extensive charity work for Romanian orphans, Ghita has significant mainstream potential. He is rapidly improving his English and could prove to be a crossover success. His style will most certainly earn him fans.
3. Tyrone Spong. A significant media push by the Blackzillians along with devastating performances in Glory have skyrocketed Spong to success, becoming one of kickboxing's most prominent figures. There appears to be no immediate end in sight to Spong's reign as the light heavyweight champion, although this may change should Gokhan Saki choose to enter the 95kg title picture.
4. Joseph Valtellini. Bazooka Joe's story couldn't write itself any better. A physical education teacher for children with special needs, Valtellini brings a poster-boy charm along with the heart and determination of a champion. While it's too early to tell if Valtellini will become Canada's next Georges St-Pierre, his popularity and media presence there is rapidly growing, and it's clear that he's destined for great things.
5. Wayne Barrett. The Jamaican-born New Yorker is perhaps Glory's greatest American success story. He was a local favorite, a regional talent, and a likable personality who made the most out of the opportunity of a lifetime, taking veteran Joe Schilling to the final bell and snatching the win in style from the newly minted Middleweight tournament champion. All this with only 3 professional fights to his name. Is Barrett Kickboxing's answer to Jon Jones? A victory over Artem Levin would determine that.
While Glory has plenty of fighters who are decidedly main event material, it also needs personalities who can represent the organization well in media. SpikeTV should have no problems promoting these men--all are likable and professional athletes--with each fighter having the potential to achieve far-reaching success in the United States.