This is an issue that often causes ongoing confusion when it comes to talking about what's going in kickboxing right now. Every few months news surfaces about an event that is billed as being K-1, which seems to perpetuate the idea that K-1 as an organization still survives and rules the kickboxing world.
This is simply not true. The decline of K-1 starting from 2010 to 2012 has been very well publicized at this point. Most people are familiar with the downfall of FEG, a company headed by Sadaharu Tanikawa which formerly oversaw the K-1 franchise and co-produced the DREAM MMA promotion with Real Entertainment (former Pride).
After 2012 is where the story starts to get even more confusing. In 2012, a K-1 comeback was announced with the company now helmed by "K-1 Global," a Hong Kong-based company headed to Michael Kim, a venture capitalist for ENCOM Global Holdings. This new K-1 was helmed by Doug Kaplan, an American, and with an American promotional team that included former UFC employees, it produced the K-1 Rising 2012 event in Los Angeles. A 2012 MAX Final in Korea as well as a 2012 GP Final in New York City was announced for the end of the year. Things seemed to be looking up as a broadcast deal with SpikeTV was announced for 2013.
This is the part where most people lose the story. After the K-1 Rising event concluded, most of the K-1 team responsible for producing this event was fired. K-1 operated with a skeleton crew and partnered with SuperKombat to produce the 2012 heavyweight Final 16 in Japan and partnered with a local promoter in Greece to produce the K-1 MAX Final 8 tournament (which Murthel Groenhart won and didn't get paid for). The 2012 heavyweight Final in New York City was postponed. A February 2012 event in Korea was announced, but it never materialized. Ultimately, the rumor was that K-1 was going on hiatus until they could relaunch with SpikeTV's backing.
Where we are right now is that K-1 as an organization does not exist. It may have signed contracts last year, but these contracts have apparently not been honored. The fighters have no idea what is going on. The 2012 Final which is taking place this Friday in Croatia is being produced by Fight Channel TV, a Croatian company headed by Mirko Cro Cop's manager. At this point, we have reason to believe that K-1 has little to no involvement in this event. There was talk of a K-1 event at the Arnold Classic festival, but it was recently revealed that this event was scrapped in order to pull together the cash to pay for Badr Hari's involvement in this Croatian event.
The bottom line is that K-1 is dead. People who think that K-1 has a future at this point are wrong. It is right now being produced at someone else's expense, and each time K-1 is failing to make good on its commitments with its partners and failing to make good with the fighters. Someone else is going to have to pay Murthel Groenhart's win purse.
Now let's talk about GLORY. The name has been out there for a while, but it obviously is still in the process of growing and establishing itself. Some people may think that GLORY is some incarnation of Golden Glory, a gym-management entity once headed by Bas Boon. This is not true. GLORY is a completely new company founded by Marcus Luer, a sports marketing executive and CEO of Total Sports Asia--a company responsible for syndicating major sports entertainment brands in Asian markets such as golf, tennis, and the WWE--and Pierre Andurand, a venture capitalist with a background in hedge-fund management. The two of them together bought Golden Glory and It's Showtime, two of Europe's leading kickboxing brands, and built a company that now sports the biggest kickboxing roster in the world. They also acquired the DREAM brand and signed co-promotional agreements with OneFC. On the management side, they've recently appointed Andrew Whitaker, a former executive VP for the WWE, as their new CEO. Some of the Golden Glory people work for the new company, but this new company is not the old Golden Glory.
Glory is in America right now. They have staged Road to Glory tournaments in Tulsa, OK and Los Angeles, which are being used to scout new talent to build new weight divisions. They have held big events around the world, including the Heavyweight Grand Slam in Tokyo, an event last fall in Stockholm, and coming up they have big fight cards planned for London and Istanbul, featuring top names like Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki, and Daniel Ghita. Last fall they also held a 70kg tournament in Rome, which was swept by Giorgio Petrosyan. The Tokyo event aired on the CBS Sports Network here in America, and it is heavily rumored that a deal with SpikeTV may be on the horizon for this summer.
In other words, Glory is quickly becoming the major league of kickboxing. It has money, it has the fighters, and it has experienced management. Chances are it is coming to your TV screen soon. Another promotion that deserves mention is SuperKombat. It is a Romanian promotion headed by Eduard Irima that is for the time being a small show, but I think it is set to become a major player in kickboxing. A new rumor going around is that SK may collaborate with Glory, which will further fortify Glory's standing.
This is a summary of what has taken place in the world of kickboxing these past three years. There have been lots of ups and downs, but this is where things currently stand: K-1 is dead, Glory is the world's largest and fastest growing kickboxing organization, and kickboxing is happening in America. Get excited.