The K-1 Grand Prix is back. This Friday, K-1 returns with their first Heavyweight Grand Prix in over two years. The event is the K-1 GP 2012. Or maybe 2013. It features Badr Hari. Who was, until very recently, in jail. It's part of their co-promotion with Superkombat. Except it's not.
Such is life when you follow K-1 these days. The company has been a twisted ball of mess for the past few years, and this GP is no exception. From the company going bankrupt, to being sold to unknown investors, to making a push in the US, to leaving the US, to holding a GP in 2012, to canceling that GP, to rescheduling that GP... it's all very confusing.
Here then is the full fight card, followed by the answers to five questions you might have heading into this event:
1. Isn't Badr Hari in jail? He was, but not any more. Last July, Hari was incarcerated to await trial for multiple assault charges. He was released from prison in January, though he is still awaiting trial. As a result, it's entirely possible we'll see Hari back in jail before the year is done. But for now, he's free, and when Ben Edwards went down to injury, Hari stepped in as a surprise replacement. After all that time in jail, and having lost a significant amount of weight, it's impossible to know how Hari will do in this tournament. A 100% Hari would be the massive favorite here, but how close can he be to 100% with only six weeks to train? We'll get a better idea on Friday.
2. Does Mirko Cro Cop have a shot? As a matter of fact, he does. The K-1, Pride, and UFC legend retired from MMA (somewhat) in 2011, and has been focused on kickboxing ever since. He's gone 3-0 in that time and has actually looked pretty good. He's clearly not the Cro Cop he once was, as he has replaced his aggression with a veteran's calculating style, but he's done very well with this new style. Though he is well known as a former K-1 fighter, he never did wear the K-1 crown. For him to win it at last at this late stage of his career, in front of his devoted fans in Croatia, would be an incredible moment. And he really does have a shot. His first round opponent is Jarrell Miller, who is a solid opponent, but far less experienced. The rest of his bracket is a bit weaker than the other side as well. Really, it all depends on how the draw plays out, and how fresh Cro Cop is in the finals compared to his opponent. It's a long shot for sure, but don't completely rule a Cro Cop win out.
3. What is the deal with this show? A surprisingly difficult question to answer. This, in theory, the 2012 K-1 Grand Prix. Yes, 2012. This particular tournament started last year when K-1 came back from the dead with 4 very entertaining shows. During the first of those shows, Heavyweight superfights allowed fighters to advance to the Grand Prix. Then, last October, they held a Final 16 in Tokyo with the winners planning to move on to a December Final 8 in New York City. That never happened, and we're finally making good on it here in 2013. In the meantime, we've seen K-1 change owners, enter and break partnerships, cancel shows... it's very hard to know who even is at the wheel of K-1 these days. So be grateful that we're getting this show, as it would not surprise me in the least for this to be the final K-1 show for quite some time.
4. Is this going to be any good? Ah, the big question. Answer: yes, I think it will. Yes, K-1 is a mess, and no, this is not a line-up worthy of the days of Aerts, Hoost, and Hug. But if there's one shining positive in the weird world of current K-1 it's that the shows are really good. All 4 of last year's K-1 shows were excellent, even if they didn't always feature the world's very best. This one looks to be no exception. These are all entertaining fighters and, at the end of the day, I suspect they'll put on a very fun and entertaining show. Don't let your feelings that it's not "Grand Prix worthy" get in the way of enjoying it for what it is.
5. How can I watch? There will be a live stream airing Friday afternoon (yes, Friday afternoon). Get all the details here.
Before I go, I want to leave you with these two excellent FanPosts featuring some very cool background on this event. Kudos to both writers:
Join Bloody Elbow this Friday for live coverage of the K-1 Grand Prix.