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Glory CEO talks future of kickboxing: Let's bring Donald Cerrone over to Glory

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In this exclusive Bloody Elbow interview, Glory CEO Jon Franklin talks the future of kickboxing, and why he wants to see Donald Cerrone in a Glory ring.

Daniel Ghita
Daniel Ghita
James Law, GLORY Sports International

Kickboxing fans tend to be a rather concerned lot. For a number of years now, there's been a lingering fear that the sport was going to just wither up and die, leaving fans out in the cold. Enter Glory. Debuting in 2012, Glory immediately established themselves as the world's leading kickboxing organization. For US fans in particular, Glory was huge, as they began running shows in the US, airing on Spike, and prominently featuring US talent. But when June's Last Man Standing PPV was followed by months of silence, rumors began to circulate and fans worried again - was Glory gone?

Just a few weeks ago, they answered that question with a clear no. Glory 18 will take place Friday, November 7 in Oklahoma, and will bring the company back to Spike TV. It will also kick off a new era in Glory, as it will be the first under the guidance of new CEO Jon Franklin. A combat sports business veteran, Franklin brings his experience in boxing to the Glory banner.

But talk with Franklin and you see that he brings much more - he brings a vision for the future of Glory. And that vision is a powerful one.

I want to see MMA fighters and Bellator guys testing their stand up skills in Glory... There are fighters who have come from Bellator and UFC - Edson Barboza, Ross Pearson, Donald Cerrone - there are people from all MMA brands who we want to see come over. Douglas Lima has a really good striking background - he's the kind of guy we might make an offer to... You have those guys who are great strikers, great punchers, great kickers - let's bring them over to Glory.

That idea of crossover talent has been a hot topic ever since Franklin stepped in at Glory and former kickboxing promoter Scott Coker stepped in at Bellator. We've already seen Glory's Dustin Jacoby come to Bellator, and if Franklin has his way, that will be just the beginning:

You've already started seeing crossover with Bellator and Glory. We've got Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling fighting in Bellator and no matter who wins, I think it would be cool to see a rematch in Glory down the road. That sort of thing would be very cool. Maybe some events where we have a cage and a ring set up... I'm really open to anything. I've met with Scott Coker a few times, we have some ideas floating around, and we're definitely open for collaboration.

The connection between Bellator and Glory is an easy one to make, and one that is already in play. But for Glory, who has their eyes on big things in the future, there's an appeal to stretching their boundaries beyond just the world of Bellator.

I would love to have UFC fighters come over. I don't feel like we're competition to the UFC or competition to Bellator - we're different sports... I like to think if we had a great champion who was also a grappler, the UFC would let him come over.

People have always loved it when athletes cross over sports. Look at how the UFC started. They had strikers fighting wrestlers, kickboxers fighting jiu jitsu artists, and everybody loved that.... it's mixed martial arts, that's what it is.

Over the years, fighters like Alistair Overeem, Tyrone Spong, and Mirko Cro Cop have proven that there is indeed interest among fans for this kind of crossover, and recently, we've seen Metamoris use this same idea to bring eyes to their events - a strategy Glory looks to employ as they continue to grow.

But what's promising about the Glory plan for the future is that the focus is not solely on the immediate growth. There's a clear emphasis on building the long-term future of the sport - something fans have been concerned about for quite some time.

You have to develop new talent and build your brand with people who are growing... We want to include all the big stars of kickboxing while we bring up new talent as well. A Gokhan Saki won't be around forever, and you can't use him in every event, so I want to see who's next... If you don't develop stars, you won't have a future as a sport.

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We are going  to do more development programs, and we have a scouting team. We have Cor Hemmers, we have people who understand what you need to succeed at the highest levels of kickboxing. We have those people and we're looking long term, we're not just looking at next week. We're also developing some programs to bring Glory rules down to developmental tours at other events, so kids grow up under Glory rules. Right now you have fighters who come up from traditional kickboxing, from MMA, but it would be great to have fighters who have come up under Glory rules.

And if they can pull all this together? If they can, in the short term, use those crossovers to continue building interest in the sport while at the same time building up the future through development programs? Then Glory could lead the charge in a kickboxing movement in the US not seen since the 1970's. Franklin sees it coming.

All of the pieces are there to make this the next big thing. It's super exciting, fans embrace it when they see it, so let's get it out there and be successful.

Up next for Glory is Glory 18 Oklahoma on November 7. After that, there will be one more 2014 show in December, a month off in January, and a full slate of 10 shows in 2015, with the majority taking place in the US. All will air on Spike, and there are hopes to get the Superfight Series on US TV as well, plus bring Glory to even more international channels. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more updates as we have them.