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KSW: The History - From Polish sports bar to European powerhouse

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In the lead up to the milestone KSW 50 event this Saturday, Scott Lagdon takes a dive into the history and origins of the promotion.

KSW 33
KSW

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki.

A phrase that will mean nothing to the majority of MMA fans around the globe. However, in Poland, these three words (translated to Martial Arts Confrontation) symbolise the biggest MMA promotion around. The joke is often made about people ‘training UFC’ stateside and in Europe due to casual interest around the sport but in Poland, the phrase ‘I train KSW’ is just as common. In that part of the world, KSW is the leading MMA promotion and to be truthful, no one else comes close. The company have begun expanding across the continent over the past few years and they are now at a point where they are one of, if not, the leading European promotion around.

This Saturday night, KSW 50 takes place at Wembley Arena in London, England and is being billed as the big milestone 50th event. Despite being the fiftieth numbered show, there have actually been 55 events in the promotion’s history and KSW 50 will be the fifty-sixth. KSW have been in business for 16 years and their growth has been significant since the inaugural event in 2004. Many notable, global names have fought for the promotion, which is renowned for its incredible production and stunning opening ceremonies, with many becoming heroes in Poland during the process.

Martin Lewandowski is the current KSW CEO and he works alongside co-owner, Maciej Kawulski. The pair met for the first time a little over sixteen years ago when they were introduced by mutual friends at an event. Both had a passion for martial arts but at that time MMA was not big at all in Poland. In fact, it was something that was often shied away from.

“MMA was associated with hooligans, illegal fights and the mafia in Poland back then - everything you would rather avoid!” said Lewandowski. “At that time, I was working for the Warsaw Marriott Hotel as their promotion manager. My personal goal was to find new sports which weren’t so well known and try to grow them in the country. I tried with Formula 1 and American Football but those efforts didn’t really come to anything. Myself and Maciej thought we saw a gap in the market for MMA so that is when KSW was born.”

The very first event, KSW 1, was held on February 27th 2004 in a sports bar within the Warsaw Marriott Hotel. Only around 300 spectators were in attendance but they witnessed the future European powerhouse’s inaugural show on a night where only Polish fighters featured inside the KSW ring. All of the events in the early days of KSW were built around a one-night tournament where the eventual winner would have to make it through three fights to be crowned the tournament champion. KSW legend and current Polish commentator, Lukasz Jurkowski, became the first ever light heavyweight tournament champion when he defeated Roman Szaszkow in the first round during the final.

“Tournaments are the basis of various forms of martial arts,” explained Lewandowski. “You see boxing, judo and taekwondo tournaments in the Olympics and in MMA they offered a very exciting viewing experience for the customer. KSW was very new back then and not many people knew the fighters, apart from their friends and family. The tournaments gave a chance for the audience to get to know the fighters while also creating a reason to stay from start to finish.”

“After that show, I thought to myself ‘Yes, this is it!’ Let’s develop this discipline in Poland and prove everybody wrong who was telling us that we were mad,” continued Lewandowski. “We were successful in this aim despite being against all of the major sports in Poland such as football, basketball and boxing. Now MMA is the third most watched sport in the country.”

A seminal moment in KSW’s history took place prior to their second show when Polsat, a Polish free-to-air sports channel, agreed to broadcast events. Lewandowski knew Marian Kmita (the CEO of Sports Channels in Poland) from his days at the Marriott when he organised press conferences and other events so made use of this contact. He managed to convince Kmita to put KSW on Polsat which has a remarkable achievement considering at that time, it was a mostly unknown event. That relationship is still in effect today.

Jurkowski would return around eight months later at KSW 2 to try and repeat his feat from the previous show in the second light heavyweight tournament at the very same venue. After stopping his opponents in both the quarter and semi finals, Jurkowski met Antoni Chmielewski in the final. Chmielewski stopped ‘Juras’ in the first round by an armbar so he became the second ever tournament champion. KSW 2 also featured the first ever non-Polish fighter to compete for the promotion as Ukrainian, Yuri Pilipchuk, entered the bracket. The conclusion of the tournament at KSW 3 saw a rematch of the final at the previous event between Chmielewski and Jurkowski. However, it was proved that Chmielewski’s previous victory was no fluke as he defeated his rival once again with another first round submission to win two tournaments back to back.

“Winning those two tournament one after the other was definitely a highlight of my career,” commented Chmielewski. “KSW are very good at promoting fights to capture the interest of the viewer. They manage to combine sport and spectacle which is appealing to more people than just the average sports fan. I am closing my professional career at KSW 50 this weekend but I am very happy that I can do it with class at such a big event. Although I still have the strength and desire to compete, I know that now is the perfect time to move onto the next stage of my life.”

KSW 4 proved to be a small milestone for the promotion as fighters from America competed at an event for the first time. Shonie Carter and Jason Guida both entered the light heavyweight tournament but were both unsuccessful in being the last man standing at the end of the night. Following his two tournament final losses, Jurkowski bounced back on this card in Warsaw when he defeated UFC veteran, Igor Pokrajac, by TKO in the second round.

“It was my pleasure to be able to be one of the first American fighters to compete for KSW,” stated Carter. “I won my first fight in the tournament but injured my hand so couldn’t continue into the next round. It was a stressful time in my life because my second son was due any day back then and he ended up being born when I was out in Poland. I have to tell you guys, there are some amazingly beautiful women over there! Wow! I hated to leave just because of the view!”

The promotion continued their trend of staging two shows a year when 2006 rolled around. At KSW 5, Francis Carmont became the very first non-Polish fighter to win a tournament when he defeated Robert Jocz in the final which was once again at light heavyweight. That was the weight class all of the early tournaments were based around because it was a very popular weight at the time so it was easy to attract fighters. Later that year, KSW moved away from the Hotel Marriot for the first time in order to draw a bigger live crowd when they put on KSW 6 at Torwar Hall which was also in Warsaw. The event saw the promotional debut of current fan-favourite, Michal Materla, as he ran though the tournament, winning all three of his bouts by submission. Martin Zawada also defeated Lukasz Jurkowski by decision outside of the bracket.

“One of my favourite moments in KSW came after my victory over Jurkowski who was the guy at the time,” said Zawada. “He was one of the biggest talents in Europe which helped earn me a spot in the KSW 7 tournament. I made it through to the final but lost against Antonio Mendes in a close decision. After that, Mendes signed with the UFC and I had a bad period in my career but that tournament run was a day I will never forget.”

On September 15th 2007, at the show entitled ‘KSW Elimination 1,’ the promotion moved away from Warsaw for the first time when they set up shop in the city of Wroclaw. Current top UFC light heavyweight, Jan Blachowicz, won the evening’s tournament and future Polish MMA icon, Mamed Khalidov, beat Martin Zawada by toe-hold elsewhere on the card in the first round. The year rounded out with KSW 8 where Alexey Oleinik was crowned tournament champion, defeating Karol Bedorf by submission in the process. Khalidov also continued his winning streak as he earned another first round submission on the night.

“Mamed Khalidov was a huge signing for us,” stated Lewandowski. “He caught the attention of sports media worldwide due to his elite level talent. Khalidov was our ‘sports success’. Even to this day, he is still one of the most recognised sportsmen in Poland.”

The tournament focus switched to the lightweights for the first time ever at ‘KSW Extra’ in the second half of 2008. In another move away from the status quo of the past, only four fighters would compete in the field on a card which contained a plethora of well-known fighters. Maciej Gorski emerged victorious to win the tournament while there was an upset elsewhere on the card when Mamed Khalidov fought to a draw with the Spaniard, Daniel Tabera. Alexander Gustafsson, Peter Sobotta and Francis Carmont all picked up wins during the night.

“I fought for KSW when they were nowhere near as big as they are today,” said Sobotta. “They were a great promotion to fight for and I had a good time over there. After my win at KSW Extra, the UFC signed me so obviously it was very good for my career. They have been so successful because they know exactly what the Polish market wants to see.”

KSW 11 kicked off the promotion’s offering in 2009 and signified yet more changes for the company. First of all, it was the first show where the tournament would not be completed in one night. The final from the bracket would take place at the following event from here on in. Also, KSW introduced their first ever championship belt when Mamed Khalidov knocked out Daniel Acacio in the first round to take the throne at light heavyweight. This event was followed up by KSW 12 later on during the year which saw the culmination of the middleweight tournament from KSW 11. Vitor Nobrega defeated Aslambek Saidov to win the first ever KSW tournament at 185 lbs while Karol Bedorf and Daniel Omielanczuk both competed in the new heavyweight tournament. However, arguably the most important moment in KSW’s history occured that night in December when former World’s Strongest Man and Polish mainstream superstar, Mariusz ‘Pudzian’ Pudzianowski, made a successful MMA debut. He defeated Marcin Najman by submission to punches in the very first round and from this point onwards, KSW was taken to new heights.

“Puzianowski helped grow KSW and the sport of MMA in Poland significantly,” discussed Lewandowski. “He is one of our biggest stars ever as he made KSW known to the general public in Poland who weren’t even sports fans. Once he had debuted, big sponsors became interested in KSW so I call this moment our commercial success. Without Pudzian and Khalidov, who knows where the sport would be in Poland right now.”

2010 was the year when the promotion really began to expand across Poland as they visited three new territories. The first show of the new decade took place at the Spodek Arena, Katowice in May and saw two Japanese fighters feature in high-profile bouts which led to the show being entitled ‘KSW 13: Kumite’. Jan Blachowicz won his quarter and semi final tournament bouts by stoppage while Pudzianowski returned and defeated Yusuke Kawaguchi by two-round decision. Mamed Khalidov fought to a draw against Ryuta Sakurai to retain his light heavyweight belt and Krzysztof Kulak became the inaugural KSW middleweight champion when he toppled Vitor Nobrega.

“KSW are great to work for and the production at their shows is amazing!” said KSW heavyweight champion, Phil De Fries. “Due to the smaller roster they have, they have time to promote and build their fighters. My favourite moment was winning the title in Wroclaw as I was a 4/1 underdog going in.”

KSW 14: Judgment Day saw the promotion land at the Atlas Arena in Lodz for the first time and featured a ‘freak fight’ (which KSW did and still do like to book to appeal to audiences beyond the casual MMA fan) between Pudzianowski and former boxer/professional wrestler, Butterbean. Pudzian earned another first round victory to win three straight in KSW and further down the card, the debuts of future stars, Artur Sowinski and Borys Mankowski, took place. Jan Blachowicz also added another light heavyweight tournament crown to his collection when he defeated Daniel Tabera in the second round at the event.

“KSW take care of the fighters very well,” stated Satoshi Ishii. “They make big matches that the fans want to see and they get news out via several different media outlets which engages more people in the product. These aspects make them successful. If I truly knew all of their secrets to success, I might try to copy them!”

For the first time in KSW history, no new tournaments began at KSW 15 in March 2011 which signified a turning point in the promotion’s approach moving forwards. Prior to the show, Khalidov vacated the light heavyweight title as he decided to drop down to middleweight to pursue another belt. Jan Blachowicz and Sokoudjou fought for the 205 lbs championship and the ‘African Assasin’ finished the Pole in the second round due to strikes which disappointed the partisan crowd. Elsewhere on the card, Khalidov was successful in his new weight class as he submitted James Irvin in the first round while Michal Materla and Marcin Rozalski both picked up victories.

“We moved away from the tournaments at KSW 15 because we needed to evolve and change, just like any organisation,” explained Lewandowski. “The tournaments achieved what they were intended to do so we felt as though we didn’t need them anymore. We had become much more popular in Poland as a result of having them but they were also very taxing on the fighters. Competing multiple times in one night is tough!”

The promotion made their debut in Gdansk on May 21st 2011 for KSW 16 on a night when Khalidov took out another American standout in the first round. He defeated Matt Lindland by guillotine to extend his MMA record to 23-4-2 while Attila Vegh and Marcin Rozalski both picked up TKO victories. This night also went down in KSW history as it was the first time that Mariusz Pudzianowski was beaten inside the promotion. Pudzian lost via a second round arm-triangle to Pride and Bellator veteran, James Thompson but that was not the last time the pair would meet inside the ring.

“KSW did and currently still have a great product,” said Lindland. “They put together interesting matches and treat the fighters well. Eastern Europeans are really tough people!”

KSW 17: Revenge was built around two high-profile rematches that were of great interest to the Polish fans. Since his loss for the vacant light heavyweight title, Jan Blachowicz rebounded with a victory which earned him another crack against Sokoudjou at the event. This time, Blachowicz showed that he was the better fighter on the night as he took a unanimous decision to capture the gold. In the second rematch of the show, James Thompson and Mariusz Pudzianowski faced off once again and Pudzian was given the nod by the judges which was a controversial decision. However, this result was later ruled a no-contest due to a scorecard error and was the last time that Thompson fought for the promotion. Elsewhere on the card, Khalidov defeated former UFC competitor, Jesse Taylor, by first round kneebar to continue his winning run while Michal Materla and Artur Sowinski both had their hands raised.

“I liked fighting for KSW as the matches were well put together and the promotion of the events was excellent,” commented Thompson. “You could really see the influence that Pride had on them. My memories are bitter-sweet for obvious reasons but I will always remember how proud the Polish fans were of the organisation and how excited they got about the shows.”

During 2012, KSW proceeded to stage four events in a year where more promotional titles were added to different weight classes. At KSW 19, Bob Sapp made the long trip to Lodz to take on Pudzianowski in the main event. The well-travelled American fell to a first round knockout which earned Pudzian another win against a notable name. Mamed Khalidov put another American to the sword in the first round when he defeated Rodney Wallace due to a monstrous right hand that connected flush on his adversary’s jaw. The inaugural middleweight title was claimed by Michal Materla as he beat Jay Silva by majority decision and women fought for the first time on a KSW card earlier on in the night. Marta Chojnoska submitted Paulina Suska in the semi-final of a tournament with the view of crowning a female champion.

“You can’t compare KSW to any other promotion these days,” claimed Erko Jun. “KSW are one big family and you get to know everyone who works for them. They invest time to promote all of the fights and the way they announce fighters in these huge arenas is insane. My favourite moment in the promotion so far is the knockout win I had over Tomasz Oswiecinski that earnt me KO of the night in front of a big crowd.”

KSW 21: Ultimate Explanation saw the promotion return to their home of Warsaw for the first time in two years. The original main event was supposed to be Mamed Khalidov v Melvin Manhoef but the Dutch striker suffered an injury so had to pull out from the bout. He was replaced by Kendall Grove but Khalidov overcame the change in opponent to submit Grove in the second round. Lightweight and welterweight titles were introduced to KSW for the first time and saw Maciej Jewtuszko and Aslambek Saidov walk away with belts respectively. To add to this, Michal Materla defended his middleweight title when he defeated Rodney Wallace by first round knockout. In the second female semi-final tournament bout, Karolina Kowalkiewicz earned the victory against Paulina Bońkowska to cement her place to fight for the title next. After this event, it became clear that Khalidov and Materla were on a collision course to eventually meet each other in a fight that would make Poland stand still.

“KSW are as professional to work with as K1 in Japan and Bellator in the US,” stated Peter Graham. “They pay well and their show is like being at a rock concert!”

Over the next five events, many significant moments in the promotion’s history occurred. As KSW began to sense that interest in the product was growing outside of Poland, beginning at KSW 23, they made all of their events available to purchase online for other countries. Khalidov submitted Manhoef when they finally met, Kowalkiewicz won the inaugural strawweight title and Pudzian defeated Sean McCorkle by decision at KSW 24 after losing to the American at KSW 23. Furthermore, after losing to Jay Silva by knockout in a non-title bout, Michal Materla gained revenge at KSW 26 when he beat his rival by decision to retain his middleweight title.

“They are an amazing show!” said Thiago Silva. “KSW treat all of the fighters very very well and the cards are always exciting with great fights. My last bout against Martin Zawada was a lot of fun and even though I lost on points, I still see myself as better in combat. I hope to be back in their cage soon!”

KSW 27: Cage Time was another of the most important events in the company’s history because the ring that had been used since KSW 1 was replaced by a circular cage. Mamed Khalidov continued his dominant streak when he defeated Maiquel Falcao by armbar and Pudzian got the victory against former English strongman, Oli Thompson. The welterweight title changed hands for the first time as Borys Mankowski toppled Aslambek Saidov to win the belt and Tomasz Narkun and Mateusz Gamrot also got their hands raised.

“I enjoyed fighting for KSW,” said Oli Thompson. “I’m a fan of the two bosses and apart from that Pudzianowski bout, my whole experience was a good one. I received great support over there even though I wasn’t in the best form. They still appreciated my heart and determination. KSW promote the fighters as stars while bringing over the right foreign competitors to usually make the local guys look good. However, I think the recent champions from outside of Poland help the brand credibility a lot.”

“We moved away from the ring to a cage as a strategic decision,” explained Lewandowski. “In the early days, we were introducing the sport of MMA to people while also trying to build our brand. The ring looked elegant which helped us gain acceptance in that period of time. We had to wait until we felt the audience were knowledgeable enough about the sport to accept the cage which was associated with brutality back then. When we decided to make the transition to the cage, we completely differentiated ourselves from other sports in Poland and it was a very good move.”

One of the criticisms that KSW have faced over the years is that they are bias towards the Polish fighters they want to push as big stars. This often led to people claiming that the officials were corrupt and made decisions based on what was best for KSW. In a move to help combat this, from KSW 29 onwards, international officials were flown over to events in order referee and judge fights alongside Polish officials. It was hoped that this would convince fans that nothing untoward was going on and professional standards were being maintained at all times.

KSW 32: Road to Wembley took place on October 31st 2015 and marked the first time that a show took place outside of Poland. Wembley Arena in London, England was full of fans eager to experience live what they see had only seen online up to that point. In the main event, Peter Graham defeated Mariusz Pudzianowski by a second round TKO. Tomasz Narkun won the KSW light heavyweight title when he stopped Goran Reljic in just under two minutes and Borys Mankowski retained his welterweight strap when he submitted Jesse Taylor in their championship bout.

“They are a promotion that are very easy to work with,” said Jesse Taylor. “The fighters are always treated with great respect and admiration. KSW took good care of me and did things the professional way with every athlete. I fought Khalidov on short notice and they really appreciated and respected me for that. Also, it was a packed house at Wembley when I fought Mankowski and I’d love to try and get that one back still. I hope to get another chance in KSW where I can make it third time lucky!”

“London has a large population of Polish people so it made sense to have our first international event there,” discussed Lewandowski. “The Polish population provided a bit of a safety net and a low risk scenario. It was the same in Dublin later on when Ireland became the third country to host a KSW show. Our strategic aim is not to focus only on the Polish community. Poles will be always special to us for obvious reasons. We have had fighters from abroad in our early days and the bigger we became, we attracted bigger names. KSW 50 at Wembley Arena in London is symbolic of the way we are feeling right now which is that we are number one in Europe.”

The highly anticipated clash between Michal Materla and Mamed Khalidov happened at KSW 33 during November 2015 in Krakow. However, the bout only lasted for 31 seconds as Khalidov caught his rival with a flying knee and then followed up with punches to take the middleweight title from Materla. With all of the build up to finally being able to see two of the biggest stars in KSW face off, many still feel as though the contest was a bit of an anti-climax as neither fighter really got the chance to fully display their skills. Elsewhere on the card, Karol Bedorf retained his heavyweight title when he defeated Michal Kita with a head kick and Artur Sowinski won the inaugural featherweight title in a decision over ‘Koike’ Erbst.

“I feel as though I am a big part of KSW,” stated Materla. “I also think that I helped build the promotion like a small brick in a big structure. Not one particular moments sticks out as being my favourite highlight - I just loved every time I won in front of my fans. These moments were unforgettable. The fight against Khalidov was over quickly but it is sometimes like this in sports. You have to learn from your mistakes and try to improve. I would really need to think about whether or not I want a rematch with Khalidov but from a sports perspective, it is of course tempting.”

Another reason why KSW have been so successful is that they often base cards around a certain theme. No better example of this can be given than KSW 37: Circus of Pain which took place at the end of 2016. Whether it was the acrobats flying around through the air or the large characters on stilts, the circus setting was absolutely phenomenal. Not only did it look as though the circus had come to town, the theme reflected in the matchmaking as ‘The Monster’ Popek, who has tattooed eyeballs and scars running all over his face, took on the former World’s Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski. It truly was a freak, circus type fight but it was a lot of fun. After being dropped early, Pudzian fought back to earn a TKO of his own in the first round. Karol Bedorf lost for the first time in five years when the Brazilian, Fernando Rodrigues Jr., finished him in the second round, winning the heavyweight title in the process. ‘The Polish Zombie’ Marcin Wrzosek also defeated Artur Sowinski to take the featherweight title after his stint on TUF.

“KSW is the biggest organisation that I have ever fought for,” said Mansour Barnaoui. “Everything around the show is big whether it’s the press conferences, media training or video features. They have great fighters competing for them so for me, they deserve more support and coverage around the world. I would also like to say that they treat their athletes very well and they give you everything you need to perform at your best come fight night.”

The event that is still talked about to this day is KSW 39: Colosseum which took place at the National Football stadium in Warsaw on May 27th 2017. It is the second highest MMA attendance to date as 57,776 fans packed the venue to watch five championship fights on a card that included every KSW title holder. The show was only beaten in live attendance by Pride FC: Shockwave where 91,000 fans were watching in the building. The main event of KSW 39 was a champion v champion superfight as Mamed Khalidov faced Borys Mankowski which was built as a possible passing of the torch moment. However, Khalidov was victorious with a unanimous decision in an evening that saw finishes aplenty. Marcin Rozalski won the heavyweight title after knocking out Fernando Rodrigues Jr. in 16 seconds and Pudzian defeated Tyberiusz Kowalczyk in a clash between two former World’s Strongest Man competitors.

“Being from Warsaw, you see the National Stadium every day,” mentioned Lewandowski. “It was always a dream of ours to put on a show of this magnitude similar to the old Pride stadium shows. We planned this event about a year in advance and the stars really aligned for this one as a lot of our athletes had grown to be household names in Poland. Fighters like Pudzianowski, Mankowski, Khalidov, Narkun, and more, mixed in with a number of our crossover stars like Burneika and Popek meant it was the perfect time to do an event like this and it worked. KSW 39 was a massive achievement”

“KSW keep rising every year,” said Norman Parke. “They have been very good to me even when I’m hard to deal with sometimes! Without a doubt, promotion wise, they are the very best around. My favourite moment with KSW was at the National Stadium when I walked out in front of 57,000 fans. That is something that I will never forget. I had to control my breathing stepping out there but I loved every minute of that show.”

“Competing at the Colosseum was a great experience and it was my first time fighting for KSW,” explained Robert Burneika. “There was a lot of stress involved for me because the stadium was filled with so many people. A week before my fight with Popek, I tore my calf muscle so I had trouble keeping my balance. I believe the key to them being so successful are the freak fights they put on. They take well known names from other sports, like me being a bodybuilder, so they can sell a lot of tickets for shows. In Poland, people enjoy seeing those kind of fights.”

The next time that KSW put on a superfight was when the promotion returned to Atlas Arena in Lodz during March 2018. It involved Mamed Khalidov once again when he stepped up in weight to take on light heavyweight champion, Tomasz Narkun, at a catchweight. In a shocking moment, Narkun locked up a triangle choke and forced Khalidov to tap, bringing his fourteen fight winning streak to an end. KSW 42 also hosted the promotional debut of UFC veteran, Scott Askham, as he violently took out Michal Materla in the very first round after hurting him with body kicks numerous times. A rematch between the pair would happen around a year later at KSW 49 where Askham emerged victorious once again, claiming the vacant title.

“Working with KSW has been nothing but plain sailing,” claimed Askham. “All of the team are happy to help and solve any problems. To build a promotion from nothing to what it is now in a relatively small number of shows demonstrates great management skills and highlights the importance of attention to detail. The moment that stands out most for me so far was my debut at KSW 42. I was at the top of the stage during the opening ceremony with the music playing and a dancer moving around. The atmosphere was electric! When they introduced Materla, the crowd went crazy and the hairs on my neck stood up. I took all of that energy in and couldn’t wait to fight. I loved being in enemy territory.”

Khalidov was so obsessed at getting a rematch against Narkun after his loss at KSW 42, he vacated his middleweight title so he had no other distractions. The Polish MMA icon was granted his opportunity for redemption at KSW 46 in Gliwice Arena. This was the promotion’s fifth show of 2018 (the most of any calendar year in their history) and was memorable in many ways. In a fight that went the distance, Narkun defeated Khalidov once again and after the bout, Khalidov announced his retirement to the crowd. Also during the night, Mateusz Gamrot became the first ever KSW fighter to hold two belts simultaneously as he defeated ‘Koike’ Erbst to win the vacant featherweight title to go alongside his lightweight crown. Narkun would go on to challenge Phil De Fries for the heavyweight title at KSW 47: The X Warriors the following March but was on the receiving end of a loss in a superfight that time around.

“KSW have great shows in Europe with full arenas,” discussed Antun Racic. “When I started my professional MMA career, KSW was the organisation that I wanted to fight in but back then, they only did 3 or 4 big events each year. Therefore, it was hard to get opportunities with them. Now they are much bigger and have lots of great fighters in every division. For me, KSW is the number one organisation in Europe and among the best in the world. I have won all four of my fights in the promotion and now I’m waiting for my title fight in the bantamweight division.”

“Seeing KSW get nominated for Promotion of the Year three years in a row is also a big deal for us considering where we started and came from,” said Lewandowski. “Helping the sport, not just KSW, become mainstream in Poland has also personally made me very proud. There are lots of special moments n our history and each year we create more of them.”

“KSW is extremely popular in Poland and the market growth does have a limit,” admitted Lewandowski. “Obviously we can do things to capture new Polish fans but we see our biggest potential growth from outside of Poland now which is why we have been to Ireland and why we are coming back to London for a third time on September 14th with KSW 50. But this is not the end. The growth of this discipline I see also beyond KSW. Therefore, I have established MMA Poland Association which is concentrated on building the amateur scene in Poland. My personal ambition is to professionalize this part of MMA to the size of the pro game. MMA Poland Association is the only organisation from Poland that represents Polish MMA on the international scene. We are going to send a Polish National Team in MMA to the World Championships in Bahrain, this November.”

“Constant growth is what fans can expect from us now,” continued Lewandowski. “We are planning to do more shows, visit more countries and add new fighters to the roster. We want to be back to England every year. When Ireland slows down with restrictions I would like to go back there also. New countries we are looking to expand into are Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic and maybe, in the future, the USA. There are lots of things to be excited about.”

KSW 50 takes place on Saturday September 14th from Wembley Arena in London, England. Three title fights are on the card including Phil De Fries v Luis Henrique, Tomasz Narkun v Przemyslaw Mysiala and Norman Parke v Marcin ‘The Polish Zombie’ Wrzosek. Other notable names in the promotion such as Roberto Soldic, Damian Janikowski and Dricus Du Plessis are also competing at the event. KSW 50 can be purchased at kswtv.com around the world and kicks off at 6pm BST. Fans in the US can buy the event at the same website or watch on DAZN at 1pm/12c.