Author

About the Author
Joe is an editing student at Florida State University and an amateur Muay Thai fighter as well as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter. Joe has been involved in one way or another with the amateur combat sports community in the southeast for over 7 years and has had the pleasure of training and learning from Striking Corner founder Eric Rivera for almost twice as long.

Going Pro – When should you do it?

“How much do you get paid?” a question that most serious amateur fighters hate answering. The layman hears “amateur” and “I don’t get paid” and immediately scoffs as if to say, “oh, you’re not that serious. ” After all, their buddy from high school is a pro MMA fighter and he just started training 2 or 3 years ago. This drives me nuts.

Unlike ball sports, combat sports athletes don’t have the luxury of a regulated system that tracks the years you’ve put in and the level of competition that you compete at. In order to get your first amateur fight, you essentially just have to know a guy who knows a guy. Training isn’t even technically a requirement. Sure, most promoters will only accept trained fighters who will put on a good show for their crowd. But let’s be real here, when amateur fighters drop at the last minute, promoters tend to get desperate and accept anyone who is willing to save the show. I have seen some terrible fights at some local shows because of this. It really is the Wild West out here if you don’t have an experienced trainer looking out for you.

Signing A ContractI wish I could say it was much harder to go pro, but in some states its really not. Although you stand a much higher chance of brain damage, technically, the system is the same. You probably have to talk yourself up a bit more and maybe even just flat out lie to the promoter but at the end of the day, there’s still no back-end infrastructure to prove that you’re “bullshittin’”. After you have managed to con yourself in there and sign the contract, all you have to do is show up and (probably) get knocked out. Congratulations, you now get to tell all your friends that you’re a professional fighter.

This happens more than you might think.

However, the real problem here is not bullshitters getting knocked out, or that amateurs don’t get paid. It’s the fact that, in America, there are only 2 rungs on the ladder, Amateur and Professional. There are no levels in between that the serious athletes can use as an indicator of ability or for common people to apply prestige too. A college football player and a high school football player are both amateur athletes but are vastly different in ability and prestige.

Now imagine that high school football player who is the best player in his league. If his league’s competition is at a lower level, he still may not be at the level that his favorite colleges compete at. Now imagine the ranking system for the leagues doesn’t exist either, there’s no D1 or D2, there’s just football. If there’s no one around to check his ego, he may try and make the jump to college-level competition and meet a rude awakening.

IRude Awakeningn football that rude awakening would most likely happen at some sort of combine or college try-out. In combat-sports, it happens on a stage with an audience and a killer across the ring causing you brain trauma to score points.

On top of that, once you go pro in the US, you can never fight as an amateur again. Going pro can be a costly mistake that if made too soon, could result in a series of damaging losses and end your fighting career entirely. These are the risks that an amateur fighter takes when they go pro.

The question of whether or not to go pro also depends on which combat sport you mean to compete in. Once you’ve gone pro in any combat sport, you must remain a professional in all of them. That means if you’re a great grappler and you go pro in MMA, you can never take an amateur boxing match to build that skillset. Competing as a professional boxer is your only option if you want boxing experience on your resume. Needless to say, professional boxers tend to be better boxers than great grapplers, so it can be hard to cultivate their boxing skillset with competition once they have already gone pro.

It also takes more competition experience to get prepared in a serious fashion to go pro in some combat sports over others. It seems to be related to the age and progression of the particular sport within the USA. MMA is the youngest combat sport and least developed on the amateur level. Mixed martial artists tend to have the least amount of amateur fights before going pro, sometimes not even having 1 and still reaching the UFC. As opposed to amateur boxers who usually average around 100 matches and couldn’t possibly hope to even win one professional fight without amateur experience. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was 84-6 as an amateur, and Andre Ward was 114-5. Most successful Muay Thai fighters find themselves right in the middle, averaging anywhere between 20-50 amateur fights before making the leap to better competition and a paycheck.

That doesn’t speak very authentically to the skillsets that need to be acquired or the time spent training to acquire them. In all combat sports, years of training are required in order to make a serious run at the professional ranks.

With all of this considered it still leaves me dumbfounded. There really isn’t a right or a wrong answer to the question. I have personally seen professional fighters in all combat sports that I know I could destroy in competition, yet I remain an amateur. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make me prepared for a professional career in any of the combat sports.

MBK Fight

So what does? Over the last few years I’ve taken it upon myself to find the answer to this question from every resource available to me. In either my own, or other’s interviews, I’ve been able to extrapolate advice from champions like Gastón Bolaños, Kevin Ross, Joe Schilling and world renown coaches like Eric Haycraft and Kirian Fitzgibbons. They all seem to reiterate the same advice. Stay amateur for as long as possible. Once you go pro the stakes are higher and the competition is brutal. The most effectual piece of information that I found came from Eric Haycraft when he explained to me in an interview that going pro means you are going to fight less. There are significantly less promotions out there for professional fighters, especially in boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai and its much harder to find fights.

So if you’re thinking about going pro, consider this.

TSC Presents “Profiles in American Muay Thai” Vol. 11 – Gaston Bolaños

There’s a particular story that tends to reincarnate itself at different gyms all over the world. It almost always starts with a ridiculous description of a guy who thinks he’s the next Bruce Lee. It’s a relatively close-minded individual that has a distinct idea that he already knows everything he needs to know. The ego on this fellow is huge, he’s usually belted in some sort of traditional martial art, and he’s typically impossible to teach. These guys come in on sparring days with big unrealistic dreams of their current selves as being the prodigal son of martial arts without ever having actually learned anything about realistic fighting. As they start to spar it becomes quickly apparent that they have something to prove and don’t understand the etiquette of combat sports. They spar too hard and they swiftly become a negative presence in the learning process for everyone else. At this point, most gyms either just kick the person out, or they have a particular member of the fight team they like to call on in these circumstances to teach some humility.

This is how a 16-year old, Gastón Bolaños earned the nickname he still carries today at 23, “The Dream Killer”

The Dream Killer started training at the F-14 School of Champions in Lima, Peru when he was around 10 years old. Immediately feeling his own talent, he jumped into full training and took a couple junior amateur fights in his home country. At 13, he and his and father moved to California and surrounded themselves with extended family and found by coincidence, that Fairtex Mountain View was right around the corner. Gastón immediately started back with his training under the experienced eyes of trainers Jongsanan Fairtex and Kirian Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons, who would later become the full-time trainer of Gastón, had only been in the same room with The Dream Killer a couple of times at this point. It wasn’t until the 2008 IFMA World Championships in Busan, South Korea, that he actually got a chance to witness the heart and grit of the young fighter and decided to take him on as his student full time.

After the IFMA’s, Gastón decided his best chance to make something out of his love for Muay Thai was to move to Dublin and become a full time fighter at Combat Sports Academy under Kirian. However, he was a minor and needed a legal guardian to finish high school and his father was set on moving back to Peru. That’s when Kirian took him in as one of his own. Fitzgibbons became his legal guardian so Gastón could finish out high school and started the extraordinary trainer/fighter relationship they still share today.



As an amateur, Gastón had almost 30 sanctioned fights going 23-3 with 1 draw and various smoker fights that he doesn’t include in his record. When he was still just 15, they had run through all of the juniors in the area. They had to lie about his age so he could continue to get experience until he turned 18. He was fighting grown men before he even hit his second growth spurt. On one occasion, as Gastón recalled on the phone, he was fighting in an amateur modified rules Muay Thai fight at the 6-Flags theme park in California with a 30-something year old man who apparently trained predominantly in MMA. The man, who was losing at the time, picked Gastón up in his frustration and slammed him down as if they were in the cage in an illegal throw that badly injured The Dream Killer’s arm. Gastón thought he’d broken his collarbone. When he returned to the corner he told Kirian that he couldn’t move his left arm and Kirian responded, “Shut up, you’re going to get DQ’d, just knock him out with your right”. Gastón responded promptly by knocking out the 30-something year old MMA man with a straight right cross and a smile. My jaw dropped even further when he told me he had a fight scheduled for two weeks later and he didn’t drop out. Instead, he trained in a sling and just focused on using the right side of his body. Right there in that moment it became apparent to me what Kirian saw in him at the IFMA’s in 2008. He went on to fight two weeks later to a badly decided draw in his opponent’s hometown and found out after that he had a grade II separation in his shoulder.

After he ran out of opponents again, it became clear it was time to go pro.

Bolaños met Brian Del Rosario at Lion Fight 14 for his pro debut and proved he was ready for the big leagues in dramatic fashion. The fight ended with a huge spinning back elbow that landed on the face of Del Rosario, opening a cut that stopped the fight by TKO. Bolaños thanked his trainer and his team and took his win with a huge smile and a humble attitude as he moved onto his next training camp.

Since then he’s had 7 professional bouts and some incredible patterns have already started to emerge. The first one and probably the most obvious is what Kevin Ross and rest of the team at CSA like to call the “Hellbow” or the spinning back elbow.

#GymTricks101 😂 @dreamkiller_bolanos

A video posted by @csagym on

The spinning back-elbow is an impressive strike to land in any way, but it’s also a technique that less experienced fighters are inclined to be excited about because it’s flashy. This leads most of these inexperienced fighters to have no set-ups or intelligent uses for the strike at all, they really just wing it and hope it lands.

What makes Gastón’s spinning back-elbow so impressive is that it’s used cerebrally. It’s professional, it’s used technically and he makes this obvious by how many different situations he can use it in. Coming forward, he uses the overhand to set up the spin for the elbow. He interlaces the two strikes together so his opponents never know if the overhand is coming to the face or its being used to peel the defense away, which makes them ripe for the elbow. If the elbow misses he can simply keep spinning with another overhand or straight right and use the momentum he’s created for an impressive display of dominance in combination. With the powerful forward momentum, sometimes he lands inside the clinch. As we can see when he KO’d Caleb Archer, he quickly gets inside, frames the clinch with bicep control and immediately explodes into a vicious spinning elbow that ends the fight.

He can also use it moving backward as a counter. This is probably the most impressive use of the strike because it requires expert level timing and composure when an opponent is being the aggressor. In his fifth professional fight he met the veteran, Ben Yelle, who had over 8 times the experience. The Spinning-Elbowlaños caught Ben as he came in with his 1-2 combination in perfect timing right over the top of his straight right hand. The elbow made Ben Yelle do the stanky leg and opened up a huge cut that stopped the fight by TKO.

LF27-29The spinning back elbow isn’t the only pattern that’s emerged. If I had to classify The Dream Killer in any category of fighter I would place him among the great fighters who fight with a rhythm. As he pushes forward on his opponents, there are stretches of time within his offense that he almost appears to be dancing. As if you placed a single bass beat on each of his shots that land in sequence, they would sound like a DJ mixing a beat. In his zone, he appears to be fully connected to everything around him. His fakes and feints are sewn-in seamlessly with the punching combinations and the powerful leg kicks that make up his arsenal and without which, wouldn’t make the spinning back elbow so dangerous. He mixes up his offense so often that it seems impossible to find a stretch of video where he throws the same string of combos in the same round. He’s unpredictable, fast, creative and technical and he always seems to leave his opponent’s blood on the canvas.

Gastón Bolaños AKA The Dream Killer, AKA The Spinning- Elbowlaños is a WMC South American Champion as a professional, and as an amateur he was a 2x US champion and a Junior World Champion.

His current record is 7-1 as a professional after a terribly decided split decision loss against Khronpet Phetrachapet at Lion Fight 27. He credits his team and his sponsors for his accomplishments so far in the sport. He made it a point to tell me how grateful he is for his coach, Kirian Fitzgibbons, and his training partners like Kevin Ross, Ky Hollenbeck, Gina Carano, Diego Llamas and the rest of the fight team at CSA in Dublin, California for creating such a family atmosphere.

The sponsors that give us the great pleasure of seeing an athlete like Gastón perform are Action Pro Gear, Out Of The Cave for his meal prep, Nutrishop in Dublin, and for the best shorts in the game, Muay Thai Addict.

He also asked me to add a big thank you to Lion Fight for facilitating so many of his fights and giving him the platform he needs to excel.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the writing of this article the IKF has officially overturned Gaston Bolaños split decision loss versus Khronphet Phetrachapet. Therefore, Gaston still retains a perfect record of 8-0. Also, we must add that Gaston did not ask for the bout to be overturned and had nothing to do with that decision as he took the loss with class and never complained about the outcome of the fight. It was the IKF that independently decided to look into the judging of the fight and decided to overturn the decision. )

Why YOU should be excited for GLORY: Last Man Standing – Part 2

I’m going to break into my own fandom here a bit for part 2 of this article so I can tell you why I’m so damn excited about this tournament and why you should be too.

MELVIN MANHOEF. If you don’t know who Melvin Manhoef is, watch his highlights. Search on YouTube, “Manhoef vs. Cyborg”, for one of the best fights you will ever see. It’s an MMA match but there is very little groundwork and in reality it’s basically a kickboxing match with MMA gloves on. Manhoef was first, a kick boxer, despite his wealth of MMA experience. He is one of the hardest hitting fighters to ever compete in any combat sport. Another champion, Mark Hunt, is a fighter known around the world for his iron chin; Melvin Manhoef knocked him out moving backward.

Manhoef ‘s power and striking intent is very reminiscent of the great Mike Tyson. Every strike he throws has such a scary explosion to it that it offers you a glimpse into his mind by watching it. There’s much more than the desire to win a fight in those punches, there’s something primal.

Melvin has been in the ring with kickboxing greats like Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong, Stefan Leko, Ray Sefo, and Gokhan Saki. Although he is only 5 foot 8 inches tall, which makes him the shortest fighter in the bracket for his his Glory debut, he has a vast amount of experience fighting in similar rule styles and knocking out much bigger, and taller men.

Melvin will need that experience because the next shortest fighter in the bracket for Glory: Last Man Standing is Simon Marcus, who is 6’1.

Simon holds wins in other organizations over three of the other fighters in the bracket. He’s beaten #1 ranked Artem Levin, he has two wins over the #2 ranked Joe Schilling and a win over the #4 ranked Filip Verlinden. Outside of these wins, there’s something else that makes Simon Marcus even more interesting in the tournament format. Although Simon Marcus has never competed in an 8-man tournament, he has fought more than once in a single night. One night in China, he KO’d two fighters in two separate fights and he never even got out of the ring between them. These were real fights too they were not shortened tournament fights and they were against real opponents who had real skills and at one point Marcus even found himself in real trouble. Crazy right? Well he’s done this twice and the second time he accomplished this, another Glory fighter, Israel Adesanya, was one of his opponents.

Simon Marcus or, Simon Sor Suchart, is also making his Glory Debut but has an impressive record of 39-0 with 1 draw. He is trained by Ajahn Suchart, at Siam #1 gym in Toronto and dons a dangerous and very traditional Muay Thai style. His wins over Artem Levin and Joe Schilling were under full Muay Thai rules which differs very greatly to the Glory rule set. In Glory, elbows are not permitted and neither are sweeps and throws. With the clinch being limited to 5 seconds, this may turn out to be the Achilles heel for the undefeated fighter.

Marcus is very skilled in the clinch and in the first fight he had with Joe Schilling which was under full Muay Thai rules, he dumped Schilling in such a way that he fell over on top of him as they both crashed into the canvas. The dump alone was not very devastating but what happened in the subsequent tumble left Schilling wobbled and concussed. When Joe got up he was clearly on unstable legs and was then KO’d with a monster left hook from Marcus. The circumstances around the KO were a bit frustrating with the tumble being more of an accident than a technique. In their second match Joe dropped Marcus in the first round with his own monster hook, although later losing the fight on points. It can be argued that one of the main reasons Joe lost the second fight with Simon was because of Simon’s high-level clinch, which will not be an issue in the Glory ring.

Simon has been known to start slow with his traditional style and use his high level skills in the clinch to secure victories. My question regarding Marcus is, can he tune his style to the fast pace action of the 3, 3-minute rounds under the Glory rule set and stay undefeated?

Another difference between full Muay Thai rules and the rules in Glory kickboxing is the emphasis that Glory puts on spectacular techniques in scoring. Techniques like spinning kicks and punches or flying knees of any variety. This motivates the athletes to bring a higher level of skill into the ring and is another rule that benefits Joe Schilling in a fight with Simon Marcus.

At Glory 10: Los Angeles, Joe Schilling won the Glory Middleweight Tournament Championship. Despite his being currently ranked #2, Joe won the tournament with wins over Kengo Shimizu and then (and still) ranked #1 Artem Levin. In the fight with Shimizu, Joe landed perfectly timed and expertly executed spinning back fists and all types of spinning kicks. At one point even putting them together in combination, landing a spinning back kick to the body and a spinning back fist as he recovered from the rotation of the first technique. It was truly spectacular to watch, both for fans and for the judges. In the final of the middleweight tournament at Glory 10, he dropped Artem Levin with a superman punch in the second round. Some critics of Joe may cite that Schilling landed a knee to the head of Levin while he was on his way down which may have been the cause for the knockdown. However, it is a fact that Levin was already wobbled and on his knees as Schilling’s knee connected, the knee making it a heavier knockdown, but a knockdown it still was, without the knee.

Now, you may have noticed that I have a slight bias towards Joe Schilling; I don’t deny that I am a fan of his and that this bias exists. I think he may win the whole thing. Though I must admit that what makes the tournament final of Glory 10: Los Angeles between Schiling and Levin so interesting is that Artem Levin won two of the three rounds but was knocked down in the second, scoring the match a draw. In the extension round, Joe scored a knockdown that I must admit, appears to be a slip.

Artem Levin came in with a kick to which Joe reached for and with good timing, simultaneously threw a windmill overhand right that landed hard on Levin. There’s no doubt that the punch landed and it certainly appears as if Levin goes down from the impact. Still, Levin was not rocked and got up rather quickly. Upon closer inspection it looks likely that (and this is my personal speculation) it was more of a forward momentum while Levin was on one leg that caused the knockdown rather than the blow itself. Of course this is just my opinion but this knockdown was key in Joe’s victory and Tournament Championship and makes a potential rematch with Artem Levin terribly exciting.

Joe Schilling is another one of those fighters, like Manhoef, who strikes with murderous intent. However, another thing I must admit despite my bias for Joe Schilling is that he can sometimes become very emotional and drain his energy level causing his cardio to become somewhat suspicious. He has said in interviews that he is the only fighter that has ever beaten him. If this happens in a fight with someone like Melvin Manhoef, he may not be able to recover from the pressure that a fighter like that can deliver under such circumstances. Yet, I don’t think that Joe has gotten to this point in his career without learning from his mistakes and improving. I have no doubt that a hungry and prepared Joe Schilling can beat any fighter in the world, or in this case, any three fighters in the world.

Schilling is one of the American nak muays who are responsible for bringing America into the international spotlight. He, and the others who represent the brand Cant Stop Crazy, are the first group of American fighters that have gained significant notoriety on the world stage of Muay Thai and Kickboxing. There have been other American fighters that represent America internationally, but none who have gained the same popularity as these guys (and gal).

There is one other who is about too though. The American, Wayne Barret is still relatively young in the world of kickboxing but has done extremely well for himself. Barrett scored a surprise win over Joe Schilling at Glory 12: New York, dropping Schilling twice for an 8-count in the second round and winning a unanimous decision victory.

Wayne Barrett has always had a high knockout ratio. As an amateur he was 19-1 with 15 KO’s. He was WKA Amateur United States Cruiserweight Champion and Golden Gloves Boxing Champion in his home state of Georgia. In his pro debut he fought a 12-fight veteran and TKO’d him in the second round. He knocked out every opponent he faced in the pro ranks until he met Joe Schilling, who he dropped twice for an 8-count. Some might believe that Schilling overlooked Barrett based on his lack of experience. Wayne Barrett brought the fight to the Tournament Champion harder than anyone thought he would. I don’t doubt that the 4-0 fighter has the ability to shock us again in Glory: Last Man Standing.

The other fighters in the bracket are no easy task for anyone either. #4 ranked Filip Verlinden has competed at higher weight classes against guys like Tyrone Spong, Remy Bonjasky and Rico Verhoeven for top promotions of the past like K-1 and It’s Showtime, also winning the gold at the IFMA’s in 2010. Bogdan Stoica has become known internationally for his rarely used stunning techniques like axe kicks and flying knees and in 38 of his wins, 29 came by way of knockout. Alex Pereira from Brazil is the tallest fighter in the bracket and fought his way into the 8-man tournament the hard way, by winning of the Middleweight Contender Tournament in Zagreb at Glory 14.

Tournaments like these have always offered so many opportunities for unforgettable moments in sports. As fans we get to see the top athletes get pushed to their limits and either hit the wall and crumble or power through it despite fatigue and injury. Good fighters become great fighters and those who fail to win will experience a life-changing event that can either empower them to find their potential or reduce them into the realm of mediocrity. I can’t wait for June 21st.

Why YOU should be excited for GLORY: Last Man Standing – Part 1

If you’ve already seen a Glory kickboxing event then you’ve seen their 4-man tournament format where fighters compete twice in the same night for championship gold. On Saturday, June 21st, after Glory 17: Los Angeles airs live on Spike TV. The promotions first ever Pay-Per-View event, Glory: Last Man Standing will break new ground and enter into American martial arts history. Last Man Standing will feature their first 8-man tournament, the first 8-man tournament of the world’s best that America has ever seen.

Critics of the tournament format usually talk about how one of the fighters in the final may have had a more strenuous draw in the preliminary and semi-final matches than their opponent. Thus making the final competition somewhat inauthentic. I couldn’t disagree more. The tournament format brings another factor of intelligence into the fight. In a tournament a fighter must balance the inevitability of damage taken vs. damage given. It makes a champion cleaner and more effective.

There is an interesting effect on the mind of a fighter, on their strategy. If a fighter only focuses on the opponent that he deems most challenging in the bracket, the opponent he might visualize being in the final with, it may result in overlooking his other opponents and missing a crucial detail. It might result in losing the focus required for his preliminary and semi-final bouts and in a surprise loss earlier in the tournament. Conversely, if a fighter focuses on the fight in front of him so much that he doesn’t tune his style to the tournament format to consider the amount of damage taken in preliminary bouts, he may hamstring himself for the final match.

It’s this extra requirement, this –survival-mode-in-real-life factor that makes tournaments so much more exciting. Not only does a fighter have to beat the best in the division, he has to clear his division out in a single night. If the criterion of becoming a champion is that you have to beat the best to be the best. This extra criterion of beating the best and the two next-bests in a single night must surely make an even more authentic champion.

Here’s the complete bracket for the first Glory 8-man Middleweight World Championship Tournament.

#1 Artem Levin (47-4-1)
#2 Joe Schilling (16-5-0)
#3 Wayne Barrett (4-0-0)
#4 Filip Verlinden (41-11-1)
#6 Alex Pereira (13-1-0)
#9 Bogdan Stoica (38-5-0)
#- Melvin Manhoef (37-11-0)
#- Simon Marcus (39-0-1)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Later this week Joe will bring you an in depth look into each one of the fighters participating in GLORY’s “Last Man Standing” tournament, including his personal favorites. Stay tuned!

The Growth of Glory

I never understood why Muay Thai or Kickboxing never took off in America with the UFC. It’s not uncommon to hear boos at the local sports bar when the fights hit the ground. Clearly people want to see a kickboxing match. One of the most common critiques for one of MMA’s greatest champions, Georges St. Pierre, is basically that he wrestles too much.

When a fight stays on the feet it stays exciting. Anything can happen at any moment. It’s almost stressful it’s so exciting. It’s beautiful to watch a person navigate the uncertainty of split second timing and stay calm while another equally skilled killer throws haymakers and head kicks at them with malicious intent. It seems obvious that most American combat sports fans would agree.

MMA and the UFC have certainly helped to increase popularity in the striking-specific combat sports and have done a lot of the footwork in creating a fan base for combat sports outside of boxing. However, until recently, these highly exciting fights never seemed to take on American viewership, there seemed to be something missing.

In June 2013 this started to change when common combat sports fans all over America started to notice the excitement of Glory Kickboxing. Glory World Series brought some the baddest men from all over the planet to New York to showcase some of the highest-level kickboxing in the world live on Spike TV. Since Glory 9, the first Glory event in America, American viewership for sport Kickboxing has steadily increased with each event. According to MMApayout.com, Glory 11 saw 381,000 viewers on Spike TV. Glory 12 had 476,000 viewers, Glory 13 had 659,000 viewers and the last Glory card in Denver, Glory 16, peaked at 815,000 viewers.

So what’s changed? What was missing before that they seem to have put together now? How can we keep Glory growing? Eric Haycraft is a talent agent for Glory and one of the best Dutch style kickboxing coaches in the world. He regularly goes out of his way to get information to the fans about Glory in any way he can. He found the time to answer some questions while waiting on a flight to Amsterdam where his wife, Lindsay Haycraft, and another one of his top-notch fighters, Adam Edgerton, will fight on Enfusion 18 this Sunday, May 25th.

(I was asked to spell/grammar check his responses because he was responding with his phone through Facebook Messenger while waiting in the terminal and I omitted the pleasantries because that’s just a waste of your time.)

Pure Muay Thai has never really taken off in the states like Glory has – what has Glory done differently?

Haycraft: Muay Thai historically has presented many issues with mainstream popularity. While it has a remarkable network around the globe, big events with substantial TV deals, big prize money has eluded that sport. If you take a look back to modern combat sports inception, 1993, the year both K-1 and UFC launched, you can how those sports out paced Muay Thai. I believe there are a few reasons.

First, the playing field was hard to crack into. The Thais are hands-down the best at their sport. The 90’s also saw Songchai (probably the largest international Thai promoter) really branch out into Thailand vs. the world events. Really amazing events, the Thais were just much better at their own game to keep a steady stream of top foreign fighters in line.

Next was the pace of most fights. Top-level Muay Thai fighters do so many subtle things that general fans miss or don’t understand which get lost in translation to international television audiences.

Lastly, and this is just my own personal theory, the sport was marketed too heavily on cultural points. Too much emphasis was placed on the wai kru and all the celebrated Thai customs. General sports fans pay the bills, not the hard-core base and I believe it was just too much for general sports fans to take in. The music, the mongkol, and the garlands, it’s just all very distracting for casual fans.

Coming back to Glory’s march into the US market, you can see first, a real budget to acquire the very best talent, and a production that TV can get behind. Another massive difference is timing. MMA really created a much larger fight fan base that had a better knowledge of kickboxing and even Muay Thai than ever before in the USA. While most fans may not know the bulk of our fighters, they can recognize a few, and most importantly, they have a pretty good idea what kickboxing is! Glory put the right talent, the right staff, and the right production team into play at the right time!

It’s still very early into this thing. Glory has a long way to go but there is no denying this is the biggest impact kickboxing has ever had on the US market.

It seems that the success of Glory was also aided by making some changes to the rules and the model of the fight itself, what changes where required to make this sport jump off in the united states in terms of rules?

Haycraft: Sports fans are pretty easy to please. They want fast paced, dangerous action. Through the 90’s kickboxing’s formula went through some changes, less clinching to speed up the pace and ultimately this increased the K.O. ratio. Five round fights dropped to three round fights to also put urgency on the fighters. Tournament formats also proved very popular.

Glory came in and tweaked these rules. One thing is bringing back MORE clinch and knee possibilities but demanding fighters use it to the fullest. The next thing you see is that, knockdowns aside, spectacular techniques that land are weighted heavy in scoring. This inspires Glory fighters to perfect and bring amazing moves to the ring.
It’s a real challenge to get folks from different kickboxing sports to fight the Glory “style” rather than just their style within the Glory rules set. But now it’s beginning to take hold!

Personally, I love tournaments, in one night a casual fan who knows nothing can really get to know a fighter in watching him fight twice in the same event as opposed to the typical one and done type of card. Do you think this format has helped as well?

Haycraft: Certainly. The four-man tournament format has allowed us to bring a tournament and amazing super fights along with world title fights to Spike TV time and time again. Fans have seen the challenges of a four-man tournament. June 21 we bring back our eight-man tournament format and the drama increases exponentially! It’s going to be amazing!

(June 21st is Glory’s first-ever pay-per-view event where they will have their first 8-man tournament, the winner of which will have to fight three times in one night. Glory: Last Man Standing)

What else can be considered to have helped Glory to find success in American markets?

Haycraft: The athletes. It’s no secret that kickboxing is much more popular internationally than in the USA. While young American kick boxers aspire to the level of the international stars, those same stars have all dreamed of fighting in the USA since they started their careers. The USA has always been one of the sports capitals of the world and the last frontier for our sport. These guys are laying it all on the line every single event to really show that this is the most exciting sport in the world.

How does glory keep growing? What can we do to help?

Haycraft: It takes time. Every event brings in new fans and more exposure. As long as more and more people keep tuning in and supporting the upcoming pay-per-view, Glory will keep expanding in the USA. It won’t take long once we are truly established and start having our own US stars playing in the big leagues. We have a few now but there will be a lot more!

Spread the word! Remind everyone of the June 21 live spike event followed by our first PPV event – arguably the best kickboxing card ever in the USA!