Glory 17

GLORY Collision: The great hype that stumbled on a night of great expectations

The most anticipated event in the modern era of kickboxing didn’t quite live up to everyone’s great expectations. After half a year of buildup to Rico vs Badr, come fight night, not only did we have an overly drawn out online viewing experience split into two or three different online streams (depending where in the world you were); Tiffany van Soest made history winning the the inaugural women’s straw-weight championship in a borefest of a tournament; Badr Hari’s arm got broken just as his ‘Collision’ with Rico Verhoeven got exciting; and Sittichai vs. Marat Grigorian and Pinca vs Amrani were overshadowed by the sheer volume of fights from having three overall fight cards.

Cedric Doumbe

Cedric Doumbe – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

However, Nieky Holzken was finally dethroned as GLORY welterweight champion by Cedric Doumbe, in what was a damn good fight to watch and witness how to unlock the four year puzzle that is the “The Natural”. Ismael Londt lost a thrilling decision to Moroccan-Dutch juggernaut, Jamal Ben Saddik and Michael Duut returned in spectacular fashion to GLORY Kickboxing with an enthralling decision win over Danyo Ilunga. Both Duut’s and Ben Saddik’s victories were crowd pleasers and will undoubtedly be YouTube favourites for the next couple of weeks or longer; and attract more casual fight fans to kickboxing.

GLORY Collision – Summary: 

  • Rico breaks Badr’s arm up against the rope with powerful clinch knees before the referee could pull them apart.
  • Doumbe dethrones Holzken with an excellent performance showcasing: speed, confidence and a highly efficient game plan being executed.
  • Ben Saddik pulled off an amazing result against Ismael Londt and had “Mr Pain” in all sorts of problems.
  • Tiffany van Soest won the inaugural women’s straw-weight tournament (but the Iman Barlow question will continue to linger).
Tiffany van Soest

Tiffany van Soest – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

Unfortunately, GLORY seem to have a habit of learning things the hard way since they have existed. We all remember the consequences of airing a free undercard event (GLORY 17, headlined by Mirko Cro Cop vs. Jarrell Miller) immediately before the PPV for GLORY Last Man Standing which is, probably, their best event to-date. The promotion were well reported to have had their own recession after the PPV figures in 2014 were a failure, leading to the likes of Tyrone Spong and Gökhan Saki not returning to GLORY due to big name fighters allegedly having to take major pay cuts; As well as other contract negotiations and issues.

Schilling

Schilling KOs Marcus, GLORY Last Man Standing – Image: Glory Sports Int’l

The UFC Fight Pass deal announced earlier this year was always good news for both GLORY and kickboxing. Although, it would seem that GLORY still need to smarten up their approach to broadcasting their events to the widest possible audience and fixing the overall structure of the fight cards; Hopefully, they will in the new year. Otherwise, they are going to risk losing out on attracting, potentially, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of new fight fans to the GLORY brand of technical violence and exciting KOs.

Why? Online (or ideally TV) access to watch such grand events needs to be made much easier i.e. on one channel / portal with the fights altogether and not on a multitude of different platforms). Listen to episode 42 of The Striking Corner podcast this week because this is one of the many interesting talking points we dig into.

Overall verdict on GLORY Collision (plus, GLORY 36 and the SuperFight Series)?

Badr Hari

Badr and Rico after their Collision – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

Disappointing. However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

There’s very promising and achievable room for improvement that could, ‘blow all the fish out of the water’ (i.e. their promotional rivals) in 2017. Most importantly, GLORY are on the verge of elevating mainstream media coverage to a whole new level for kickboxing on a long term basis, which the sport has been struggling with for decades. The knock-on effect of GLORY’s potential to boost the profile of the sport on a global scale will enhance the potential revenue streams for everyone involved in kickboxing, making the sport more of a commercially viable profession and industry too.

GLORY Collision – Results:

Rico Verhoeven def. Badr Hari via Rd2 TKO (injury)

Cedric Doumbe def. Nieky Holzken by split decision (SD) – new welterweight champion

Jamal Ben Saddik def. Ismael Londt via UD

Tiffany van Soest def. Amel Dehby via UD – Women’s straw-weight tournament final

Glory 36 – Results:

Sittichai Sitsongpeenong def. Marat Grigorian by SD, retains lightweight title

Dylan Salvador def. Hysni Beqiri, UD – Lightweight tournament final

Fabio Pinca def. Mosab Amrani, SD

Hysni Beqiri def. Antonio Gomez, UD – Lightweight semi-final

Dylan Salvador def. Anatoly Moiseev, MD – Lightweight semi-final

SuperFight Series – Results:

Michael Duut def. Danyo Ilunga via UD (extra round)

Harut Grigorian def. Danijel Solaja by Rd1 KO

Amel Dehby def. Isis Verbeek, UD – Women’s straw-weight semi-final

Tiffany van Soest def. Jessica Gladstone, UD – Women’s straw-weight semi-final

Tyjani Beztati def. Andrej Bruhl, UD

Rico Verhoeven: ‘I’m on a different level of fighting’ and thinking five steps ahead

Rico Verhoeven collides with arch rival, Badr Hari in Oberhausen, Germany on December 10 in what is undoubtedly the one super fight that has single handily reignited worldwide interest in kickboxing since the “Golden era” of the sport. Verhoeven has reigned as the undisputed GLORY champion since 2014 when he defeated Daniel Ghita via unanimous decision at GLORY 17: Los Angeles.

However, the heavyweight division has been going through a transition period during Verhoeven’s dominance so far and Hari who, is widely acknowledged as the greatest heavyweight kickboxer of his generation, had been semi-dormant due to his well reported issues away from the sport.

Speaking last night about his technical kickboxing ability and the run of form he’s been on, Verhoeven gave a good insight into his overall approach to the sport and his mindset which, quite clearly sets him apart, from any other champion before him.

“I’m on a different level of fighting, I’m using all the tools in the box.”

“Sometimes some tools you can’t use for all the jobs. So, there’s no point in using the tools then. Of course you’re looking at a fight and a certain fighter and how he moves and what he does and stuff like that but in the end it just has to show in the fight. In the fight you feel the distance and you feel the things that could work and that might work and you just try them.”

There is a stereotype that exist about the ‘Dutch style’ of kickboxing especially when it comes to kickboxers who don’t possess the kind of skill set that the likes of Verhoeven (and his former foe, Ghita) have displayed in years gone by.

What is that stereotype? Two fighters standing toe-to-toe, throwing basic combinations starting with a few powerful punches and finishing with a low kick; not too much head movement, or, ring craft either; basically, just a war of attrition and not technically advanced.

“In every fight I go into, my opponent is like a book and I want to read that book in like a minute or a minute and a half, in a round max. After that I want to know everything that’s coming.”

Rico Verhoeven

Rico Verhoeven teeps Daniel Ghita – Image: GLORY Sports Intl

“You can see the way things are coming by, the way that someone moves and that’s just a totally a different approach of going towards fight than a lot of people do. They only think about ‘he’s going to throw this and I’m going to throw that back’ but I’m thinking about step five.”

Listening to Verhoeven explain his championship mindset in more detail was even more fascinating, seriously. Due to his politeness and overall conduct, Rico has become a role model for world kickboxing, something that Badr Hari is the complete opposite of in the eyes of most fans. Why? His bad boy image, getting into fights at past press conferences and not forgetting all the reported street violence over the years too which, was probably worse than Mike Tyson in his heyday (and that’s saying something!).

However, Badr’s antics in the buildup to GLORY Collision have not gone down too well with Verhoeven. Hari had mockingly predicted at the Collision press conference that Rico would get knocked out in one round when they collide in Oberhausen:

“He talks so much sh-t. He just talks a lot and I just laugh at it. I hope you trained that hard as you ran your mouth because that’s crazy.”

Relive Glory 17 & Last Man Standing – PHOTOS

Our very own Muay Thai is Life photographer Chad Hill was on hand at was without a doubt the biggest kickboxing event in US history, Glory 17 and the Last Man Standing 8-man middleweight tournament. The night included some crazy knockouts, redemption, upsets and more! Enjoy!

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!