Glory

Kieran Keddle on training Idris Elba for his professional kickboxing debut

Two days ago Hollywood actor, Idris Elba, posted an Instagram picture of himself in the sauna with the caption: “Cutting weight, two days before first fight, mind in the right place. Fear NO guy.”

As you can imagine, there has been a media frenzy worldwide and all sorts of reports and rumours about whether the British actor was actually having a professional kickboxing fight, or, if this was simply some kind of gimmick for an upcoming movie or not.

Left to right: Luke Whelan, Idris Elba, Kieran Keddle at Double K Gym

Left to right: Luke Whelan, Idris Elba, Kieran Keddle at Double K Gym

On the K1ANOOP podcast, Idris Elba’s coach, Kieran Keddle (a former three time world Thai boxing champion, Muay Thai Grand Prix promoter, head coach and owner of Double K Gym), confirmed that the reports of Elba fighting in a professional kickboxing fight were true and that the whole experience of Elba’s preparation and eventual fight, is being filmed by the Discovery network for, an upcoming documentary due to air in early 2017.

Idris Elba started training with Kieran Keddle in November 2015 but things didn’t get too serious until the start of this year. The fight is set to happen this October in Thailand under professional ‘K-1’ kickboxing rules which, includes: punches, kicks and knees to the head, body and legs with no head, body or shin protection (apart from 10oz boxing gloves and a gum shield).

Idris Elba’s training for his professional K1 rules debut takes the most recent Star Trek villain and his coach, Kieran Keddle, to various countries around the world, including: Japan, South Africa, Cuba, France, Netherlands, Australia and Thailand which, has all been filmed for the upcoming documentary.

Kieran Keddle spoke in-depth with Anoop Hothi about Idris Elba’s kickboxing ability and his fighting style:

“We’ve actually found that he’s a better kicker than a puncher…and he hits hard but his kicking ability is better than his punching ability”

“Everyone wants to be in thrilling fights but you’ve got then the other side of someone like Semmy Schilt. But let’s look at Semmy Schilt, a four time K-1 winner and a GLORY Grand Slam winner. Wasn’t the most exciting to watch but he got the results and he just used his strengths. You’ve got to weigh up your options. Whatever God gave you I suppose.”

Schilt def. Verhoeven

Semmy Schilt defeats Rico Verhoeven at GLORY 4

“If you’re tall like he is, the jab is everything we’re working off. The jab, jab, jab and of course if its a pepper jab or a strong jab its all leading for giving your range for your legs.”

Idris Elba’s background in marital arts was also cleared up by Kieran Keddle and he described how the two of them were introduced to one another via mutual friend Warren Brown (former Thai boxing champion now actor) and how the documentary came about:

“So what happened is he trained kickboxing 20 years ago and it was a very keep fit like gym and he enjoyed it. And the actual true story is, he did boxing training when he was a kid but his Mum wouldn’t let him do it. So they stopped him doing it and then he went into kickboxing when he was older.”

“It’s something he always wanted to do. He was working on Luther with a good friend of mine and a former world champion, Warren Brown. They got talking and they started training together a little bit…and they stayed in touch.”

Warren Brown and Idris Elba on Luther

Warren Brown and Idris Elba on Luther

“After No Limits series was finished, Discovery turned around to Idris’s production company and everyone around him and said: ‘That was a massive success with hundreds of millions viewers’, went to something like 235 countries, it was massive. ‘Let’s do another season, what else can we do?’ They came up with all these different ideas and Idris went: ‘No, I I want to fight’. The whole thing has been his whole idea.”

“He wants to do it. Guarantee you, hand on heart he wants to do it and to be honest with you, he can do it. He can fight. This is no bullshit or anything like that. Its nothing to do with like, ‘oh you’re getting paid to do it’…or for my ego or whatever that bollocks. It is mainly that he can fight and I want to se him to do well like any student that come into my gym, I want them to do well…He’s been training as much as possible and as hard as possible and I’m hoping the results pay off.”

“We don’t know who his opponent is exactly yet. Its a choice of a few. What’s gonna happen is Idris is gonna have a couple of amateur fights, we hope. I’m gonna gauge whether he’s to have this fight or not. Of course, Discovery and all the people behind us want the fight to happen. I do as well. I think in sparring and the way he’s trained he’s ready to fight but we need to put him in a couple of real life situations and he see how he deals with it.”

Idris Elba kicking the heavy bag with Kieran Keddle overlooking

Idris Elba kicking the heavy bag with Kieran Keddle overlooking

“Theres still 9/10 weeks away and we’ve got Australia and Thailand and I’m literally with him the whole way, give or take a few days. So, I’m hoping to get loads of rounds of sparring in – thats the most important. And that’s also how I think he performs best, with sparring. He likes pad work, he likes all the running. He prefers the real life, someone in-front of him, someone swinging at him…We’ve got a nine week camp ahead of us and I believe he can do it.”

“And the documentary, although its about fighting and thats the reason why myself as a fan would watch and you would watch and a lot of my friends would watch who, are fighters, I think thats only a little bit of it. This program you’re gonna see really what he’s like as a person and thats what I liked about the whole project. And what I’ve learnt along the way about this world that he’s in is crazy and you’ll see it as well.

“And like I said, its not just about the fight. Its about him, you’ll meet his family. You’ll see parts of the world that we go to together but the reasons we go there are not that we go there randomly, we go there for a reason. There’s a story behind everything as well and you’ll get to know his history and he’s open about things because theres a camera there, he’s not holding back.”

David Haye on the wrong end of a playful right hook from Idris Elba

David Haye on the wrong end of a playful right hook from Idris Elba

David Haye (former WBA world heavyweight champion and undisputed world cruiserweight boxing champion) is a friend of his, came to watch him and didn’t think it wouldn’t be real. And then when he started training and hitting pads and things he realised, fuck! This is no WWE thing. This is no put in against someone whose not trained before. He’s going to fight someone who has had fight experience before.”

“He’s going to be 44 when he fights…I’m preparing [sparring partners] now [for Australia]. He goes this weekend [to Australia] and I go the following. So. I’m going to bring in four or five guys. I’m hoping in-between 80 to 100 kgs because he’s about 90kg, he’s a big dude. So, I’m going to sort that all out in the next couple of days but he has been sparring with my boy, Luke Whelan. He’s been sparring with Jack Mason, John McGuire, former UFC fighter. In South Africa he sparred Francois Botha (former IBF world heavyweight champion and K-1 veteran)…and then there’s various other people in the program that you’ll see he spars with. When we go to Thailand we’re going to be bring some people with us as well…it’s exciting.”

Francois Botha defeated K-1 legends, Jerome Le Banner (pictured) and Peter Aerts

Francois Botha defeated K-1 legends, Jerome Le Banner (pictured) and Peter Aerts

“There’s things that have shocked me and been quite controversial and theres an amazing amount of drama. The whole thing which Ive appreciated about is, nothing, nothing has been scripted and its been eye opening. And I think that the most important thing for me is, its going to open up fans to the sport.”

“If a 44 year old man can fight, whether he win, lose, draw or even gets knocked out and commit this kind of training then its going to inspire a lot of people. He does inspire a lot of people anyway, you know. He’s a man that has come from nothing and made himself a Hollywood actor and you’re gonna find out all about that as well so thats pretty cool. So, he’s an inspirational person.”

Watch the full K1ANOOP interview with Kieran Keddle below about Idris Elba training and making his professional kickboxing debut:

The Striking Corner on the Muay Thai Guy Podcast

I had the chance to speak with Sean Fagan on the Muay Thai Guy podcast recently about MY journey through Muay Thai and how The Striking Corner evolved into what it is today. Sean is a great guy who has always been very supportive of what we do here at The Striking Corner so it was an honor to be on his podcast and just talk about our love for Muay Thai, the current state of the sports of Muay Thai and Kickboxing in the US and so much more. I was the person being interviewed for a change…and I have to say that it isn’t that easy to be the one answering the questions. Listen, enjoy, comment, share!

Check out the episode here by clicking  below!

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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!