In this episode of the podcast Vinny & Eric are joined by Kickboxing journalist Anoop Hothi, also known as K1Anoop. A blogger, writer, journalist, and avid Twitter user, K1Anoop has been covering the Muay Thai and Kickboxing scene in the UK and in Europe for quite some time. A huge fan of K1/Glory rules Kickboxing, we talk to Anoop about the recent Glory Collision card, Enfusion, how promotions can better broadcast their product, and so much more! We also talk a bit about how screwdrivers seem to be the weapon of choice in street fights in the UK, how Eric has never been to a strip club, and other such nonsense. We had fun with this one and lost track of time a bit! Enjoy!
Headlining the Bellator Kickboxing Florence card at Bellator 168 is Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Jordan Watson, in what will be an interesting clash of styles at the Mandela Forum on December 10. Watson is renown for being big, powerful and some might say, ‘Mr Right Kick’. As well as having previous with southpaws, most notably: Sanny Dhalbeck and Ben Hodge – from which, he’s certainly learnt and improved himself as a fighter. In his last fight with Hodge at Yokkao 20, Watson was flirting with switching stances from orthodox to southpaw and vice-versa but there’s more to simply switch hitting to bamboozling Petrosyan.
However, “The Doctor” has been there and seen it all including, winning a couple of K-1 Max trophies in the mix too. The last person to really put it on him was a certain Andy Ristie at GLORY 12, resulting in the biggest upset of the decade – Petrosyan being left KO’d on the canvas. Not to mention his GLORY 3 bout with two weight champion, Robin van Roosmalen. Although that decision went Petrosyan’s way, it strongly hinted at something – when his opponents are not only relentless with giving him a fight but most significantly, are of much higher calibre than your typical pressure fighter, they can cause the Italian kickboxing maestro all sorts of problems.
Nevertheless, Watson’s mindset and attitude will be key factors on Saturday which, he opened up about after Yokkao 20, regarding his past approach to his career. If his mind, body and soul are focused on the task at hand on Saturday then anything is possible. Especially as no one, not even Petrosyan, is unbreakable in the ring. However, the obvious favourite is the two time K-1 Max champion, whose kickboxing experience outweighs that of Watson’s.
Alessio Arudini is a very competent Thai boxer who, will be greeting Kevin Ross in the ring come Saturday. He’s also a very good kicker with a variety of kicks in his arsenal: whether he maybe attacking both the inside and outside of the lead leg, or, even pulling off more fancy stuff like, spinning back kicks and even ‘question mark kicks’ from his right leg.
In the buildup, Ross was complimentary of the Italian but don’t expect the switch from both of their favoured rule set to dampen how exciting this fight could turn out to be. “The Soul Assassin” is more than experienced enough to handle someone as threatening as Arudini and if anything, the level of competition he’s facing this time round, in Bellator Kickboxing, will be exactly what he’s been looking for to elevate his own performance too.
“He’s just a more, I’d say, traditional, solid Thai boxer. I’m looking forward to a more technical fight.”
Luca Novello is most probably out of his depth against the vastly experienced Karim Ghajji who, was formerly Bellator Kickboxing’s inaugural welterweight champion, defeating Mustafa Haida at Bellator 152 by split decision. However, whether or not Novello has developed some serious ringcraft since being overwhelmed by Antoine Pinto (at Thai Fight, November 2014) is the ultimate question and one that will be answered when he faces Ghajji. However, “Gadjetboy” mustn’t underestimate Novello who, turns 23 the day before their clash; he’ll be more determined than ever to get a win over someone of Ghajji’s profile, especially infront of his home corwd.
Denise Kieholtz gets her rematch with Gloria Peritore after what some had reported as controversial decision loss to the Italian at Bellator Dynamite 2. However, Peritore never stays still and will continuously keep moving away and around the ring until she decides to close range, exchange with a few quick strikes and then move out and away again. If anything, Peritore is always on the balls of her feet which, allows her to throw those nice head kicks and teeps to face, a lot easier compared to being a plodder; and the word, ‘plodder’ could be sum up the majority of the latter’s movement in their last fight.
Previously, Kielholtz failed to keep constant pressure and spent more time waiting in the centre of the ring and just following her opponent; not cutting off the ring; and not keeping at close range and cutting angles to then blast Peritore all over the place with her Dutch kickboxing venom. Unless she fights more like her man, Hesdy Gerges, history could very well repeat itself in Florence between these two.
Joe Schilling has had a shocking run of three straight defeats after a decision win over Mike Lemaire to start the year at GLORY 27. However, Schilling’s brand image is too big an investment for Bellator to possibly risk by matching him up against a more talented fighter than Victorio Lermano at this moment in time. No disrespect but Lermano does not have the skill set nor power to compete with someone as technically violent as Schilling. So, don’t be surprised by anything other than a return to winning ways for “Stich ‘em up” to end the year but then again, the majority of people expected Schilling to take care of Hisaki Kato in their rematch under kickboxing rules.
Bellator 168, Florence – Kevin Ross: Bellator Kickboxing ‘doing it smart’ and amazed by mainstream exposure
Bellator Kickboxing returns to action on December 10 via Bellator 168, in the historic city of Florence, Italy. Kevin Ross will be taking on Alessio Arduino in what “The Soul Assassin” hopes will be a more technical fight compared to his previous visit to Italy when he defeated, Matteo Taccini via unanimous decision at Bellator 152. Also featuring on the Florence kickboxing card will be: Joe Schilling vs. Victorio Germano and Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Jordan Watson.
2016 has been a resurgent year for both kickboxing and Muay Thai with various global promotions such as: GLORY, Enfusion Live, Bellator Kickboxing, Kunlun Fight, Muay Thai Grand Prix, Yokkao, Thai Fight and Lion Fight, accumulating more mainstream media exposure (in the western world) than ever before for both rule sets of the striking arts.
Kevin Ross had recently guested on the Joe Rogan Experience with Gaston Bolaños following Lion Fight 31, in an excellent podcast that educated a much wider and different audience than both CSA Gym fighters normally have, about the difference in not only Muay Thai and kickboxing but also, the level of real world class striking compared to MMA. Most importantly, such media exposure (and more) is exactly what both sports need, in order to enhance the profile to the same level that pro boxing and MMA benefit from.
“Looking back to the majority of my career I never thought I’d still be fighting while kickboxing and muay thai was getting this kind of exposure. I never thought I’d be fighting on TV, ever! So for it to be happening and for it to be happening while I’m still active and a high level is amazing to me. You know I think back to not that long ago there was like, I don’t know if this was ever gonna happen.”
Ross was also optimistic about the long term direction in which Bellator Kickboxing were headed in and credited the promotion for not rushing too soon without first developing their brand of kickboxing and most importantly, their own kickboxing superstars that will generate a bigger fanbase into the future and safeguard the promotion’s viability too.
“This show is going to be amazing you know like I was saying before, its a little frustrating how slow it seems to be going but thats the way you have to do things correctly in order to build them up.”
“Thats the mistake a lot of promoters make and have made is that they try to go too big too early. They didn’t take the time to build up their talent, local talent, their exposure and then they do this giant show and then nobody shows up and they lose all their money and they’re gone forever. So, Bellator’s been really doing it smart, taking their time, you know, pulling in the big stars when they can and kinda slowly building their resume, its great to be a part of.”
Bellator 168 – Bellator Kickboxing, Florence:
Lightweight: Giorgio Petrosyan (82-2-2, 1 NC) vs. Jordan Watson (48-11-2)
Flyweight: Denise Kielholtz (45-3) vs. Gloria Peritore (11-1-1)
Lightweight: Kevin Ross (31-9) vs. Alessio Arduini (26-14-2)
Middleweight: Joe Schilling (19-9) vs. Victorio Lermano (30-7)
Welterweight: Karim Ghajji (96-13-1) vs. Luca Novello (22-4-2)
Ognjen Topic recently fought Muay Thai legend, Saenchai, last month at Yokkao 22 in Honk Kong and unfortunately, lost by decision. There aren’t many Farangs that are given much of a chance in the minds of Thai boxing fans when matched-up against the +400 fight veteran but then again, Topic is regarded as ‘one of the best technically gifted Thai fighters’ of the current crop (by none other than Damien Trainor who, was coaching at CSA Gym during November).
However, Topic himself was the first to admit that the fight didn’t unfold anywhere as what he would’ve liked or had planned:
“I’m not happy at all about the fight but we’re talking about a guy that’s been doing it for a very long time and he has quite a bit more experience than I do so, I’m trying to stay positive. It’s difficult especially when you’re competitive individual.”
“Before the fight and during the fight I felt great mentally, physically you know. I didn’t look at him as some, some god of Muay Thai. I just looked at him as an opponent and I prepared myself as I always do. I went into the fight with the mentality of winning and even when I was in the fight, you know it was difficult, I still wanted to beat him so, that’s that.”
It’s interesting that Topic mentioned the ‘mentality of fighting’ because not only is it fair to say that fighting is 99% in the mind but so is having the self-belief and aptitude in achieving our life goals and dreams too. Self doubt can really cripple fighters mentality; a good example of this would be the way how pro boxer, Nicholas Walters surrendered after six rounds against Vasyl Lomachenko, over the weekend in Las Vegas. Topic explained what he does away from the gym in his spare time to help him mentally with moving forward in his fighting career.
“Another thing I like to do is sometime if I have some downtime is I go on YouTube and look up documentaries on any businessman. You know I like I’m into cars so I’ll go look up the guy that started the company Koenigsegg, you know an exotic car company or Pagani. So, you kinda just listen to how they talk and how they began these things, their story and their dreams and how everything came to fruition. Then it kinda you know puts things into perspective you can follow this steps as well from other people and then you can learn from them.”
“So it really doesn’t matter what profession it is, you can always take something away from any I guess, elite person, on that high level that has that mentality to be persistent and dedicated to their craft.”
Muay Thai is one of the oldest forms of fighting and as a professional sport, doesn’t gain the high levels of mainstream media coverage compared to pro boxing. The likes of Joe Schilling and Kevin Ross have both previously voiced the difficulties that they’ve faced in their careers before the emergence of GLORY, Lion Fight, Bellator Kickboxing and Muay Thai Grand Prix in recent years. Even kickboxing has struggled especially since the “Golden era” of the ‘old skool’ K-1 days in Japan.
However the tide would seem to be turning for both Muay Thai and kickboxing especially now that the UFC have, for the first time ever, partnered with another sporting promotion i.e. GLORY Kickboxing to be their PPV online media partner via UFC Fight Pass for streaming, GLORY Collision: Rico Verhoeven vs Badr Hari.
Even UFC colour commentator, Joe Rogan has been voicing his support and love for K1/Thai rules and recently had Kevin Ross, Gaston Bolanos and their coach (CSA Gym owner), Kieran Fitzpatrick on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast which, Topic was delighted about for the long term benefit of the sport.
“It was great. I really hope that a lot of people tuned in. Kevin Ross really gave a really good explanation on you know, Muay Thai and the difference between the striking between Muay Thai and MMA and it pretty much how all of us Muay Thai fighters feel you know but we never really have a stage to say that; and I think he kinda opened up Joe Rogan’s eyes as well, you know with clinch and things like that because it doesn’t seem like a lot of those guys understand and know the difference between the two, the two sports. So its great that they were on the show and they were able to kind of give that differentiation.”
NOTE: With the release of our recent podcast with Kevin Ross on March 22nd, 2016, we decided to bring this article back to the front page as it is a great complement to the podcast because it gives fans a more in depth look into Kevin’s start in Muay Thai and the obstacles he had to overcome to get where he is. The podcast can be found here: http://bit.ly/TSC-Ep-34
Kevin “The Soul Assassin” Ross – Article by Galen Okazaki
In•spi•ra•tion. According to Webster’s it means: “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions”. Many of our greatest individual accomplishments are fueled by inspiration. We find inspiration in the stories of others overcoming great odds, achieving great things or in rare cases…. both.
In December of 2010, I had the opportunity to photograph my first headline Muay Thai fight card. In the main event, American nakmuay Kevin Ross defeated 7 time world champ, Malaipet Sasiprapa by unanimous decision. This victory over a celebrated Thai fighter would propel Kevin to the forefront of American Muay Thai (in February of 2011 he would be voted North America’s 2010 Fighter of the Year). A few weeks after photographing this event, I received a “friend request” on Facebook from someone named “Huggy Bear”. Hmmm…after taking a look at his page and some of the pictures on it, I finally realized that “Huggy Bear” was none other than Kevin “the Soul Assassin” Ross, silly me! After watching this hard hitting, tatted up bad ass fighter, I didn’t make the connection to ahem…“Huggy Bear”. And so went my simple introduction to someone who would fascinate and inspire me as I got to know his story.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania on July 27, 1980, the main thing that Kevin Ross remembers about growing up was the constant moving. Sometimes the family would stay in one place for just a couple of months and move on. Not the son of military parents, there was really no discernible reason for the constant moving, it just seemed to be the norm for this family. The one other thing he remembered about his childhood was his constant dream of one day becoming a fighter.
Finally in 1994, Kevin and his family settled in the city that he continues to call home today, Las Vegas. Kevin soon found himself running with a circle of friends whose primary goal in life was to party. His teen years were a fog, spent partying. Throughout this time Kevin grew close to one friend in particular, Moe. In time, Moe became the only one that Kevin shared his dream of being a fighter with. With his encouragement, Kevin visited Master Toddy’s gym to look into Muay Thai training. But the cost and the commitment it would take at the time were too much, so it was back to the partying life. Throughout their friendship, Moe was dealing with health issues. He needed a heart transplant and had been on the list for a heart transplant for a number of years. Sadly, Moe later passed away while in a hospital in California. The shock of Moe’s death sent Kevin into depression and a downward spiral of addiction. The spiral would last for four long years.
In 2003, a series of traumatic events would be the impetus for Kevin to turn his life around. First, one of his partying friends struck an oncoming car while driving under the influence and on the wrong side of the road. The driver of the other car was seriously injured. Shortly after that, another friend from the same circle put himself through his car windshield, almost killing himself while also driving under the influence. And then finally, while driving home after another round of partying, Kevin was pulled over for driving 120 mph in an emergency lane. He was stopped just a few feet from entrance of his neighborhood and for reasons he still doesn’t understand to this day, the officer did not arrest him and let him continue the short distance home. The combination of these three events in such a short period of time served as a huge wake-up call.
What finally turned Kevin’s life around for good was a talk he had with his father. While hanging out one night with Gina (Carano), his stepmother and his father, Kevin finally told his dad about his dream of becoming a fighter. When his father asked him what was stopping him, Kevin told him about the cost. After hearing all of this, Kevin’s father offered him a deal, he told him that if Kevin were to give up drinking, he would pay for it all. At that moment Kevin’s father pointed to the drink in Kevin’s hand and asked, “how about that one?”. Kevin poured out the drink and the deal was struck. He stopped drinking cold turkey, went back to Master Toddy’s gym the very next day, and started training in Muay Thai.
It wasn’t as simple as that though, four years of chemical addiction had taken a serious physical toll and there were still the withdrawals to deal with. It was a struggle and Kevin’s mettle would be tested to the core. Two things helped Kevin get through this period: his unwavering dream of becoming a fighter and the memory of his friend Moe, who dealt with the health issues that would ultimately take his life with dignity and who believed in Kevin’s dream of becoming a fighter.
After nine months of training, Kevin’s dream was finally realized, he had his first fight. It took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, the opponent Kevin was supposed to fight didn’t show up and the only other available opponent was 20 pounds heavier and had already had 30 fights. No one would have blamed Kevin for not taking the fight but there was never a question in his mind, he took the fight. He lost when his corner threw in the towel. But in taking on this opponent, he had shown a trait that has now become his signature and most talked about characteristic,…he would never back down from a fight.
Kevin doesn’t recall losing another amateur fight after that but being a fighter was still a struggle. During this time Kevin ended up living in the gym…literally. He did this for three years. Having nowhere else to go, he lived in a makeshift living space and even then it was difficult to make ends meet. This was a true test of how badly he wanted to be a fighter. When people would tell him he should get a “real” job he knew that it was something he could not do and he never wavered.
When I asked him where this motivation, this unwillingness to give up and find a “real” job came from, his answer was a simple one. “If you are going to do something that truly means something to you, then you do it for all you’re worth and you strive to be the best you can be at it or you don’t do it at all“. This singular devotion to his dream would be demonstrated in many ways over the coming years.
There are other reasons for a fighter to give up, pain is one of them. There are many moments in a fighter’s career where his brain will tell him it’s time to stop during a fight or even training. As Kevin describes it, it’s a self preservation thing. You can see it taking over when a fighter takes a little longer to get up after a knock down, just long enough to get counted out. While Kevin has certainly experienced the desire to stop the pain himself many times throughout his career, he has never once succumbed to it.
There was one fight in particular where Kevin recalls his brain telling him to throw in the towel. It was his August 30, 2008 rematch with Kang En for the WBC Super Light Weight International title. Hurt very badly in the first round, Kevin was able to gather himself and went on to knock Kang out to regain his title.
More recently at Lion Fight Promotion’s inaugural “Battle in the Desert” event on February 12, 2011, Kevin took on a very tough Sittisak Por Sirichai. After taking a number of elbows to the head, Kevin’s face was a bloody mess and at times he was seeing three Sittisaks. When the ringside physician stopped to look at Kevin mid-round, Kevin of course told him everything was fine. The doctor told him that if it was anyone else he probably would have stopped the fight, but after seeing a number of Kevin’s fights, this doctor knew that Kevin could still fight on. Kevin went on to lose the fight in a split decision, but it was obvious to everyone who was there, that he was a warrior nonpareil.
This was just another example of Kevin’s drive to be the best he can be at his chosen profession. It is the reason why he continues to take on tough opponents, he knows it is the only way he can grow and push himself as a fighter. Kevin has never been interested in what affect an opponent might have on his win-loss record. It has always been about what affect the opponent has on his own growth as a fighter. Still not convinced?
In what many consider the seminal event in American Muay Thai, Kevin took on someone who is considered by many to be the best pound for pound Muay Thai fighter in the world, Saenchai Sinibimuaythai, at Stand-Up Promotion’s M-One Grand Muay Thai Championships on August 14, 2011. Kevin took a beating in rounds 2 and 3 but as is his style, he never stopped pressing the fight and actually looked to be the fresher fighter by the end of round five. Kevin ended up losing a majority decision, but left no doubt that he belonged in the same ring with the Thai legend.
So how does someone like Kevin Ross follow-up a performance like this? He takes on Sakkedao Petchpayathai at M-One Grand, this October 21st in Los Angeles CA. Sakkedao is currently the Lumpinee Stadium champion at 135 lbs and oh yeah, he also happens to be the only person to have recently defeated Saenchai.
As Kevin and I first talked about doing this story, he told me that his life is all about inspiring others to follow their dreams. Today, just eight short years after starting his career as a Muay Thai fighter, Kevin is living his own dream. The more I learned about Kevin, the more I knew that I had to tell his story. What he has overcome and achieved in this short period of time is the stuff of greatness. It has inspired me and no doubt it has inspired others. When I mentioned to Joe Schilling (who will be fighting for the WBC Super Middleweight World title on the same October 21st M-one Grand fight card as Kevin) that I would be writing an article about Kevin he told me that Kevin was the fighter that he aspired to be. I can think of no better testament to what Kevin has accomplished.
On his fan page Kevin Ross delivers this message: “People often sacrifice pursuing their dreams because they are worried about being poor or unstable. But no amount of money will ever make you happy and all you will do is live your life in regret. If you’re not living or pursuing your dream right now, stop what you’re doing and go after it.” As you come to know his story you realize that there is no better example of this message than the person delivering it. Be inspired!
Editor’s Note: Aside from being an accomplished fighter, Kevin is also a talented artist. In the gallery below you will find the photographs used in this article, taken by Muay Thai is Life’s Galen Okazaki (who also happened to have written this article) and some samples of Kevin’s artistic work, which we also feel you should see.
In this episode we speak with none other than “The Soul Assassin” & “El Presidente” Kevin Ross! He is a man that needs no introduction. A true American Muay Thai Legend, Kevin Ross has faced the best of the best, and win, lose, or draw always brings an exciting fight. He is a fan favorite for reasons that go beyond fighting. He is simply an passionate, inspirational athlete. In this episode we discuss the Lion Fight controversy surrounding Tiffany Van Soest, his recent WMC Intercontinental win over Leandro Duarte, his recent signing for Bellator Kickboxing, the pressure of being considered “America’s Best Muay Thai Fighter”, and much. much, more! Enjoy!