GLORY CEO Says New Year’s Eve Show Will Launch Glory Kickboxing Into The American Mainstream
Says GLORY is in discussion with Showtime about a future TV deal in The U.S.
“These are the biggest, baddest guys in the world in stand-up fighting.”
By Joshua Molina
Monday’s big New Year’s Eve show from Saitama Super Arena in Japan is both an homage to the past, and a glimpse of the future of combat sports.
Japan’s rich history of MMA on New Year’s Eve will continue with eight big MMA fights. And, for the first time, a one-night only, 16 man tournament will take place on the same card, under the same roof, featuring the best heavyweight kickboxers, or stand-up fighters in the world.
The GLORY-produced New Year’s Eve show will be available in over 200 countries on Pay Per View. The show is also significant because it will introduce the American audience to a new brand of combat sports — elite stand-up fighting.
The eight-hour show, broadcast on CBS Sports Network, will be split over two nights. The GLORY kickboing portion will air on New Year’s Eve and the DREAM MMA portion on New Year’s Day.
“We’re really excited,” said Marcus Luer, CEO of Glory Sports International, the parent company of GLORY and the upstart company putting on the event. “Fans will get their money’s worth.”
Luer spoke with Full Contact Fighter about the major show and the company’s plans to re-introduce North America to kickboxing.
“Everybody loves a good fight on TV,” said Luer, who is also the owner of sports marketing powerhouse, Total Sports Asia. “We’re confident the casual fans will enjoy what we have to offer.”
Not since the late 1970s and early 1980s has what casual fans understand as “kickboxing” been widely consumed in U.S. markets. Fighters such as “Bad” Brad Hefton and Jerry Rhome teetered on household name status 30 years ago when the Professional Karate Association was shown regularly on ESPN.
While Japan’s K-1 enjoyed a run in Las Vegas and TV coverage on ESPN2 in the form of library fights and live telecasts on HDNet (now AXS TV), under different ownerships, the company and the sport never took off in the United States. It was arguably the management behind K-1, not the sport, that led to its implosion here.
Instead, six years ago, MMA and the UFC exploded into the mainstream, consuming the bulk of the combat sports market. Luer, whose company has promoted such brands as WWE, NBA and FiFa internationally, believes that GLORY kickboxing can catch on—and take-off in the North America.
“We know that it won’t happen overnight,” Luer said. “But we believe there is a huge interest in the sport. Our sport is exciting. There’s no doubt about that.”
Luer said that GLORY fights offer everything that is the most exciting part of MMA – the vicious, fast-paced stand-up action full of heavy exchanges between fighters. Luer said that previous attempts to sell kickboxing in America failed because promoters didn’t’ understand the American market.
He said that the company will promote GLORY events in a way that appeals to American audiences, noting that a majority of GLORY fights end in stunning KOs.
“Do you like knockouts?,” asked Luer. “These are the biggest, baddest guys in the world in stand-up fighting.”
The New Year’s Eve tournament will be comprised of powerful heavyweight kicking and slugging away. The heavyweight show isn’t about a one-night only gimmicky event to make money. The broadcast on CBS Sports Network is designed to introduce North America to the product, but the company has big plans beyond.
GLORY has announced a novel “Road To GLORY USA” series whereby the company will “embed” its fighters into tournaments at locally promoted regional shows. The Road To GLORY USA series is an American Idol-like casting call – where GLORY will seek out the best fighters in divisions ranging from flyweight to heavyweight for future spots on its championship level shows.
The company has plans for a number of such championship level shows in 2013, in places such as Istanbul, London, Milan, The U.S. and Tokyo.
The plan, Luer said, is to lock up a television deal very soon to broadcast those shows in The United States. The New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day shows will be shown on CBS Sports Network, but Luer said the TV deal is a one-off. He is in talks with other networks, including Showtime, to establish a partnership to broadcast the fight series on a long-term basis.
A smart television deal, Luer said, is essential to GLORY’s success in the United States.
But the plans all start on New Year’s Eve. The company hasn’t committed to promoting DREAM events beyond the New Year’s Eve show, but is excited about the “relaunch of mixed martial arts in Japan.”
The company hopes that holding a big show in Japan, which has rich history of mixed martial arts, will draw MMA fans to the kickboxing product. The DREAM MMA show takes place before the kickboxing event.
“We like the idea of doing a mega show in Japan,” Luer said. “We wanted to make sure that we came into Japan with a big bang. We felt it was a great way to leverage fans from two great sports.”
Going forward, GLORY will spend most of its energy looking to develop and grow kickboxing in America.
“The fighters are really pumped,” Luer said. “This is such an explosive style of fighting. The knockout ratio in Glory is between 70 and 80 percent. We’re really confident people will see that quickly and love what they see.”
In a special attraction, former Strikeforce Bantamweight Women’s Champion Marloes Coenen will fight on the card against Fiona Muxlow.
The DREAM 18 MMA Card:
155 lbs.: Shinya Aoki vs Antonio Mckee
135 lbs.: Bibiano Fernandes vs Yoshiro Maeda
185 lbs.: Melvin Manhoef vs Denis Kang
145 lbs: Marloes Coenen vs. Fiona Muxlow
170 lbs.: Phil Baroni vs Hayato Sakurai
145 lbs.: Tatsuya Kawajiri vs Michihiro Omigawa
145 lbs.: Hiroyuki Takaya vs Georgi Karakhanyan
155 lbs.: Satoru Kitaoka vs Will Brooks
The GLORY 4 Tokyo – Heavyweight Grand Slam Card
Tournament First 16 Round Bouts:
Semmy Schilt vs Brice Guidon
Sergei Kharitonov vs Rico Verhoeven
Gokhan Saki vs Raomoru
Anderson “Braddock” Silva vs Igor Jurkovic
Remy Bonjasky vs Filip Verlinden
Errol Zimmerman vs Jamal Ben Saddick
Peter Aerts vs Mourad Bouzidi
Daniel Ghita vs Jhonata Diniz
GLORY 4 Tokyo – Heavyweight Grand Slam Superfights
– Robin van Roosmalen vs. Yuichiro Nagashima
– Jerome Le Banner vs. Koichi Pettas
– Toshio Matsumoto vs. Jason Wilnis
– Mutsuki Ebata vs. San Che Kim
The CBS Sports Network cable and satellite broadcast, available in nearly 50 million U.S. homes, will air on tape delay beginning at 10 p.m. EST on New Year’s Eve. The Pay Per View Show will air live at www.gloryworldseries.com for $20.