Duke Roufus Confident in Continued Growth of Kickboxing, But “We’ve Got To Get Our Rules Straight”
By Kelsey Mowatt
For several years now, fans and observers of MMA have enjoyed a golden age of sorts for the sport, as it continued to grow and reach unprecedented levels of exposure through mainstream platforms like network television. While some would argue that MMA stumbled somewhat in 2012, in a hectic year that was marred by high profile injuries, few would argue that the sport appears to have established itself in the mainstream sporting culture.
Interestingly enough, and likely not by coincidence, kickboxing seems to be undergoing a revival throughout North America and abroad. It wasn’t long ago, of course, that the sport’s future looked grim due to the bankruptcy of FEG and the expected demise of the world’s biggest kickboxing brand, K-1. Not only did K-1 manage to find new investors, however, but due to the growth of emerging powerhouse Glory Sports International and upstart promotions like Lion Fight, kickboxing appears to be on the rise.
“I think we’re definitely going to see kickboxing grow,” decorated kickboxer and renowned striking coach Duke Roufus said recently while appearing on Full Contact Fighter Radio. “At the end of the day, right now in North America the sport is MMA, but they are putting some good prize money out there.”
It’s a remarkable development for MMA, in that, thanks to its continued growth, more and more people are coming to sports like kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, rather than vice versa.
“I’m actually hosting the Road to Glory kickboxing tournament in Wisconsin for Glory World Series, and again, I don’t think kickboxing is going to overtake the UFC, but the beauty of it is that umbrella that the UFC has created for all of these sports,” Roufus stated. “It’s incredible. I love it. There’s more fans out there for everything. It’s because of the growth of our industry.”
While more people than ever are watching and training in MMA, and as a result, their interest in key components of the sport like kickboxing may be heightened, the fact remains that the combat sports marketplace remains a crowded one.
“My biggest advice is that it’s not trying to get the biggest and best talent, it’s getting kickboxing going again everywhere,” Roufus noted. “It’s not just about Glory. Here’s the thing: there is no minor league for the UFC…every show wants to be the UFC, so they are the minor leagues. MMA has it’s own big minor league.”
This is why organizations like Glory have put together the aforementioned Road to Glory series, which serves as a way to drum up interest in professional kickboxing throughout North America, and serve as a scouting event for striking talent. For example, Mike Lemaire won $20,000 at a recent Road to Glory middleweight tourney in Los Angeles, California, and UFC veteran Dustin Jacoby won a light-heavyweight Road to Glory competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma earlier this month.
While the kickboxing schedule seems to be picking up, giving more fighters opportunities to compete and earn money, Roufus sees another key issue that needs to be addressed.
“One of the problems with kickboxing is we’ve got to get our rules straight,” Roufus noted. “When you watch MMA, there’s only one show on the planet that’s different and that’s the ONE FC. Other than that everyone uses the unified rules of MMA. Problem is, is it Muay Thai, is it Shootboxing, is it K-1, is it Glory rules?”
“I think they need to come up with, maybe this is going to be kickboxing, the unified rules of kickboxing,” Roufus furthered about the various rules sets, which can vary in terms of whether certains strikes like elbows are allowed. “Like they’re doing with Glory.”