Exclusive Interview: GLORY’s Davit Kiria on Dreaming, Religion, his Signature Beard and More
By Jagoda Radojcic/FightSite.hr
Davit Kiria is probably the most famous Georgian in the world. Kiria faced Andy Ristie for the inaugural Glory Lightweight Championship at Glory 14 in Zagreb, Croatia on March 8, 2014.
Incredible fights and action define GLORY kickboxing, but even the most experienced observers were in awe by what they saw in the World Lightweight Championship fight between Kiria and Andy ‘The Machine’ Ristie. If this fight happened in a movie scene, people may have switched it off, thinking it was too unrealistic.
Kiria was dropped twice and was one knockdown away from having the fight waved off. He came back from that to knock Ristie out in the dying seconds of the round, a Davit vs. Goliath moment which is without a doubt one of the most epic moments a kickboxing ring has ever hosted.
Kiria gave a candid interview about a lot of things most people don’t know about him.
In Croatia where there is currently a tough economic situation and people are struggling, which is why your hard-fought match at Glory 14 reminded all us that we should never give up. Was your fight a strategy to wear down your opponent, or was it luck that it played out that way?
Before answering, I have to thank all my Croatian fans (for being) there. The fight… well it was like this - We had (a) fight plan to start in the 3rd round with more push and more explosive energy, and to win the last 3 rounds but, because of my second round, it was difficult to recover. As I said after the fight, Georgian people are a warrior people. All through our history we have had wars and battles, so we have a warrior spirit.
Also, the spirit of karate is that you must keep going until your dying breath…you can never give up. So I think what kept me going was my Georgian heart and my karate spirit.
I’ve heard many people saying that watching your fight at Glory was inspiring, and many of them compared it to a fight from one of the Rocky movies. How do you feel about that?
At Glory 14 that was held in Zagreb, Croatia, that fight is the story that I never will forget in my life, I will never forget how people reacted, all those emotions, how nice they spoke of me and how happy they were because of my victory. I am really happy that I could show a really good fight and my heart because I never give up and I’m going after my dream. I must say it’s nice to hear things like Rocky and (similar) kinds of compliments, it’s a nice feeling.
We all saw you were very emotional, what was going through your mind when you realized that you were actually lightweight champion?
Looking back, it’s difficult to say what I felt and thought, I really don’t remember many things happening around me but I really was ambitious and wanted to win. Imagine when you dream of something since you’re a 9 year old, and that dream comes true. It’s almost like winning a lottery, getting rich and having a Ferrari (laughs), all at once. It’s a dream you have to work hard for all your life, every day. I’m happy to say I have had my dream come true.
What led the way from Karate to the biggest kickboxing championship?
Well, you know, Karate and kickboxing are the same on a certain level, because it’s all about the fight and all about heart. They are both strong style combat sports.
I started training Karate at age 9. At age 10, I started competing in Karate tournaments with my Sensei Bachuki Partsvania. Two hundred karate matches later, I made the move to kickboxing and became part of Team Semmy Schilt, the 5 time heavyweight champion, and his trainer Dave Jonkers has been coaching me since 2007.
Can you tell us more about Ashihara Karate style? You stated that you will never give up on Karate?
Ashihara is full contact Karate, a strong fighting style, with strong kicks. I like it so much and I like my Karate gee, the respect displayed for one’s opponent, for one’s trainer and actually for everyone.
Your presence is also memorable by your thick beard. Is there a special reason for it?
I like so much my beard because it’s traditional for me, but also because of religious reasons, too. Georgian warriors always wore a beard when they were going to war. So I grow my beard when I prepare for a fight, because I have my war whenever I enter the ring.
Do you have a special good luck charm or something that you like to keep close, or do before the fight?
No, I don’t think so, I do pray a lot, I have next to me my icons where ever I go. And as I said, I dream a lot and work every day for those dreams to come true….
After the GLORY fight, you went back to Georgia and went to the Orthodox monastery at Zugdidi-tsaishi diocese. Did you seek spiritual guidance? What did the brother monks say about your victory?
Yes, I was invited to a monastery, but actually I also go often to other monasteries as well, whenever I come to Georgia. They are happy for me and they are grateful for (me) making my country proud. I feel really at peace there. They gave me some gifts too, so it was really nice.
Does your faith help you with challenges that you face as a professional fighter?
Of course, it helps me a lot. My dreams make more dreams, and my faith guides me to do good things, to be honest and help people when I can. That anything is possible, and every dream can come true, I really believe in that. My faith gives me strength.
You live in the Netherlands and we’ve seen you become really popular there. How was the welcoming after GLORY 14?
Oh, it was really nice coming back to the Netherlands, people are really nice and friendly and lot of them congratulated me on the street. I like living here. And in the gym where I work out every day, there are some great people, and there is this family atmosphere, I like that.
You’ve been based in the Netherlands for several years. Do you manage to travel to Georgia and spend quality time with your family because you’ve mentioned many times that you are very connected with your family?
Yes, of course I go often to Georgia. I like my country and I’m all the time in contact with my friends. When I’m in Georgia I always have lot of plans, lots of people to see, and I always have a great time. I am a patriot and I really love my country. That’s why I was so proud to have the Georgia flag on my shoulders after the fight at GLORY.
What do you miss most about Georgia when you’re not there?
Well, I miss some of the foods and my relationships with people. In Georgia, people in general are more -how do you describe it – sweeter and warmer. I do miss my family and friends but I am really often in Georgia. Where I come from in Georgia, everyone is very close. My street is like one big family (laughs). So when I go back, I must take the belt to each house on my street and let them see it and touch it, because they will feel like it is their belt also – we won the belt, not I won the belt.
What is next for you, how did you spend time right after the fight and did you had a chance to celebrate properly?
I had some plans, but had so little free time and I was really tired after the fight. I went to Georgia for three days. Unfortunately, one of my friends passed away, so I’ve asked not to participate in any events.
Hopefully, I’ll be on a little holiday in Georgia by the end of April, with my beautiful wife Marissa, since her birthday is approaching.
The fans are impressed by the fact that you are approachable, you respond to people on Facebook and email. Will you keep it that way?
Of course I will, I mean they support me, I hear them shouting my name when I enter the ring. My fans are there for me, and I want to be there for them as much as I can. I will always answer the fans and give them the attention they deserve.