GLORY CEO Marcus Laur Discusses the Japanese Market and War with K-1
While MMA fans anticipated the upcoming battle between Bellator and the UFC, a war was being waged in the kickboxing world between the Hong Kong-based K-1 and GLORY, which is based out of Singapore.
K-1 was the former king, but a series of bad business decisions, including failing to pay its talent on multiple occasions, left it with a terrible reputation, which the new ownership struggled to shake. This year was set to mark the resurgence of K-1 when it agreed to co-promote with It's Showtime.
However, at the 11th hour, that deal fell apart and It's Showtime agreed to a buyout with Golden Glory's promotion United Glory. GLORY had an influx of capital thanks to Pierre Andurand, the French hedge fund manager.
The first decision made in this new partnership was a scorched-earth campaign to distance themselves from K-1, claiming failure to fulfill contract agreements as well as failing to pay talent for their one and only co-promoted event.
The decision split the kickboxing world, as many pundits felt that the constant negative press releases were unnecessary, as GLORY clearly possessed the better overall pool of talent.
"It was clear when we started that there was a battle for superiority, if you want to call it that. We were both trying to get out of the gates and there was a certain battle over talent; there was a battle over everything," Laur told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview.
"There was energy wasted for sure. We won the battle because we have the talent. We're building the business exactly the way we wanted it. We use the name K-1 more freely now because we are referring to the old K-1. It's about what they've done in the past, which we all agreed was great. But that's not the current organization."
Among other recent business decisions, GLORY decided to try and revitalize not only the Japanese kickboxing market but also its MMA market with its purchase of the DREAM brand. The decision was a bit of a head-scratcher, as Japan has been viewed as a bit of a non-entity in recent years.
Organizations with history such as Shooto struggled to retain a foothold in a market that is very fad based. Even puroresu (Japan's version of professional wrestling) saw a decline in popularity. So when GLORY announced that it planned on holding multiple events in 2013 in Japan, I was left scratching my head.
"I think there's a couple of things to it and I'll give you that answer and then some more after that. First of all, we believe that in the martial arts world, Japan has a tradition. Many of the biggest organizations come out of that part of the world such as PRIDE and K-1. There is a history there which we love and want to reinvigorate.
"So Japan is an important piece of that puzzle for us. We're coming in to develop GLORY as a brand to be seen as the new K-1 in Japan. Adding DREAM now on top of it, it just gives us so much more firepower in the marketplace.
"That's important and why we did it. It's why we're recreating the December 31st event there, which used to be the big DYNAMITE!! show. If you look at our show, it's not far off from what DYNAMITE!! used to be. Everything is catered toward that market because it was such a huge market at its peak."
The New Year's Eve card is a showcase for not only the best MMA talent available, but also to recapture the magic of those K-1 World Grand Prix events that became a tradition in the sport of kickboxing. GLORY has opted to change the format just a bit to have 16 of the best kickboxers compete in a single night.
It's a huge undertaking and from the outside, a bit intimidating. A one-night, 16-man tournament is absolutely insane on paper, but when Laur broke down the format, it made a ton of sense.
"If you look at what K-1 always did, they had a Final 16 tournament. And then those winners would fight two months later in the Final 8. We felt that we could do that again, which is what people are used to, but then we looked at it and thought we could do it all in one night.
"We thought it would be more exciting and a big opportunity for someone to win a tournament from start to finish in one night. A finalist wouldn't spend any more time in the ring as he would in an eight-man tournament. So what we've done is we've shrunk down the time.
"In the Round of 16 and the quarterfinal, the rounds are only two minutes long instead of three minutes. The only thing we've added is the best-of-three format where if you win the first two rounds in the bout, you advance to the next stage automatically. You don't have the fight the third round. After that, we go back to the three-round, three-minute format."
The event kicks off with the DREAM 18 card, featuring eight MMA fights starting at 2:00 a.m. ET. GLORY 4, the 16-man kickboxing tournament, starts immediately afterward at 6:00 a.m. ET/3:00 a.m. PT in North America. Yours truly will be providing live play-by-play and commentary.
You can watch the whole card go down here.
Matthew Roth is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes attained firsthand.
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