Glory kickboxing has hit the ground running in the first year and change of its existence. After hosting a solid night of fights in New York with the Glory 9 card, the promotion has three more fight cards heading your way, starting with next month's Glory 10 in Los Angeles, featuring Sergei Kharitonov vs. Jerome Le Banner.
After that, Glory 11 will take the promotion to Chicago for the debut on Spike TV, featuring a one-night heavyweight tournament as well as a light heavyweight main event between Tyrone Spong and Nathan Corbet. Following that card will be a return trip to New York for Glory 12 that will see featherweight Giorgio Petroysan return to action.
"We really do believe that this is the next big thing," said Glory Chief Executive Andrew Whitaker to MMAmania.com. "We want people to -- whether it's at the event, or on TV -- just watch it, and I'm sure they will come to agree with us."
Combat sports fans will certainly tune in, but can Glory garner the attention of the casual fan? That is its biggest challenge.
With no grappling to slow down the stand-up action, the chances for knockout finishes greatly increases. That can be quite alluring to the male 18-35 demographic the promotion covets. At Glory 9 for example, there were eight total knockouts on the fight card.
Of course, having top-tier talent is a must in any promotion to succeed, and the lion's share of the world's kickboxing elite reside under the Glory banner.
"As far as kickboxing is concerned, the best kickboxers in the world fight for Glory, period," Whitaker stated. "And certainly the top kickboxers who fight in MMA, they know that Glory is the place to go for kickboxing when they return to it. There really isn't any other promotion out there now in kickboxing other than Glory. Glory is certainly the name, we are happy to say, to remember now."
While the hardcore fight fan will undoubtedly tune in to watch some heavyweight action, it is also something a fan of the casual variety can wrap their head around. So it comes as no surprise that when Glory makes its debut on Spike TV in October in the "Windy City," it will showcase four fighters in the upper echelon of the most exciting division in the sport, and among the four tournament contestants there is a staggering number of 87 combined knockouts between them.
Whitaker said the plan was to come heavy.
"No doubt about it. You've got Gokhan Saki, Rico Verhoeven, Daniel Ghita, Anderson Silva... Those are very strong names, to put it mildly," he said. "Going on in primetime on a national cable net on a Saturday night, you need to lead with top-caliber talent and that is, by any standards, top-caliber talent."
Another attractive facet of Glory -- which cannot occur in MMA -- is the prevalence of the one-night tournament. That is "what differentiates Glory," Whitaker said. Each fight card features a same-night bracket battle involving a different weight class. The middleweight division is on deck for Glory 10 in Los Angeles, Whitaker added. "It's really the gauntlet the top Glory guys have to go through to be legitimately crowned."
Reserve bouts will be held on each card, in the event of an injury or a fighter not being able to continue to the next round after advancing.
"Being a Glory kickboxer is not something for an athlete that is faint of heart," Whitaker warned. "Like any other sport, injuries happen and we need to be prepared and they need to prepare for that eventuality."
Something else that Glory has been carefully constructing is the development of new kickboxing talent within North America to ingratiate into the mostly foreign and European roster. The promotion has put on several "Road to Glory" tournaments to uncover young talent in the U.S.
"Road to Glory is a brand name that we have started to develop," Whitaker explains. "We look to see that develop -- in exactly what form that will take as it relates to possible television programming or anything else -- that is yet to be announced," he continued. "I can say from our talent operations group, that they are very encouraged with some of the young athletes they've started to work on developing. I think we are going to uncover lots of North American talent. I think that we already have."
Being a former WWE executive, Whitaker knows where his strengths lie, and has the confidence he can do with Glory what he has done before.
"I think if you separate the fact that I can spend the next 20 years studying up on my kickboxing, I'm never going to know as much as Cor Hemmers or quite a few other people in the company," Whitaker admits. "The reality is what I bring to the table, what I can bring to the table and I am bringing to the table is to look at the emerging super league as a business."
He elaborated on the immediate plans:
"Starting in September we will be increasing the amount of television programming we will produce. Multi-faceted, multi-platform, integrated approach to building out the property, and that includes shoulder programming, it includes promotional magazine television programming, it includes reality TV programming, it includes highlight programming... All the support necessary to platform expose the brand to the largest audience as possible and people are consuming the content -- probably a bit over said -- in a myriad of different ways."
May one of the ways, be similar to the route Bellator chose by cross-promoting with TNA Wrestling?
"At risk of getting too specific about it, I think in general we are looking to be the collaborative partner Spike expects us to be," Whitaker said. "Certainly they have bought the programming from us because they like what they see and they like the television production and what we bring to the table," he continued.
"Primarily that is what they wanted us to deliver. That's not to say that we would not be collaborative or cooperative where appropriate with any of their programming. Spike carries a lot of programming and TNA certainly does strong ratings and has done so for a good number of years and certainly that is a product I'm quite familiar with, that being sort of the other entity in that particular space with my former employer. I'll leave it at that really. I wouldn't want to get any more specific about any specific future plans that relates to any more detail on cross promotion."
Before any of those other things happen, Whitaker is steadfast that "Everything starts with the athletes," and "ultimately, putting on the best fights in the world with the best athletes in the world is going to start to do what we need to do, to make all those other things successful."
In addition to Glory 11, 12 and 13, "there will be 12 events in 2014," Whitaker said.
All the more chance to create a buzz and get fans new and old to watch and people talking, and spreading the word about Glory Kickboxing.
"The job -- in a large degree on fight night -- will be done when these super-athletes come into the ring," Whitaker said. "Really what we want to see is every guy watching is out there tweeting and texting and calling his friends and saying ‘Are you watching this?' If we are able to do that -- which we will be able to do -- that is what we are looking to achieve."