GLORY is finally back.
The world's leading kickboxing promotion announced its upcoming fight card on Tuesday (Sept. 30, 2014) aptly titled, GLORY 18: "Return to GLORY" (see it here). The event will take place on Friday, Nov. 7 from the Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
Lightweight champion Davit Kiria will defend his title against Robin van Roosmalen in the main event, which will be the third time those two will meet in the ring. The No. 2-ranked American middleweight talent, Wayne Barrett, will take on Jason Wilnis in the night's co-main event. The fight card will also feature a light heavyweight contender tournament with Zak Mwekessa taking on Brian Collette and Saulo Cavalari facing Artem Vahkitov, with the winner getting a shot in a future title tournament.
"It took us a little longer than I had anticipated, to put everything together," said Franklin, on the announcement of GLORY's first fight card since June, his first as CEO. "We actually had other opportunities from different groups trying to do business with us, so we finally had to come together with the best plan. We were hoping for October, but now it is November."
In 2014 alone, GLORY has been to Croatia, Turkey, Denver, and Los Angeles. The GLORY CEO said they've been looking at different cities and states in the U.S. to take the promotion and Oklahoma was one they've been targeting.
"We are going to try and take GLORY around the country a bit and we have to find some places where
we knew we would have a good audience and a good following," Franklin said. "We have been to Oklahoma twice actually with our ‘Road to GLORY' events and sold both of them out. Oklahoma has been high on our list as a place where people like to come and watch GLORY. If you recall, Dustin Jacoby drove to Oklahoma and won that event. We've had great fights there and we thought it would be a great place to go back to. There will be some great fights. All these guys are knockout guys and fight their hearts out. While the arena is smaller than the LA Forum, the fights will not be. The quality of the fights should be top notch as they always are in GLORY. That's one thing that will never change."
Nov. 7 falls on a Friday and that will now be the new day of the week that GLORY hosts its events. They had previously held all of their events on Saturday, which can sometimes and now more often than not, be cluttered with competition from other promotions and combat sports entities holding events on the same night.
"I think ratings will be better on Friday," he said. "Bellator has done some stuff on Fridays. Saturdays we've had a couple of times when we were up against some heavy combat properties. We were up against a Mayweather fight one time. You are always going to have events. There is always something happening on every night of the week. You can't avoid everything. I think we hold our own against a lot of other combat properties, but still you want your fans to see as much of your promotion as they can. You don't want them to have to make a choice between you and something else."
Now that they are going to host events on Friday nights there have been more discussions with Bellator about doing co-events and showcasing both promotions in one evening. Whether that happens or not, both will help promote the other since they are both featured on Spike TV.
"We are still talking about doing that," Franklin said. "Whether we go first or they go first or we mix it up and do it in the same place it's all up for discussion. We want to be in prime time. They want to be in prime time. We will take a Friday and they will take a Friday coming up as we go through into 2014. We will finish up the year with Nov. 7 and then one or two other dates we will alternate with Bellator. In 2015 we will work with those guys because we are on Spike, that we alternate and help promote one another. On Oct. 24 Bellator will be talking about our show on Nov. 7 and likewise we will do the same on the seventh for their next show. We are all part of the Spike family and we want to help drive ratings for each other."
GLORY 18 will be the promotion's fourth event in 2014, fifth if you count GLORY 17 and "Last Man Standing" as two separate events. They are all systems go and looking to double that number in 2015 and despite the long delay from GLORY 17 until now, will also try to squeeze at least one more night of fights out of the end of this year.
"As I told you last time we chatted we've got our contract with Spike all the way though 2015," Franklin said. "We would love to get one or two more events in before the end of the year. We are looking to pull one of in the middle of December. If the stars align we may get one of at the end of November as well. The goal would be one or two in 2014 and then go with a full calendar in 2015. Now that we have the business put to bed I think we should be able to do that, 10 or 11 shows in 2015. Certainly Nov. 7 and one or two more in 2014."
The GLORY Superfight Series, which is the prelim portion of the fight cards not shown on Spike and sold abroad to around 30 countries via tape delay "will continue," Franklin said. GLORY is looking to expand upon those fights and also some of their countdown and rewind content as well.
"We are developing a lot of content around GLORY to help keep it on television and keep it in front of everyone's eyes for the whole year, not just the live events," he said. "A whole slew, and plethora of products to keep GLORY in the forefront."
While GLORY 18 will feature a light heavyweight tournament, the current champion of the division, Gokhan Saki, is currently not under contract. Saki last fought at GLORY 15 in Istanbul in the now infamous tournament final where after checking a kick, his opponent Tyrone Spong suffered a gruesome leg injury.
"We will see. That is to be decided in the future," said Franklin on Saki's status. "He is a great champion and certainly in Turkey he is the man of the hour. He has done great for us in our fights in Istanbul. Obviously he is also recognized in America and abroad. We are always open to any fighters joining us. We don't have a beef with Saki. We don't have a beef with Spong (also not under contract). We want to get them back out there in GLORY when we can. We always have a dialogue with Saki. I don't know if Cor (Hemmers, head of talent relations) has talked with Spong in awhile but I know there has definitely been dialogue with Saki, but I don't know where it is headed."
Franklin had some interesting things to say about both fighters as far as popularity is concerned and if more people tune in to watch GLORY when they are on the card or not. By the numbers on Spike, as far as foreign stars go, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has fought twice and both of his cards were some of the highest-rated cards out of the seven on the network.
For Spong and Saki, not so much.
"One of the things that is interesting is if you look at our TV ratings when those guys are fighting, it doesn't really change the ratings at all. All the guys and all the fights have been so good that we don't really peak with any particular fighter just yet. We are looking forward to the day when guys like Wayne Barret and Brian Collette really drive viewership, but right now when some of the foreign fighters come in, it doesn't move the ratings here on Spike. That's one of the reasons why we love having the Americans and building an audience in America."
"Of course when we go to these places like Zagreb, Cro Cop is a huge star. When we go to Istanbul, Saki is the man of the day. I think one of the good things about GLORY is that we have the best of all worlds. We have these great Europeans to drive business and bring fights abroad and we have a host of upcoming Americans that are fighting their way to the top of the kickboxing game. It's really good from all angles globally. We are a global league and we have global fighters driving business all around the world."
Time will tell what happens with Saki and Spong and it would undoubtedly be a big blow to lose either fighter. For now though, the focus is on GLORY 18: "Return to Glory" and getting the promotion back on Spike and in front of kickboxing fans in the U.S. and overseas.
"No one is looking forward to it more than our team at GLORY," said Franklin. "It's tough when you are off for a few months, but it's been a good couple of months to put things to bed and get set up from a business standpoint to be able to move forward in a good way."