GLORY Sports International and its board of directors have announced on Tuesday morning (Aug. 19, 2014) that Sports-Entco founder and president, Jon J. Franklin, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the global kickboxing promotion. Franklin replaces Andrew Whitaker, who will remain with the promotion as a business consultant.
Franklin has been the president of the sports entertainment firm, Sports-Entco, since 2002. Prior to that, he was the vice president and managing director of IMG media for 15 years. The Denver-based sports executive has also served terms as president for Golden Gloves Marketing and American Presents Boxing.
He, along with his team, have worked with GLORY since GLORY 4: "Tokyo" -- the promotion's first U.S. televised show on CBS Sports -- in programming, television rights, sponsorships, and logistics. The Japan card took place on New Years Eve back in 2012, and it was held in conjunction with a DREAM MMA card. Franklin said he spent eight hours in the TV truck that day and they were the "fastest" of his career, calling GLORY 4 his first "indoctrination into all the things GLORY is and all the possibilities of what GLORY could be."
That night got him excited, and now he has gone from working with the promotion to working for the promotion. GLORY's newest CEO explained the changing of the guard.
"I think that the time had come for a little bit of a different approach and the goal was to take what we built from strength to strength and build it further," Franklin told MMAmania.com. "Scott Rudman (director), Pierre Andurand (chairman/majority shareholder) and a couple of the board members asked if I would be interested. I said 'absolutely.' Andrew is staying on to help do some consulting and help with some of the television stuff, so I think everything is super copacetic. I'm thrilled and honored to do this. It's such a great organization and I'm pleased to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to putting on some great fights, continuing the relationship with Spike and looking toward bigger and better."
There has been a significant lull in the action since GLORY 17: "Los Angeles" and "Last Man Standing" took place at the end of June, leaving fans and media wondering when and where the next fight card would be taking place. June 21st was an action-filled evening of fights that saw Artem Levin win the eight-man tournament to become middleweight champion, a gutsy and gritty performance by tournament runner up, Joe Schilling, Joe Valtellini lock up the welterweight strap after a five-round war with Marc de Bonte, and Rico Verhoeven edge Daniel Ghita by unanimous decision for the heavyweight title.
It was a historic night that left diehard kickboxing fans clamoring for more.
A new date and venue have not yet been chosen, but Franklin confirmed that GLORY would indeed be returning to action this coming fall and that the renewal clauses with their Spike TV contract have been exercised and Spike will be their television partner "ongoing" into 2015.
"We are going to be back in the end of October," revealed Franklin. "We are still sorting the television date and the location. We have talked with Spike and we are going to clear a date at the end of October to be back at it, that will be in the United States. And then the plan from there is to announce a few more dates in the next 12 months, going forward from there. We are very excited. We think Spike is a great partner and we look forward to a very long-term relationship with them."
"We have been through most of the big cities, and we might give the chance to some of the smaller cities, to see GLORY live. We have been to Madison Square Garden, we've been to Denver, we've been to a few different stops in L.A., so we might try to move it around a bit more so we can take the road show to our fans all over the country."
GLORY's last stop overseas was in Istanbul, Turkey, for GLORY 15, which saw Gokhan Saki win the light heavyweight title due to a nasty injury suffered by Tyrone Spong. Franklin did mention a couple of cities that have been bandied about for upcoming GLORY events that the kickboxing promotion has not yet traveled to.
"We have had some talks with people in Amsterdam about possibly doing an event there, which would be huge. We have an office there and for us, it would be a great location if we can work out all the regulatory issues," he said. "There has been talk of going to Paris, which has a great kickboxing tradition. We are an international property. We do have television all over the world, so it certainly would be great to get back to some of the markets live that get to see us on TV."
GLORY is currently available in over 170 countries worldwide. Yes, they did test the pay-per-view (PPV) waters with "Last Man Standing," but Franklin explained that there were "strategic reasons" for that. He also said the promotion will revisit that market "when the time is right," but the immediate future points toward their Spike return in October. Ratings for the seven shows that have aired on the network that features COPS, and Bar Rescue, have averaged around 500,000 viewers with peak viewership sometimes reaching into the 900,000 territory.
Franklin said the focus will be continuing "to build ratings in the U.S., distribute programming internationally and have a great following in both."
Americans have started to make some noise in the sport, which has long been dominated by European talent. Franklin helped produce the "Road to GLORY" shows in the U.S., which helped to develop and discover American talent.
Fighters like middleweights Joe Schilling, and Wayne Barrett, have stood out within the last year and showed they can compete with anyone in their weight class and earned the respect of their peers and GLORY's head of talent, Cor Hemmers.
So have GLORY 17 featherweight tournament runner up, Shane Oblonsky and lightweight Ky Hollenbeck.
Franklin has his finger on the pulse American sports and is well aware that popular athletes can transcend a sport and make fans gravitate to them rather quickly. He said there will continue to be a heavy emphasis on building up the American talent along with a heavy importance of growing GLORY's stateside popularity.
"I think in the modern world, GLORY is like Formula 1," he said. "We have a great following globally, so our effort has been and still will be, building the brand in the United States, which is the home of combat sports. We are looking towards being involved with more American stars and watching them compete on an international level. As we all know, when Americans achieve or dominate in a sport, the American public embraces that and follows it. So the goal has to be to transcend the fight aficionados and break into the main stream of American sports fans."
Franklin saw firsthand how well that night of combat sports went on the 2012 New Year's Eve in Japan with GLORY 4 and DREAM 18. With Bellator MMA being a part of the Spike programming family, the GLORY CEO sees no reason a GLORY/Bellator double dip couldn't be a possibility.
"Every option is open," said Franklin. "Scott Coker has said he would be open to anything. We would certainly listen to Spike as a partner on ideas on doing shows on the same night and having massive combat evenings. The door is open and all ideas and thoughts are on the table. That's pretty exciting because I think with Scott and with Spike, you have a team that is really open to anything to create incredible evenings and incredible packages."
When the end of October hits, it will be the longest drought between cards since the first two GLORY events in May and October of 2012. Franklin has been part of the GLORY team since right before GLORY 4 took place. Now he is in the driver's seat and ecstatic to take the promotion through the end of this year, into 2015 and beyond.
"We are reenergized and refocused on coming into October," he said. "Cor Hemmers is the best kickboxing matchmaker in the world and he is putting together some exciting cards. We will be back on Spike TV and continuing to build our product."