Here at Fight Sport Asia we take our jobs pretty seriously. We don’t report on rumors without evidence, nor do we publish articles on upcoming cards if there has been no movement from the promoters to release fight posters or directly advertise match-ups through social media.
That being said, it’s not uncommon for any news outlet to publish a story if they’ve received a direct email from the promoter or an official fight card/poster has been released by the host organization. Sounds reasonable right? Well…maybe not so much.
Not long ago, FSA reported on an absolutely gigantic WBC card slated for September of this year. The card was set to feature such names as Kem, Yodsanklai, Sitthichai, Saenchai, Rafael Llodra, Kamal Jemel, Karim Bennoui, and more. While the event organizer and several fighters on the card confirmed the match-ups were a go, we’ve heard quite the opposite from other places around the net.
Saenchai denies that he is a part of the event, as do Kem and Sitthichai. Yodsanklai’s team informed us that they were only contacted about the show less than two weeks ago (Almost half a month after the “official” card was released) and have since denied participation due to monetary reasons.
As Muay Thai, MMA, and Kickboxing begin to feature more prominently on the ladder of global sports, fans and journalists are coming to expect a certain degree of professionalism from international promotions. With Lion Fight premiering on AXS TV in the United States and GLORY set to make it’s Spike debut in 2014, it’s not a stretch to say the sport has come leaps and bounds in the last ten years.
However, what hasn’t changed much is the industry’s seemingly unfathomable policy to announce fights, release posters, and contact media about events that might not even happen. Confused? How about an example.
Earlier this year, GLORY announced a 65kg tournament set for Japan that would feature some of the best 145 pound talent in the world. Included in that list was American Muay Thai stand-out Kevin Ross. This was exciting for a good number of people, especially Americans that were anxious to see how the U.S. would perform on the International Kickboxing Stage. Except there was just one problem. When the card was released, Ross had no idea he was on it.
Not only was Ross unaware he was on the card, but he had actually already been signed to a fight against the U.K.’s Bernie Mendietta on Lion Fight 9. GLORY quietly took his name off the event once they found out and replaced him with Canadian Gabriel Varga.
Everyone makes mistakes though. How could GLORY have known Ross wouldn’t have been available to fight in Japan (You know, besides actually asking him)? Is it really so bad that a company messes up a card now and then?
Let’s rewind to GLORY 5 London. The U.K.’s Steve Wakeling was set to face Canada’s Simon Marcus in one of the most anticipated bouts of the night. GLORY was selling this fight as an exciting battle for 80kg dominance, when all off a sudden, we in the media heard that Artem Levin vs. Simon Marcus had been booked for Lion Fight less than a week before. Turns out yet again GLORY had no idea Marcus had already committed elsewhere, and GLORY was forced to put American Eddie Walker on in Simon’s place.
On that very same event, GLORY prematurely promoted Karate fighter Raymond Daniels’ first appearance in the kickboxing ring. Daniels was listed on every promotional piece nearly two weeks before the fights actually occurred. In the end he was scheduled to face Dustin Jacoby at 95kg, but was eventually removed from the card altogether and Jacoby squared off against Michael Duut.
If this doesn’t sound unusual to you, it should.
Consider the UFC: Before any fight is ever officially announced for any event, both fighters MUST sign a contract. The only way they are able to legally remove themselves from that contract is through injury. When the UFC announces a fight, unless a freak accident occurs, it’s happening. No one will pull out because they feel like it, no one will take an offer in another promotion, and no one will see their face on a poster and wonder why it’s there.
A few months ago, Thai Fight announced a match-up between American Malik Watson and 70kg sensation Yodsanklai Fairtex. The match was reported on by a number of combat sports websites, including Fight Sport Asia, Comba-Asia, and others. A few weeks out, Yodsanklai’s opponent changed and Malik went to face Buakaw in an exhibition match on MAX Muay Thai. However, after the event was completed, FSA was contacted by Yodsanklai’s PR Team and informed us that the Thai sensation never planned to face Watson at all.
Even contracts are often useless in kickfighting. Once revered organization K-1 regularly puts its fighters under the pen. However, they have so little ability to financially enforce these contracts, and they are broken so often and so freely, that many fighters legally signed to K-1 are fighting wherever and whenever they please.
The culture of top level promotions in Kickboxing and Muay Thai has to change. These organizations will only attain the level of professional status we all want them to if they begin conducting themselves like an actual business. Following the examples of the UFC, Bellator, and ONE FC are great ways to insure there aren’t any more embarrassing incidents for the promoters, fighters, and journalists. Until that time comes though, all we can do is go on what we’re given, ask who we can, and hope for the best.