Kickboxing fans around the world welcomed last week news that GLORY 18: RETURN TO GLORY will take place on Friday, November 7 in Oklahoma, USA. The headline fight sees lightweight champion Davit Kiria defends his belt for the first time, facing long-time rival Robin van Roosmalen.
Things had been quiet on the GLORY front since the double-header GLORY 17/LAST MAN STANDING event, which took place in mid-June. Last month the company shook it’s top echelon up, with experienced sports industry operator Jon Franklin coming in as the new CEO.
Franklin had been involved in GLORY’s logistical side since GLORY 4 TOKYO on New Year’s Eve 2012, so came into his new role with a good understanding of how the nuts and bolts of the operation were put together.
In that time he also formed ideas about what was and wasn’t working for GLORY. Now that he is in the CEO seat he is able to implement those ideas and his influence is already becoming apparent.
From GLORY 18 the show will shift to a Friday night slot on SPIKE, which among other things will address GLORY’s issue of seeming to go head-to-head with major boxing pay-per-views on a regular basis.
“It’s a better night for USA television viewing and it allows our audience to not have to choose between GLORY and some of the other big combat sport events in the USA,” says Franklin tells Bloody Elbow.
“Friday nights should allow more people to see GLORY and fits with Spike's plan for combat sports events on Fridays.
“We’re going to alternate some Fridays on SPIKE with Bellator MMA as well. Overall it gives fans more of an opportunity to see everything and it’s a positive move.”
November’s Oklahoma location has caught a few people by surprise, given that the organization had previously concentrated on major population centers such as Los Angeles and New York.
But it’s a shrewd piece of positioning - there are a lot of fight sport fans outside expensive locations such as LA, but they don’t often get the chance to attend a high-profile live event.
“As planned, we have been to some of the biggest cities in the US and now we are taking GLORY on the road, sort of taking it on tour around America,” explains Franklin.
“There’s a great martial arts community in Oklahoma. Our local promoter partner Dale Cook is a former kickboxing world champion local hero Randy 'Boom Boom' Blake, a GLORY veteran, is also on the November card.”
Plans are also in place for events beyond GLORY 18, this year and for 2015. Franklin says that details will be released in the coming weeks.
“The plan is one or two more events in 2014 and then a full schedule in 2015. We’re looking at ten or eleven events. I can say that January will be a month off, we won’t be doing a live event in that month,” he says.
“I’m working on confirming a forward schedule as we speak. GLORY had a few months to get the house in order but we’re coming back leaner and meaner to finish 2014 and go strong into 2015.”
Another change already implemented in Franklin’s short tenure concerns how the world titles will change hands. Previously a champion’s belt would go on the line both in straight title fights and also in tournaments the champion competed in.
That has now been scrapped; a champion will only defend his belt in a straight five-round title fight. Contenders will emerge via climbing the rankings or by winning a Contender Tournament.
“We are concentrating on our best fighters and our best fights going forward. Title fights are a big deal and we want them to have the top billing they deserve, rather than see a belt lost in an early tournament stage,” he says.
“The Contender Tournaments will continue because they are a huge hit with fans and they produce a clear-cut title challenger who will go forward to take his shot at the world title belt on a future event.”
During the interview, Franklin repeatedly reminds me that “there is a lot of work to be done” and “the work is an ongoing process”. But after their recent hiatus, the organization certainly seems to be clicking back into gear.
GLORY 18 is just five weeks away but in the meantime GLORY and SPIKE TV have collaborated on a one-hour highlight show. GLORY: TOP 20 KNOCKOUTS will air at 11pm ET on October 24th.
“That is going to be a pretty spectacular, explosive hour of television,” says Franklin. “These knockouts feature some of kickboxing’s biggest names and hardest hitters - Tyrone Spong, Joe Schilling, Errol Zimmerman - and it’s the perfect thing to whet appetites ahead of our live event in November.”