Glory, Glory: The rise of kickboxing

Randa Markos shows off her slick BJJ skills with a submission win

Harry Kettle Harry Kettle

Mixed martial arts is a crazy sport even at the best of times, and we’ve seen evidence of that across a multitude of different platforms over the years. The combination of so many skill sets is always going to make for both terrifying and exhilarating viewing in equal measure, which is why so many fans gravitate towards it. Alas, every single practice and art form needs to be respected inside that cage, otherwise, the fighters themselves run the risk of underestimating their opposition.

One such practice that we personally don’t feel gets enough attention, at least from the wider spectrum of fans and media members, is kickboxing. Some of the deadliest strikers in the history of the game began their journey through kickboxing, and while the sport of MMA may have surpassed KB a long time ago, promotions like GLORY are fighting tooth and nail to ensure that kickboxing remains in the public eye for a long, long time to come.

GLORY came to be back in 2012, and over the course of the last six years, it has developed into something much bigger than just a side project that features on UFC Fight Pass. They’ve been able to churn out stars from the top of the card to the very bottom, and that’s difficult to do in a sport that many have described as ‘niché’.

We were lucky enough to take in a GLORY event in Amsterdam just a few weeks ago, and from the first fight until the main event, it felt like we were truly witnessing a spectacle. That’s not often something that you see at an event of this magnitude, which played host to more than 10,000 fans inside the Johan Cruyff Arena – which is a figure that properly estimates the scale of this sport not only in the Netherlands, but around the world.

They worked extremely hard to make every single second of that broadcast feel important, and it resonated through the fighters. It was as if we were witnessing the WrestleMania of all kickboxing events, with the likes of Jamal Ben Saddik and Murthel Groenhart putting in performances that you just knew people would be talking about the next morning.

Alas, everyone always knew that all eyes were going to be on Rico Verhoeven by the end of the night, and if we were going to try and compare the scenarios then we’d argue that it resembled a Wladimir Klitschko fight. The lights, the music, the crowd and the production all made for quite the scene, with the crowd themselves being arguably the most intriguing aspect of it all.

Their observance of the event was so mesmerising, to the point where you could’ve heard a pin drop in the arena at any given time. The respect they were showing, that was reciprocated by Rico at the conclusion of the fight, is something you rarely see at this level of combat sports.

In the end, Rico walked out with the same Heavyweight Championship that he walked in with, but we’d like to think that GLORY walked out with much more than just a series of strong fights and a big crowd. We’d like to think a spotlight came down on them, and when it mattered the most, they delivered a night of action that proved why kickboxing is here to stay.