Kickboxing fans received the news that K-1 had been bought out by a new investor with rapturous joy earlier this year, as it was accompanied by reports that the event would be brought back to the peaks of its former glory.
But those expectations might prove to have been unfounded, or at least short-lived. Because the new owners of K-1, headed by Korean businessman Mr Kim, apparently do not have the kind of financial resources at their disposal that they were initially thought to.
Fighters Only has learned from several sources that the new owners, operating as K-1 Global, have been contacting big name fighters and making underwhelming offers to them. Some of these fighters are owed money from the old K-1 owners and want this to be paid before they resume fighting, but this is apparently not an option.
Instead they are being offered a percentage of the money they are owed, which some are willing to accept but others are not. But universally, the sources Fighters Only spoke with said the fighters are refusing a particular term that K-1 Global is trying to get them to agree to - deferred payment of purses, just like the old K-1.
Fighters are being offered contracts which contain a term to the effect that purses do not have to paid immediately after the bout, but can have to be paid by the end of the month in which that fight took place, or at the end of a several-week period after the fight.
As this reflects the practices of the old K-1, which lead to fighters effectively competing for free after purses got deferred repeatedly and then didn’t get paid at all, there is widespread cynicism about the financial resources of the new K-1 owners and their ability to meet the obligations they have made such a big issue of taking on.
K-1 Global has made a partnership deal with Its Showtime, the Dutch outfit, to co-promote future ventures under the K-1 brand name - the only problem is that both Japan and Holland are effectively closed to them.
K-1 has built up as much bad blood with Japanese television networks and media reporters as it has with its former fighters, while Its Showtime is being harangued by Dutch police and politicians under laws relating to organised crime.
One source told us that K-1 is “finished” in Japan because it repeatedly lied to Japanese media about payments to its fighters. Bob Sapp was the first to break silence about K-1 not paying him several years ago and while K-1 was able to discredit him, they were stuck once Peter Aerts and Jerome Le Banner added their voices. When Japanese fighters then piped up, K-1 was left looking extremely embarrassed.
It had also burned its bridges with TV networks and sponsors, who wanted to know why the money they had been paying to K-1 had not gone into paying fighters. As they looked bad by association they have now withdrawn from contact with K-1 and, as Japan is a nation where loss of face is a serious issue, they are unlikely to risk further association.
New markets are key to the K-1 Global operation then, and the US has already been announced as a port of call for 2012. But it seems likely that an additional partner will be required to finance some or all of the US venture. K-1 Global also has to secure some star names - Peter Aerts turned down their offer earlier this month due to concerns about their finances and if he is not on board, that might prompt other fighters to turn their backs as well.
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