We spoke to KSW co-founder Martin Lewandowski ahead of his promotion’s marquee KSW 50 event, which takes place on Saturday 14 September in the SSE Arena, Wembley, London.
Please read yesterday’s interview feature with Lewandowski, chronicling the rise of KSW as they seek to make an even bigger dent in Europe’s MMA scene.
Leading European MMA promotion KSW rolls into London’s SSE Arena tomorrow night as they celebrate their 50th show in style.
KSW 50 features three championship bouts and a plethora of fun fights to whet the appetite of any fan of mixed martial arts.
KSW co-founder Martin Lewandowski said he always intended on bringing his promotion’s 50th event to London – their third visit to Wembley in the capital city – to celebrate reaching such a milestone, and the card is a real signal of intent of their ambitions to become a big player across the continent.
But what sets KSW apart from the rest of the pack? Lewandowski believes that because they put as much emphasis on the entertainment factor as they did the sport from the very start, KSW has rightly attracted fervent fanbase in their native Poland and beyond.
“The quality of our production really gives us an advantage and shows how different we are,” Lewandowski began. “From day one, we brought in the best fighters we could. We had a different financial situation 15 years ago, right now it’s at a totally different scale. But even then we would try and get the best Polish fighters and the best fighters from abroad.
“Goal number one was always to build entertainment around the sport. We never wanted fans to only watch the main and co-main events but not give a s**t about what’s going on from the first fight on the card until then.”
It’s not only the fights which matter to KSW, though. Lewandowski and fellow co-founder Maciej Kawulski have tirelessly worked on ways to create a whole package for fans to enjoy in attendance and at home. That’s how KSW managed to emerge from its humble beginnings of holding events in a sports bar at Warsaw’s Marriott Hotel to packing out the PGE Narodowy, Poland’s national stadium, with over 57,000 fans in the space of 13 years.
Now 15 years into the game, Lewandowski still emphasises the importance of continuing to find new ways to promote his roster’s fighters and keep KSW fans wanting more.
“The entrances, the glory after victory, music, lighting, multimedia… Everything matters,” Lewandowski said. “We always considered these things from the very beginning.
“I compare our MMA events to going to the cinema. When you go to watch a movie, you watch it from the first second until the credits at the end. The whole package counts so we always put in plenty of effort in making sure the everything entertains.
“Many of our events have their own theme. They have a unique concept – they are not just featuring two guys wearing rashguards and MMA shorts and that’s it. We present fighters in a different angle from other promotions. One event, fighters are presented as gladiators, in others they were gentlemen, punks. We just looked at finding a different approach for the public so they can see that this is like a kind of theatre. I see fighting as a theatre of emotions. I think that’s resonated with people and it’s become far beyond the sport itself.”
As for KSW 50, there is little Lewandowski isn’t excited about.
Staying true to his word, he couldn’t be more enthused about the fight card KSW has put together for their showpiece event celebrating the promotion’s golden anniversary.
Like a true theatre spectacle, the show is filled with entertaining fights, as well as some wholesome, interesting storylines to boot.
There’s the U.K’s heavyweight hero in Phil De Fries, who seeks to make his third defence of his KSW championship against Brazil’s Luis Henrique. In the co-main event, an all-Polish light heavyweight title clash between Tomasz Narkun and London-based The Ultimate Figher contestant Przemyslaw Mysiala is likely to be chaos enclosed in a cage.
That’s on top of an interim title bout between Northern Ireland’s Norman Parke and “The Polish Zombie” Marcin Wrzosek, as well as the chance to see surging star Roberto Soldic take on Michal Pietrzak on late notice in a catchweight bout following the injury of Patrik Kincl dashing the chances of a fourth championship bout.
And there’s plenty more to watch out for. Lewandowski kindly broke it all down for us.
“Honestly, there is not a single fight I would want to miss. Starting with the girls’ fight up to the main event,” Lewandowski began. “Of course, the emotion will rise as we progress through the show, but there are many fighters I’m looking forward to watching.
“I can’t wait to see Dricus Du Plessis make his comeback in a different weight division. Antoni Chmielewski will be competing in his 50th fight on our 50th show and he started his career with KSW so this is very unique. Damian Janikowski was an Olympic wrestler and has made huge progress before our eyes within a couple of years competing in MMA. We also have Norman Parke, who is really tough to beat and could always be in the fight of the night.
“Then there’s Roberto Soldic who is known as a small Cro Cop who has ridiculously hard hands. He really is something special,” Lewandowski added. “Soldic is one of these guys who can enter any country and people seem to instantly like him. With some fighters, you really have to work hard to build their names. Soldic just built himself.
“Tomasz Narkun, who beat Mamed Khalidov twice in his last two fights. In the main event, Phil De Fries and Luis Henrique are both two guys well known by KSW fans. People and journalists used to say De Fries was an easy fighter, and he has really shown how talented and tough he is the last couple of years with us in KSW.”
We can’t wait.
KSW 50 takes place on 14 September in the SSE Arena, Wembley, London.
Full KSW 50 London fight card:
KSW Heavyweight Title: Phil De Fries (c) (17-6) vs. Luis Henrique (12-5)
KSW Light Heavyweight Title: Tomasz Narkun (c) (16-3) vs. Przemyslaw Mysiala (23-9-1)
Interim KSW Lightweight Title: Norman Parke (27-6-1) vs. Marcin Wrzosek (14-5)
80kg Catchweight: Roberto Soldic (16-3) vs. Michal Pietrzak (8-3)
Middleweight: Damian Janikowski (3-2) vs. Tony Giles (6-1)
90kg Catchweight: Antoni Chmieleski (32-17) vs. Jason Radcliffe (15-7)
Middleweight: Dricus Du Plessis (12-2) vs. Joilton Santos (30-7)
Female Strawweight: Aleksandra Rola (2-0) vs. Catherine Costigan (6-2)