KSW go big, make history this weekend

Polish promotional outfit KSW will make history at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw this Saturday (May 27) when they host Poland’s first MMA show in a stadium and the biggest MMA show to ever take place in Europe.

The stadium, home to the Polish national football team, has a capacity of 65,000 and KSW founder Martin Lewandowski expects a fair number of those seats to be filled come Saturday night.

“We reached 45,000 and the selling is still going very well,” he told Fighters Only three weeks ago. “The statistics say we will probably reach 55,000 by the time of the event. The capacity of the venue is more than 65,000, but, because of all the things we need to put in place, we can probably only reach around 60,000. This is the maximum if we’re being realistic. If we can go to 55,000, that would be just brilliant. Right now it’s already brilliant because we have broken all the European records. I have reason to smile.”

Rather than a money-making venture, Lewandowski, when discussing KSW 39: Colosseum, sounds like a man about to complete a passion project, something he has dreamed of doing for a number of years but never believed possible. It is, he says, his most ambitious event to date, one that comprises five KSW title fights on one bill (heavyweight, light-heavyweight, lightweight, featherweight and women’s flyweight), as well as a champion vs. champion match between Mamed Khalidov and Borys Mańkowski. A celebration of Polish MMA, Lewandowski and KSW have gone big with a view to making a splash.

“I’ve been thinking about it for maybe the last two years,” he said. “When I started KSW there was no such place. But, in December 2016, I decided to take that risk. Our major stars are reaching retirement age, so they are kind of at the end of their career. I decided to take that risk, and just go for it.

“I’m only worried if everybody gets injured. I have no influence over that. There are five titles shots which could easily be spread over five normal-sized shows.”

Mariusz Pudzianowski, one of the men not featuring in a title fight at KSW 39, turned forty this year but remains a a huge presence and, indeed, huge name in his native Poland. A five-time ‘World’s Strongest Man’, Pudzianowski has never been pushed as a title hope, but that, in truth, has never been his selling point. He caters for a different audience. A wider audience. The man with the muscles, Pudzianowski represents the spectacle element and has been used, time and time again, to pique the curiosity of the Polish public and drive them towards MMA.

Saturday night will be no different. What’s more, so grand is the occasion, so large is the stadium, Lewandowski decided to set ticket prices with a view to enticing as many fans – of Pudzianowski or of Khalidov, casual or hardcore – as possible.

“The pricing strategy needed to be adjusted for the Polish market,” he said. “That’s one thing maybe the UFC is missing. Or maybe they do it purposely and that’s why they are not doing many shows outside the US. They might think it’s pointless to go there and have cheaper tickets. I know, for example, when they did the historical first show in New York and you had Polish fighters, Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, on the card, there were not many Polish people there because of the ticket prices. They were just too expensive. The average was six-hundred dollars or something like that. Here in Poland, we need to adjust the pricing strategy to suit the Polish market.

“Those people who are sitting very high (at the PGE Narodowy) won’t be able to see everything. In Autumn, I saw The Cure and I saw Robert Smith very small like my hand. You just go to listen and dance. People will come on Saturday for that kind of experience. We will have a lot of TV screens so people can see what is going on but they won’t properly see the fight live. They are coming just to feel the vibe and the atmosphere. They want to see how it compares with boxing and other combat sports. They want to feel what KSW is.”

Once Saturday is in the history books and in his rear-view mirror, Lewandowski will look to organise two more KSW events for 2017, one of which could take place in England or Ireland. “The first one will probably be in October and the last of 2017 would be in December,” he said.

For now, though, with five KSW title fights and a potential crowd of 55,000 descending on a football stadium, Martin Lewandowski has a Pudzianowski-sized feast on his plate.