M-1 Sports Media Ltd.
Company typePrivate
IndustryMartial-arts entertainment planning and promotion
Founded1993
FoundersKazuyoshi Ishii
Headquarters,
OwnerM-1 Sports Media Co., Ltd
Websitek-1.co.jp

K-1 is a professional kickboxing promotion established in 1993 by karateka Kazuyoshi Ishii.

Originally under the ownership of the Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG), K-1 was considered to be the largest Kickboxing organization in the world.[1] The organization was known for its heavyweight division fights and Grand Prix tournaments.[2] K-1 also promoted mixed martial arts events, with some events having both kickboxing and MMA matches on their cards (such as their Dynamite!! series). The promotion has also held several tournaments under K-2 and K-3 banners from 1993 to 1995.

FEG would later face financial issues in the 2010s, and eventually went bankrupt in 2012.[3] That same year, K-1 Global Holdings Limited, a company registered in Hong Kong, acquired the rights to K-1. In 2023, global rights to the K-1 brand were acquired by M-1 Sports Media.[4][5][6]

The letter K in K-1 is officially designated as a representation of words karate, kickboxing and kung fu. Nevertheless, some reports suggest that it represents the initial K found in competing disciplines such as karate, kickboxing, kung fu, kempo, kakutougi (the generic Japanese term for "combat sports"), and taekwondo.[7] Another theory claims that the K simply comes from kakutougi and the "1" component pertains to the single weight division (in earlier competition) and the champion's unique position.[8]

K-1 has its own unique ruleset different from other styles of Kickboxing. Because it has become so popular, K-1 is also seen as its own style of kickboxing and sometimes is erroneously considered as a standalone martial art/combat sport.[9] Kickboxing governing bodies such as the ISKA and WKN have also crowned their own "K-1 rules" champions.[10][11]

History

Early years

Main article: History of K-1

K-1's predecessor, Seidokaikan Karate, was formed in 1980 by Kazuyoshi Ishii, a former Kyokushin karate practitioner who had formed his own organization to help promote the best stand-up martial artists.[12] Seidokaikan arranged several successful challenge events against other martial arts organizations, originally using rules based on the Kyokushin Knockdown karate rules, but gradually adapting and changing closer to kickboxing rules. In 1993, Mr. Ishii founded the K-1 exclusively as a kickboxing organization, closely cooperating with, but independent from Seidokaikan.[8]

In 2010, rumours began to surface regarding financial issues with K-1, and parent company FEG.[13] Simon Rutz, the owner of the Dutch-based kickboxing promotion It's Showtime, claimed in January 2011 that some fighters from It's Showtime had not been paid for fights in K-1.[14]

In early 2011, FEG publicly announced that they were facing financial problems and that the organization would take some months off to restructure. Many fighters and managers spoke out against FEG, due to unpaid fight purses, as well as objections to the direction that its owner was taking K-1.[15]

The entire K-1 brand, along with most of its trademarks, with the exception of, 'K-1 Koshien', 'K-1 MAX' and 'Dream', were sold to Japanese real estate firm, Barbizon Corporation Limited, on July 28, 2011.[16]

Acquisition and restructuring (2012–2023)

On February 1, 2012, EMCOM Entertainment Inc. purchased K-1 from Barbizon.[17] In March 2012, It's Showtime announced that EMCOM Entertainment established a new company K-1 Global Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. K-1 Global Holdings, Ltd., became the new official owner of the K-1 brand. K-1 Global's agreement with promotion required that certain fighters signed under It's Showtime appear in upcoming K-1 Global events.[18][19]

The K-1 World MAX Final 16 took place on May 27, 2012, at the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid, Spain. After the event, controversy and rumors circulated over fighters not being paid for their performances, unpaid financial obligations of FEG, and the incomplete transfer of ownership of the K-1 name. As a result, the K-1 World Grand Prix scheduled for 2012 would be cancelled if these issues were not resolved.[20] The chairman of the new K-1 resolved these issues by paying fighters what was owed and including a 50% bonus.[21]

It was announced in June 2012 that It's Showtime was purchased by Glory Sports International, eventually to be merged in their new promotion GLORY.[22]

On August 10, 2012, K-1's co-promotion agreement with Romanian-based kickboxing promotion SUPERKOMBAT was announced.[23] Though the agreement would eventually end, SK president Eduard Irimia stated that while its company will be independent in 2013 it will still continue to have cooperation with any interested promotion, including K-1, by offering fighters.[24]

K-1 World League

On May 29, 2014, the launch of a "K-1 World League" in Japan was announced. It is considered to be a separate entity from the K-1 of 2012, with the World League acquiring naming rights and exclusive license for the Japanese region from K-1 Global Holding Ltd.[25] "K-1 World League" would focus on fighters in the 55 kg, -60 kg, -65 kg, -70 kg and heavyweight weight classes; and would be structured around professional events, amateur competitions and K-1 gyms. M-1 Sports Media is in charge of planning and production.[26] "K-1 World League" was subsequently renamed "K-1 World GP" on September 24, 2014.[27]

After its formation, "K-1 World League" formally incorporated the Krush brand.[26] Launched prior to the folding of FEG, in 2009, Krush was a collaboration between K-1 and AJKF. It was seen at the time as the second tier of K-1 competition,[28] and produced a number of future K-1 fighters such as Takeru Segawa, Tatsuya Tsubakihara and Leona Pettas, among others. K-1 would later add the KHAOS brand, which is seen as the third tier of competition, as a stepping stone between amateur and professional competition. K-1 maintains a number of gyms throughout Japan, from which potential kickboxers can transition from training to amateur competition to professional competition. A fighter can viably spend their entire career under the K-1 umbrella.[29]

On September 20, 2016, "K-1 World GP" executive producer Kensaku Maeda retired,[30] and was subsequently replaced by the Krush executive producer Mitsuru Miyata.[31]

From June 2017 onward, "K-1 World GP" started once again started holding events at the Saitama Super Arena. It was further revealed that fighters were signed exclusively to K-1, which wasn't the case previously.[32]

On December 17, 2018, it was announced that the former Krush and K-1 commentator and martial arts writer Takumi Nakamura would replace Mitsuru Miyata as the executive producer.[33]

On January 26, 2019, Krush was renamed "K-1 KRUSH FIGHT" to further announce the connection between the two brands.[34] However, on December 7, 2019, it was renamed back to Krush. The aim of renaming the competition back to Krush was to dispel the image of the brand as the second tier of K-1.[35]

2023–present

On February 10, 2023, K-1 agreed on a mutual exchange of fighters with fellow Japanese promotion RISE,[36][37] after they successfully co-promoted the Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takeru crossover pay-per-view event, known as "THE MATCH 2022".[38]

On February 28, 2023, M-1 Sports Media acquired the global licensing rights for the K-1 brand, which was from that point forward managed by K-1 International Federation (KIF).[4]

On July 17, 2023, Takumi Nakamura stepped down stepped down from the position of producer.[39]

Former Glory Japan General Manager Carlos Kikuta was announced as the new K-1 producer on July 18, 2023. That same day, K-1 announced a collaborative event with Quintet called ReBOOT, which will be held on September 10, 2023.[40] The promotion subsequently announced their intention to re-brand their weight classes (under the "K-1 WORLD GP" and "K-1 WORLD MAX" banners, for heavyweights and fighters weighting -75 kg and under, respectively), that they would hold a heavyweight World Grand Prix, as well as a new partnership with Kyokushinkaikan.[41]

On August 8, 2023, former executive producer Mitsuru Miyata was appointed as the Krush producer.[42] On January 19, 2024, Kazuyoshi Ishii was appointed as an advisor.[43]

Rules

K-1 rules are as follows:[44][45]

List of K-1 events

Main articles: List of K-1 events, 2015 in K-1, 2016 in K-1, 2017 in K-1, 2018 in K-1, 2019 in K-1, 2020 in K-1, 2021 in K-1, 2022 in K-1, and 2023 in K-1

See also: List of Hero's events

While under FEG ownership, K-1 events were centred around the K-1 World Grand Prix, including qualifying tournaments and preliminaries held around the world.

Under the "K-1 World GP" brand from 2014 to present, K-1 events almost exclusively took place in Japan. Its event schedule would feature a mix between traditional, single-fight events, and events featuring one-night tournaments to determine the champion in one of its weight classes.[46]

The following is a list of countries that K-1 has held events in chronological order:

Tournament format

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K-1 Qualifying System 2009

K-1 Grand Prix

Main article: K-1 World Grand Prix

The original K-1 Grand Prix was a single-event tournament held in Japan where competitors participated on invitation. By 1998, K-1 introduced the K-1 World Grand Prix format composed of K-1 Regional Elimination Tournaments (theoretically amounting to six), which qualify fighters for the K-1 World Grand Prix Final, along with licensed K-1 Fighting Network events designed to hold national preliminaries for regional qualification.

K-1's popularity differs greatly among six K-1 regions, which may limit the number of actual elimination tournaments or change locations. K-1 attempted to gain popularity in the United States by holding two GPs, however only a few Americans have ever qualified for the Finals. In 2006, one of the American GPs was relocated to Auckland. Additionally the K-1 Paris GP lost its qualifying right in favor of Amsterdam. Eventually, Amsterdam would lose it in favor of Łódź, and then Łódź in favor of Bucharest.

K-1 World Grand Prix Final Eliminator ("Final 16") is an event where 16 participants compete for the final eight spots in the Final ("Final 8"). Eight participants from the Final Eliminator meet at the K-1 World Grand Prix Final. Other elements of the tournament format would be modified over the years. The final was held at Tokyo Dome from 1997 to 2006, while the 2012 final took place for the first time in history outside Japan, in Zagreb, Croatia.

K-1 World MAX and others

By 2002, K-1 started the K-1 World MAX ("Middleweight Artistic Xtreme") tournament for 70 kg (154 lb) Middleweight division, following a similar scheme to K-1 World Grand Prix (with theoretically four regional eliminators). In 2007, K-1 introduced two new title belts separate from K-1 World GP Champions, Super Heavyweight World Title for fighters over 100 kg/220 lbs and Heavyweight World Title for fighters under 100 kg/156–220 lbs.

Broadcast

K-1 events have been shown on the Tokyo Broadcasting System and Fuji TV during FEG ownership.[47] Following the reformation of K-1 under the "K-1 World League" & "K-1 World GP" banners, events would air through other broadcasters such as GAORA SPORTS, BS Sky PerfecTV! and TV Tokyo.[48] K-1 events are currently broadcast through streaming service Abema TV domestically in Japan.[49]

K-1 also operates a YouTube channel where fights, press conferences, and general media is uploaded.[50]

On August 30, 2023, it was announced that DAZN would begin distributing future K-1 events in 200 countries, beginning with the ReBOOT~K-1 ReBIRTH~ event on September 10.[51][52][53]

List of K-1 champions

Current K-1 champions

Main article: List of K-1 champions

Division Champion Since Title defences
Heavyweight (-100 kg) Netherlands Roel Mannaart 2018 1
Cruiserweight (-90 kg) Iran Sina Karimian 2021 0
Middleweight (-75 kg) Japan Shintaro Matsukura 2023 0
Super Welterweight (-70 kg) China Ouyang Feng 2023 0
Welterweight (-67.5 kg) Japan Masaaki Noiri 2021 0
Super Lightweight (-65 kg) Japan Tetsuya Yamato 2022 2
Lightweight (-62.5 kg) Japan Yuki Yoza 2023 0
Super Featherweight (-60 kg) Japan Leona Pettas 2022 0
Featherweight (-57.5 kg) Japan Taito Gunji 2021 1
Super Bantamweight (-55 kg) Japan Akihiro Kaneko 2022 2
Bantamweight (-53 kg) Japan Toma Kuroda 2022 0
Women's Flyweight (-52 kg) Greece Antonia Prifti 2023 0
Atomweight (-45 kg) Japan Miyuu Sugawara 2023 0

See also

References

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