- K-1 HERO’S AMERICAN DEBUT TAKING SHAPE

March 19, 2007
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by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Just as Pride FC’s run at the American mixed martial arts market has stalled out, another Japanese promoter is taking aim at audiences in the United States. For some time now, officials at K-1 have been hinting at their Hero’s debut in America (Hero’s is the MMA arm of K-1) and recently, their plans have established a foundation.

According to K-1’s Mr. Tanigawa, K-1 HERO’S will be holding a press conference in the U.S. at the end of March where they will reveal their “plan and strategy.” Stated Mr. Tanigawa, “It’s going to be a really interesting press conference that will have a lot of content to convey to you, something that will surprise Dana White as well.”

Although the press conference will no doubt shed more light on the exact plans that K-1 has in mind for the U.S., sources are coming forth with some of the details for the Hero’s debut in America.

K-1 is planning a Hero’s show for June 2nd in America, most likely at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The L.A Coliseum would be a rather bold move. The seating capacity for the L.A. Coliseum, according to their website, is 92,000. The current largest live audience to ever attend an MMA event in the U.S. is 19,079, which was set just recently by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in Columbus, Ohio.

Matches such as Hideo Tokoro vs. Kazuya Yasuhiro, Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, and Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Melvin Manhoef have headlined recent K-1 MMA events— not exactly match-ups that promise to grab the attention of the masses in the U.S. But according to K-1’s Mr. Maeda, “In the case of America, we have some fighters who have what you call star quality already on standby. They are ready and prepared to go into the ring.” Maeda also feels that they have “a world network capacity” that will help them succeed in the U.S.

It appears that Brock Lesnar, a former World Wrestling Entertainment star and NCAA amateur wrestling champion who is acknowledged to have caught the attention of UFC president Dana White, is one of the “star quality” fighters that K-1 has in mind for their Hero’s debut in America. He is on tap to face Hong Man Choi, the 7-foot 2-inch goliath from South Korea. Lesnar is sure to draw some attention when he makes his MMA debut against Choi, but it’s not likely the type of match that will put K-1 over in the U.S.

A more intriguing name that has surfaced, one that has much more drawing power when it comes to mixed martial arts in the U.S., is that of Royce Gracie. Sources have verified that Royce is indeed planned for the June 2nd Hero’s show in the U.S., and Gracie seemed to confirm this himself in a recent interview with MMAWeekly’s Scott Petersen. In the interview, Gracie stated that he does have an MMA fight coming up “for K-1, but not confirmed yet where the location [will be], maybe Las Vegas, maybe L.A.” He did state that it would be under the Hero’s banner.

One of the more interesting bits of information about K-1 Hero’s coming to the U.S. is that it appears they will be doing so as part of an association with the ProElite/Showtime partnership that produces EliteXC.

Although details of the partnership aren’t concrete, it appears that initial plans call for a combined event with a portion of it televised on Showtime’s premium channel (presumably promoted by EliteXC), followed by a broadcast on Showtime Pay-Per-View (promoted by Hero’s).

Such a partnership makes perfect sense for both EliteXC and Hero’s. EliteXC has the established muscle of Showtime behind it, and Hero’s has, as Mr. Maeda said, K-1’s “world network capacity” to bring in some of the top fighters in the world. Now, it’s just a matter of ironing out the details, putting the plan in action, and seeing if it yields the desired result.

It has been stated time and again recently that these are interesting times in the flourishing world of mixed martial arts in the United States. The addition of K-1 Hero’s to the mix is sure to increase the intrigue factor considerably.

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