Press Release by Monte DiPietro for K-1; Pictures Courtesy of K-1
K-1 SEASON 15 KICKOFF: Press Conference
Tokyo, March 3, 2007 — One of the fastest growing sports in the world, K-1 is now entering its 15th year, with the first event of the 2007 World Grand Prix Series set for the Yokohama Arena this Sunday, March 4. Anticipation is high, and the star-studded card features established and up-and-coming fighters alike.
The Fight Entertainment Group (FEG), which governs K-1, has announced a number of changes to further develop the sport this year, toward the ultimate creation of a quadrennial “K-1 World Cup” beginning in 2010.
“Since we started, K-1 has organized tournaments with the best fighters from around the world,” said K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa. “The reaction has been great, and now, for the future, we want to do something new, with title matches and weight classes.”
At Yokohama K-1 will introduce two new weight classes — a Super Heavyweight class for fighters over 100kg/220lbs; and a corresponding Heavyweight division to accommodate fighters from 70kg/154lbs – 100kg, that is, between the existing World Max and new Super Heavyweight classes.
The first-ever K-1 Super Heavyweight Champion will be determined in Yokohama, in about between veteran slugger Ray Sefo of New Zealand and karate giant Sammy Schilt of Holland.
“I was 5% last time I fought Schilt,” said Sefo at the Fuji TV open press conference. “This time I’m 100%, so you’re going to see power, strength and energy. There’s not much to say about Schilt — he is the champ, he’s the man to beat!”
Schilt is also a man of few words. As usual, he kept his comments brief: “I’m happy to be here, and I’m going to put on a great fight.”
Also in Yokohama tomorrow, Japanese fighters Musashi and Yasuke Fujimoto will square off for the right to represent their country in the first-ever K-1 Heavyweight title bout, scheduled for Honolulu, Hawaii on April 28. Vying for the other spot in this battle will be Russian dynamo Ruslan Karaev and Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari.
All four of these fighters expressed their appreciation for the chance, and vowed to do their best to get to Hawaii.
Throughout the year, title bouts will be held in both the K-1 Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight classes. The men wearing the championship belts at the end of the year will qualify for the K-1 World GP Final Elimination Tournament, joining the winners of this year’s K-1 USA, Asia, Europe, and Repechage tournaments, and the eight participants from last year’s WGP Final. The field will be completed by fighters selected by fan balloting. (The World GP continues as an open weight class — its tournament structure comprising both the Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight classes.)
With the new weight classes, FEG aims to solidify K-1′s position as “The World’s Fightsport.” In 2007, a network of overseas broadcasters will bring World GP action to television viewers in some 135 countries.
Tomorrow’s March 4 Yokohama event will also feature Korean gargantuan Hong Man Choi taking on American slugger Mighty Mo in a battle of size versus power. French veteran Jerome LeBanner will be back at it, stepping in against Japanese fighter Junichi Sawayashiki. And another Frenchman, kickboxer Cyril Abidi, will return to action for a fight with Mitsugu Noda of Japan.
Defending K-1 USA Champion Chalid “Die Faust” of Germany will test Japanese tough guy Hiromi Amada, who spent January training for this fight in Thailand; perennial Japanese hopeful Tsuyoshi Nakasako will take on Alexey Ignashov’s former sparring buddy Zabit Samedov of Belarus; and creative Russian kicker Alexander Pitchkounov will step up against one of Japan’s tallest fighters, Hiraku Hori.
The K-1 World Grand Prix -07 in Yokohama starts at 3 p.m. at the Yokohama Arena. It will be broadcast live across Japan on the Fuji TV network. For scheduling information in other regions contact local broadcasters.
For complete fight card, fighters’ information, and post-event coverage on the Yokohama and other K-1 events and fighters, (including a complete archive of past events), visit the K-1 Official Website (http://www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp/).