"FEG, the parent company of the former K-1 brand, is technically bankrupt," comes the message from IT'S SHOWTIME
president Simon Rutz
via a statement posted to the IT'S SHOWTIME website
Adding to the crippling blow dealt to the sport of kickboxing, Rutz also confirmed the rumors that the 2011 K-1 World Grand Prix will not happen.
Bankruptcy has been long suspected of K-1
promoter and DREAM
co-promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group, but Simon Rutz, who was set to play a major part in supporting this year's doomed K-1 World Grand Prix, is the first high-profile figure to come out with the truth on the record.
With the leading promoter reportedly bankrupt, the biggest event canceled and the biggest stars in Alistair Overeem
, Badr Hari
and Gokhan Saki
all leaving the sport, it is tempting to declare the sport of kickboxing dead however the prominent Dutch promoter did reveal several possibilities for the future of K-1 in his detailed statement.
"The name K-1 lays now at the Japanese company Barbizon. There are two serious parties now, which try to pull the K-1 brand name towards themselves and place this in a new company," says Rutz in the statement.
Japanese real estate
firm Barbizon Co,. Ltd., acquired rights to the vast majority of K-1 trademarks earlier in the year in an undisclosed deal. FEG officials never publicly admitted that Barbizon had acquired the rights although the Japanese trademark database did confirm the transfer.
"The first one to find an investor is FEG's president, Mr. Tanikawa. He has found a Korean investor who has big plans with the K-1 label," continued Rutz. "This investor claims to have a verbal agreement with Mr. Ishii and Barbizon regarding the takeover of the K-1 label. Details were already discussed and agreed upon, but the only missing thing is the necessary signature of Mr. Ishii."
Kazuyoshi Ishii, the founder of K-1, ran kickboxing's leading promotion up until he was arrested for tax evasion in 2003. During Ishii's absence, former journalist Sadaharu Tanikawa took the reins of K-1 and also formed parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group. Tanikawa took a more pro wrestling and entertainment-based approach to the promotion but after a boom in popularity peaking on Dec. 31, 2003, Tanikawa's new approach proved to be unpopular with fans and fighters and K-1 has been on the decline ever since. Due to his criminal past, Ishii has returned to play a powerful although private role at K-1 since being released from prison.
"The second one to find a potential investor is [Golden Glory co-owner] Bas Boon," said Rutz in the statement. "He has found an American company which also has big opportunities to bring the K-1 brand to high levels. However, also this company needs the signature of Mr. Ishii."
Bas Boon and business partner Frederico Lapenda have already reportedly acquired some rights to the K-1 video library and have been attempting to seize control of K-1 for quite some time. Boon's health issues, turmoil at Golden Glory and apparent organizational issues have continued to push the deal back however.
"In the meanwhile, even a third potential investor has reported itself to take over the K-1 label, but this investor has presented itself only a couple of days ago," says the IT'S SHOWTIME president. "All three companies have big plans to bring the K-1 label back to the place where it belongs and therefore make sure that the brand of K-1 has a healthy future."
Confirming what many had assumed, Rutz continued on to say that the 2011 K-1 World GP will not happen.
"This year there will be no K-1 Final Elimination and K-1 World Grand Prix Final for the following reasons:
- It's currently unknown which investor gets Mr. Ishii's signature.
- There's not enough time left to organize such a big event.
- The visas for the fighters to travel to China haven't been arranged and these are essential to be able to fight there.
The decision to not rush into crazy things is a wise one, because severe mistakes that could cause more unnecessary damage to the K-1 label are being prevented."
Although K-1 does represent IT'S SHOWTIME's biggest rival, Rutz does intend to assist in the rebuilding of the promotion for the good of the sport.
"From next year there will be a new and healthy company that will work on the worldwide brand of K-1," stated Rutz. "We from IT'S SHOWTIME support the plans to make the K-1 label a strong brand again, because this is in the best interest of the sport, the fighters and the millions of fans around the world."
"For the fighters who were already preparing to fight on October 29 in China this will be a hard pill to swallow, but on the other hand, these developments offer enough perspective to positively look ahead to the future."
FEG are yet to respond to the release from Rutz or officially call off the 2011 K-1 World GP.
It is not yet known how this news will affect the leading Japanese MMA promotion DREAM.
DREAM executive producer Keiichi Sasahara indicated post-DREAM.17 that the traditional New Year's Eve "Dynamite" event may not actually be called "Dynamite" due to the distinct possibility that K-1 fighters will not be participating at the event. It is highly probable that Sasahara and Real Entertainment will continue to operate DREAM on their own with limited or no involvement from co-promoter FEG.