Fighting multiple times in the same evening goes back to the days of robes and laurels, when diabolica stood in for virtue. In today’s more civilized pyramid sense of combat tournaments -- the original UFCs, Pride -- it just means you’re successful. The reward for winning is that you get to do it again.
And 21st century Glory is the latest to roll out the attrition on such a platter.
On November 23, at the Madison Square Garden Theater, the kickboxing promotion held its twelfth installment, arranging its lightweights carefully on such merciless brackets. The key ingredient that night was Georgi Petrosyan, an Italian/Armenia fighter of such renown that he’d been referred to as the Floyd Mayweather of kickboxing. It just so happened that Mayweather was watching that night from the front row as Petrosyan, with his winning streak trailing down 7th Avenue (alongside Mayweather’s entourage), got popped by Andy Ristie and knocked out in the third round.
So it went. Petrosyan fought only once that night, when everyone expected him to have a recurring role. Ristie, a Surinamese fighter who trains out of the Netherlands, ended up fighting three times -- and he won them all. By the time he came out to face Robin van Roosmalen in the finals, the crowd at MSG loved him. Mayweather himself was swaying to Ristie’s walkout music. Here comes that ice-cold killer who dusted Petrosyan again. Glory was his.
In this way, Dustin Jacoby is having a good time segueing into the stand-and-deliver realm of kickboxing. Having fought in the UFC and other promotions, Jacoby has plenty of experience with fighting a single opponent on a given night. Yet when he entered the Road To Glory tournament earlier this year, he got a taste of what it was like to be Dan Severn back in 1995.
"I don’t necessarily enjoy fighting three times in one night, it’s a little hard on the body," Jacoby, who will compete in a featured bout on Saturday in Toyko at Glory 13 against Makoto Uehara, says with a laugh. "But I’ll tell you what, having done it a couple of times now, it’s really cool. The fans, they get to watch you come out for the first fight, and then you win and they get to watch you come out again. It feels like they build a little bit of a bond with you, and you build more fans.
"It’s really one of the most barbaric things I’ve even been a part of. Grown men just standing on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs. And in my case, I fought the hometown favorite, the guy picked to win the tournament, Randy Blake -- he was like 25-1 and his only other loss was to Mirko Cro Cop -- and it was in his hometown [in Tulsa]. So when I first came out, the fans were booing me a little bit and of course rooting for him. But once I beat him, the second time I came out the crowd was going nuts for me. And then the third time I came out, it was insane. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of."
Jacoby was called for the kickboxing tournament on a Wednesday in February, as he was training for an MMA fight with Andrew Sanchez. He drove seven hours from where he lives in central Illinois to Tulsa on Thursday. He weighed in at 95kg (207 pounds) on Friday. Then he clubbed three guys in succession on Saturday, finishing with a knockout of Brian Collette in the finals. Like Ristie, he had materialized before our eyes through the momentum of a single night.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to go out and get paid to spar some guys," he says. "And I looked at it as good preparation for my fight coming up. So I went there, and I knew there’d be some legit competition with them having a grand prize like that -- $20,000 – so it was great. And that’s how my kickboxing career kind of boomed."
Now Jacoby is fighting on the Glory 13 card in Toyko against the "alpha male of Japanese fighters" Uehara, while the welterweights carry out a four-man mini tournament. The headlining bout that night will be between kickboxing legend Peter Aerts and 24-year old Rico Verhoeven, which is a collision of kickboxing’s past and future -- a future that now has airtime on Spike TV in North America. For fans of the sacred violence in stand-up fights, with more possibility than boxing yet no threat of takedowns, this is the game in town.
Not that Jacoby is done with MMA. He remains an active MMA fighter (9-3 overall), and says that, at just 25 years old, he has things to prove in that broader spectrum. He fought in two UFC events, the last occurring in 2012 against Chris Camozzi, which he lost via a third round guillotine choke. Those two are now friends, having both appeared on the UFC 137 card together (where Camozzi fought Francis Carmont, and Jacoby faced Clifford Starks) where they connected during fight week. Not long after UFC 137, they were booked to fight one another. Now they are training partners, and Camozzi -- whose own preferences are to stand-and-bang -- is cheering on not only Jacoby, but Glory’s emergence.
"I love Glory. I love kickboxing, I love muay Thai," Camozzi says. "Muay Thai is probably my passion for martial arts. I enjoy jiu-jitsu and I’ve done it a long time, but there’s something about striking that has caught my eye a little more. I was happy when Glory signed a TV deal with Spike, because I was always sitting online trying to watch it. I’m really excited."
And unlike the welterweights who will fight for the privilege of fighting again on the same night -- a "barbaric" concept that has treated spectators well over the years, forging bonds between fighter and fan -- Jacoby just has one guy in front of him. That’s Uehara, whom he knows will meet him toe-to-toe with no distraction of anything else.
"He’s a bigger guy, he’s not your typical Japanese fighter, who are generally smaller," Jacoby says. "He’s a bigger guy, he’s really tough and he swings hard. He has nine or ten knockouts, a pretty good record and he’s ranked No. 14 overall. So I have a stiff challenge on my hands, but I’m very confident in the training that I’ve done. I’m confident in the skills that I possess, and I’m going in there and I’m going to be the more dominant fighter."