The K-1 World Grand Prix Final 2009 is the biggest event in kickboxing, and it will be broadcast live in the United States on HDNet in the early hours of Saturday morning, December 5. The Grand Prix final is a great event, but it's an event most American sports fans don't know about. So if you're one of those fans, take a moment to get some details from K-1 announcer Michael Schiavello.
K-1 Grand Prix: Running the Numbers
By Michael Schiavello
If you're a self-professed fight sports geek like myself then your boffin's brain will calculate stats and facts like Rainman counting cards at black jack table. Here's some of the numbers through all 16 K-1 Grand Prix tournaments since 1993.
The K-1 Grand Prix first took place on April 3, 1993 at the Yoyogi Dai-Ichi Stadium in Tokyo. A sell-out 10,000 fans saw Croatian legend Branko Cikatic (trained by Thom Harinck) knockout Ernesto Hoost in the final to win the crown and become the first ever K-1 Grand Prix Champion. Aged 38/208, Cikatic to this day remains the oldest K-1 Grand Prix champion in history.
The following year the polar opposite statistic would be made when "The Lumberjack" Peter Aerts (also trained by Thom Harinck) became the youngest ever K-1 Grand Prix Champion when he beat Rob Van Esdonk, Patrick Smith and Masaaki Satake to win the crown at age 23/217. In 1995, Aerts became the first ever back-to-back and two-time K-1 Grand Prix Champion when he won the title with a knockout of Jerome LeBanner in just 1:37 of the first round. In doing so Aerts also became the second-youngest GP Champion aged 24/226.
In 1998, aged 28/71, Aerts wrote his name into the record books again as both the first ever three-time K-1 GP champion and the fastest ever tournament winner. It took Aerts just 6:43 to knockout all three opponents and win the crown in the most devastating combat sports tournament victory. He stopped Masaaki Satake in 2:40; knocked down Mike Bernardo twice in 2:53; and then KO'd Andy Hug with a head kick in just 1:10 in the final.
Aerts's 6:43 record is likely to never be beaten. The closest any other GP Champion has come was Semmy Schilt's 11:56 win in 2005 and then Branko Cikatic's 12:09 win in 1993. In GP history, 11 of the 16 wins have broken the sub-20 minute mark. They are: Aerts 1998 6:43; Schilt 2005 11:56; Cikatic 1993 12:09; Bonjasky 2003 13:44; Aerts 1995 14:39; Bonjasky 2008 15:42; Schilt 2007 15:51; Aerts 1994 17:13; Hoost 1997 19:15; Hoost 1999 19:35; Hug 1996 19:58.
The slowest GP victory on record was Remy Bonjasky's 2004 victory which took him a total of 36:00. The only other fighter to break the 30 minute mark was Ernesto Hoost in 2000 who took 30:00 exactly. Though he is famed for his knockout prowess, it still took Mark Hunt 26:32 to win the 2001 GP (and become the only non-European to win the title). Semmy Schilt's 2006 win took 27:00 exactly.
A handful of fighters have put together truly extraordinary winning records in the K-1 Grand Prix. None moreso than triple K-1 GP Champion Semmy Schilt who boast a 9-0 record in the GP and has never lost a GP tournament. Current champion Remy Bonjasky holds an impressed 12-2 GP record, while Ernesto Hoost is 17-10 and Peter Aerts is 16-11. Aerts also holds the record for participating in ever K-1 Grand Prix since its inception in 1993. He will fight in the reserve match this year and if he does not find his way into the tournament true, it will be the first time in history we would have seen a K-1 Grand Prix WITHOUT Peter Aerts!
Both Peter Aerts and Ernesto Hoost hold the record for the most appearances in the final, both having made it five times to the last match, with Hoost being the only 4-time Grand Prix champion. Andy Hug, Remy Bonjasky and Semmy Schilt are tied in second for most final match appearances with three each, while Musashi and Jerome LeBanner have both appeared twice in the final match. Other final match participants include Branko Cikatic (1993), Masaaki Satake (1994), Mike Bernardo (1996), Mirko Cro Cop (1999), Ray Sefo (2000), Mark Hunt (2001), Francisco Filho (2001), Glaube Feitosa (2005) and Badr Hari (2008).
Peter Aerts holds the record for the most knockdowns in the K-1 Grand Prix with 15. Ernesto Hoost is second with 14 and Remy Bonjasky is third with 10, including knockdowns in all three GP fights in 2008.
K-1 has always been geared towards the fans both as a live arena sport and on television. In 1997 the Grand Prix was held for the first time at the Tokyo Dome where 54,000 tickets sold out in just one hour. In 1998 63,800 fans watched Peter Aerts's record-setting destruction. In 1999 58,200 people saw Ernesto Hoost defeat Mirko Cro Cop in the final. In 2000 a massive 70,200 watched Hoost become champion again when he defeated the insanely popular Ray Sefo in the final. In 2001 Mark Hunt shocked the world in front of 65,000 people and in 2002 Ernesto Hoost won his fourth title (even though he lost to Bob Sapp in the quarter finals) in front of 74,500 fans.
For the fighters winning the K-1 Grand Prix means being crowned the finest striker on the planet. It can also make you a rich man quickly! Over the years Ernesto Hoost was won over US$1.3 million in GP prize money alone. Peter Aerts has won US$480,000 from his three GP victories; Remy Bonjasky has pocketed $US1.2 million from his three wins as has Semmy Schilt.
The Dutch have a traditional strangle-hold on the K-1 Grand Prix title with 13 of the 16 Grand Prix wins from Dutch fighters. Non-Dutchmen to win the crown include Branko Cikatic of Croatia (1993), Andy Hug of Switzerland (1996) and Mark Hunt of New Zealand (2001). The Grand Prix runners-up have been more mixed in their nationalities and include two Brazilians (Francisco Filho 2001, Glaube Feitosa 2005); two Japanese (Masaaki Satake 1994, Musashi 2003/2004); a Frenchman (Jerome LeBanner 1995, 2002); a New Zealander (Ray Sefo 2000); a Croatian (Mirko Cro Cop 1999); and a South African (Mike Bernardo 1996).
For all of its majesty, the K-1 Grand Prix remains the hardest combat sports crown to capture. Only seven different men have shared the title over the last 16 years. Their names will forever be etched into the annals of time. They are: Branko Cikatic (1993); Peter Aerts (1994, 1995, 1998); Andy Hug (1996); Ernesto Hoost (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002); Mark Hunt (2001); Remy Bonjasky (2003, 2004, 2008), Semmy Schilt (2005, 2006, 2007). Hoost is the sport's only ever four time champion, while Schilt is the sport's only ever triple consecutive champion.