It has been a tumultuous last few years for the world of kickboxing. The sport’s longest standing brand, K-1, was left for dead in financial ruin at the end of 2010. After a series of acquisitions and mergers, stability arose from the ashes in the form of GLORY.

The global brand is already home to the biggest stars of the sport and as it prepares to hold its fourth event on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo, Founder and Global Managing Director of Glory Sports International and Total Sports Asia, Marcus Luer, discussed the promotion’s place as the flagship organization for the sport.

“We have a long ways to go to be a finished product,” admitted Luer in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “GLORY is still a brand-new product, but that is a good thing. We are allowed to make some mistakes and tweak things. No one expects us to be perfect yet.

“We believe we have all of the ingredients needed to succeed. We have the right management structure, financial backing and the best fighters in the world under contract.”

Luer (Bas Uterwijk)

Although the organization is still young, it knew exactly what it needed to do in order to establish itself with combat sports fans worldwide. And the Japanese market—the longtime home of K-1—was the perfect location for a huge, end-of-year event. But the promotion didn’t stop at a 16-man kickboxing tournament. It will also be resurrecting the left-for-dead MMA brand Dream as well.

“The goal was to establish GLORY as the new K-1 and show the fans that all the fighters they used to love are now with us. We are the new brand to bring it to them,” explained Luer.

“There were other things going on in the Japanese market, and the Dream opportunity came up. It was a great chance to create a mega-show that the Japanese fans love. It won’t be a mixed show like they used to do with Dynamite!, we will be running two shows back-to-back.”

Kicking off the action on Dec. 31 from the Saitama Super Arena will be Dream.18, which features many of the familiar stars of MMA in the Land of the Rising Sun. As of now, this is a one-time event for GLORY, but Luer isn’t ready to rule out future events.

“GLORY is our global brand, so for now, this is a one-off relationship for that night,” he said. “Naturally, we are in discussions for other things, but it depends on what happens with the show.

“We like the Dream brand, but Dream is a Japanese product. We wouldn’t be taking it anywhere else in the world. We’re not trying to compete with the UFC or Bellator. Whatever we do with Dream, it will be focused on Japan.”

After so many examples of financial ruin for promotions, Luer’s experience of running Total Sports Asia (TSA) and handling all levels of sports operations leaves him confident that GLORY will succeed where others have failed in the past.

“I’ve been involved in sports my whole life,” he declared. “I know how to cut a television deal, how events need to be run. [TSA] brought that into the GLORY organization. GLORY, in essence, was an established business before it ever got off the ground. We know how to build a brand.

“We’re in this for the long run. There are plenty of examples of shows that have come and gone. We are aware of it, and we are trying to make sure we learn from those. Right now, we’re happy to be working with Dream and have a relationship with Saitama Arena. It’s great to have the traditional event on Dec. 31. It was a nice combination that worked for both of us. The event is fully funded by Glory Sports International, not any of the past Dream financers.”

Once the Dream portion of the event is complete, GLORY will kick off a 16-man heavyweight tournament that features all of the biggest names in the sport. From towering Semmy Schilt to legend Peter Aerts, the field is full of talented fighters. However, fighting four times in one night is a tall order for anyone, which is why GLORY took steps to ensure the final is just as good as the opening portion of the tournament.

“We tweaked the rules a bit,” revealed Luer. “In the round of 16 and round of eight, the [fight] rounds are only two minutes long, instead of three minutes. And if a fighter wins the first two rounds of his fight, he automatically advances without the need of the third round.

“With these new rules, fighters won’t be fighting any longer than an eight-man tournament. We wanted to add some spice to the traditional format. It does change the dynamics, it’s not as predictable as it may have been in the past. Clearly the seeded fighters have an edge in the opening round, but you never know. There will be upsets.”

Luer shows off the Glory 70kg belt (Ben Pontier/Glory)

Luer’s excitement for the upcoming event is evident, but further fueling the anticipation is the fact that the young promotion secured a broadcast deal with CBS Sports to air the event in the United States. For the time being, it’s a one-time deal, but Luer is confident that the organization’s future events will also air on TV in the States.

“We’re thrilled to be launching on CBS Sports. They had been looking at MMA and combat sports and felt this was a great opportunity,” he detailed. “They had the slot in which we were looking for, and we felt it was a great window to bring the product into the market.

“We’re confident this will get things kick-started. There’s nothing beyond this deal at this time, but we are in discussions with CBS and other U.S. broadcasters for a full launch in March/April of next year. This is just a way to get the ball rolling. We’ll be coming to the U.S. for our first live event in May/June.”

GLORY’s focus on the United States doesn’t stop with a television deal. The promotion is launching Road to Glory USA to harvest undiscovered kickboxers in six weight classes in 2013. Luer sees it as a building block to establish GLORY in the United States.

“Road to Glory is really the development product to find American talent. It may fly a bit below the radar. We are looking to find the next American star without just throwing them straight into the limelight,” said Luer.

“It will be more like a ‘house’ show to identify where the next guys come from. It’s not meant for large television consumption. We have a few hundred applications already, and we’ll be running eight-man tournaments, with each winner getting a one-year contract with GLORY.

“We want to get our main product out with a television deal, but we’ll also have a ‘ground game’ with Road to Glory to make sure we identify the new stars. And then we’ll come in with a full-blown show.”

With so many things in the works, it’s clear that Luer’s plan for GLORY extends far beyond the New Year’s Eve event. Given his experience in the world of sports, the sky may be the limit for the organization if it can avoid the pitfalls of past promotions.

For more information on GLORY, check out their website. For more on Marcus Luer, follow him on Twitter: @MarcusLuer

Top Photo: Marcus Luer (Ben Pontier/Glory)