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Glory 22 report 6-5 Lille, France, Verhoeven defend title plus lightweight tournament

By Jeremy Wall

Glory 22 took place Friday, June 5th at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France. It was headlined by Rico Verhoeven (46-10-1, 11KO) beating Benjamin Adegbuyi (19-3, 13KO) via unanimous decision to retain the Glory Heavyweighth title. Also, Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong (97-27-5) won a one-night, four-man lightweight tournament by defeating Josh Jauncey via unanimous decision in the finals.

Also on the main card, Zack Mwekassa knocked out Carlos Brooks in 1:58 at light-heavyweight and in the two opening matches for the lightweight tournament, Sitsongpeenong upset Davit Kiria, knocking Kiria out and Jauncey stopped Djime Coulibaly at 2:59 of the third round. Commentary for the show was provided by the omnipresent Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock, the latter replacing usual colour commentator Stephen Quadros.

Romania's Adegbuyi, 30, had won a heavyweight title eliminator fight against Hesdy Gerges via unanimous decision at Glory 18 in Oklahoma on November 7th, 2014. He was unbeaten in three fights in Glory heading into his title challenge. Against Verhoeven, Adegbuyi came out throwing hard in the first round, looking to quickly finish the 26-year-old Verhoeven. Adegbuyi spent a lot of his energy in the first round and Verhoeven was able to win come back strong after the first and win the middle rounds. Adegbuyi came back late in the fight, but Verhoeven used his better cardio and better overall kickboxing to win the decision. Former K-1 champions Semmy Schilt, Remy Bonjasky, and "Mr Perfect" Ernesto Hoost were in attendance for the show and after the bout presented Verhoeven with the Glory Heavyweight title.

The Netherlands' Verhoeven is somewhat of an interesting case because a lot of people in kickboxing see him leading the future of heayweight kickboxing stars. He is young, handsome, and a good fighter. I don't find him to be particularly charismatic, though, and he has bad losses on his record, including one to relatively unknown Andrey Gerasimchuk via unanimous decision for Kunlun Fight in China on January 3rd. He also lost by unanimous decision to Semmy Schilt at Glory 4 on New Year's Eve 2012 in Japan. Schilt retired not long after. I don't see Verhoeven as being a breakout star, but rather the guy who is a minor star in a popular promotion, somewhat of the equivalent of the current star power for most of the heavyweights in the UFC.

The one-night, four-man lightweight tournament was won by Thailand's Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, 23, who has 129 fights already on his pro record. Winning the tournament earns him a shot at Glory Lightweight champion Robin van Roosmalen. It will be an interesting fight, but not one that will draw television ratings beyond what Glory regularly draws on Spike. Sitthichai won a one-night tournament for Kunlun Fight in China on January 3rd by beating former K-1 Max fighter Andy Souwer via decision in the finals. He has a ton of experience fighting in Thailand and throughout Europe. Sittichai upset Davit Kiria in the first round of the Glory 22 tournament, knocking Kiria out with a knee to the body at 2:09 of the second round. Kiria is a former Glory Lightweight champion and the favourite to win the tournament before being knocked out by Sitthichai.

Glory's matchmaker Cor Hemmers is an obvious proponent of the tournament format for creating new title contenders. Glory will sometimes use the single-match format title eliminator to create a new challenger, as they did with Adegbuyi. But most of the time the promotion sticks to using the tournament. The tournament format is fine for a pure sport that does not have to worry about drawing money, but for a television product that needs to draw ratings to survive (and possibly even thrive), using the tournament format to create title contenders does not necessarily lead to the biggest fights at the box office. I've said this many times, but Glory would be better off scrapping the tournament format.

Glory doesn't have any genuine stars, and an argument in favour of tournaments is that the winner becomes someone with a bit of star power who people may not have cared about otherwise. That's a good argument if a promotion only holds a rare tournament that creates new stars because the tournament is prestigious. But holding quick one-night tournaments on nearly every card means the tournaments are common and winning one doesn't mean much.

For instance, the real fight that Glory ought to put together for the Lightweight title is van Roosmalen defending against Giorgio Petrosyan. Petrosyan is considered arguably the best pound-for-pound kickboxer of his generation. He also holds a win over van Roosmalen before the latter won the Lightweight title, as Petrosyan beat van Roosmalen by unanimous decision at Glory 3 in November 2012. Petrosyan, 29, was knocked out by Andy Ristie in a shocking upset in November 2013 at Glory 12 in New York, but returned this year to win a couple of fights in Italy. Van Roosmalen lost to Ristie in November 2013 by knockout, but came back to beat Ristie in a rematch via unanimous decision in April.

Since Petrosyan is considered one of the best of all-time and holds a win over van Roosmalen in Glory, he is the obvious choice to face van Roosmalen rather than the winner of another tournament. But I'm guessing that Glory's budget for talent is tight and Petrosyan may currently be out of the promotion's price range.

That may be the real reason why Glory sticks with the tournament format despite it not working out for Bellator. It is cheaper to hire unknown fighters to fight one another in a tournament and try and create star power that way than it is to sign fighters who are already big names in kickboxing. And the ratings for a van Roosmalen-Petrosyan fight probably wouldn't draw any better than the ratings for a van Roosmalen-Sitsongpeenong fight because Petrosyan has little name value in the American mainstream. But he does have that win over van Roosmalen and is considered one of the best, so if Glory wants to become a breakout promotion on American TV then they have to book using the most logical opponents. And Petrosyan is the most logical contender to van Roosmalen's title.

Glory 22 aired live on Spike TV in the US in the unfortunate time slot of 4pm ET. Spike didn't run a replay of the event later in the night, which I assumed they would because 4pm on a weekday afternoon (1pm on the west coast) is a terrible timeslot. But instead Spike ran reruns of Cops in prime time and late in the night aired shoulder programming for Premier Boxing. A weekday afternoon timeslot is particularly egregious for a kickboxing promotion because Glory has to overcome the idea in the minds of Americans that kickboxing is afternoon filler material after so many years of K-1 and other smaller promotions airing in terrible timeslots on US television.

“Previously we have aired non-U.S. events via tape delay, but for June 5 there was space in the timetable to allow for a live broadcast so we took the opportunity,” said Glory CEO Jon Franklin. "Certainly it will be the earliest we have aired a show in America and commencing at 4pm on a Friday means some fans may still be in work or traffic, but there will also be others who will be better placed to tune in at that time. College students, for example, will often be out socializing on a Friday night.

"There is a certain element of experiment to airing this live at 4pm but Spike TV felt that going live was optimum and we also prefer to be live wherever possible, so it will be interesting to see the viewership data after the broadcast."

Airing a show live is great, but not if it results in a terrible timeslot with no prime time replay. Another point I've made many times before is that Glory needs to decide whether it wants to be an international kickboxing promotion or an American television product. I don't think it can be both because of the time zone differences when running Europe, the Middle East, or Asia. College students aren't going to be sitting around Friday afternoon watching television, either, so Franklin's point makes little sense. College students are usually out socializing on Saturday nights, but UFC doesn't have a problem drawing in that demo on Saturday nights.

It was also Glory's debut on the UK version of Spike TV. It aired Saturday night at 10pm in the UK. Glory also has a deal with CBS Sports Network to air the undercard matches they tape before the live Spike TV event. The Glory undercard fights have the ostentatious name of "Superfight Series", but rather than being super fights the matches feature lesser known fighters.

This was the twelfth Glory event to air on Spike TV. The first eleven events have averaged 462,000 viewers. This is the lowest compared to Spike's two other combat sports properties, Bellator and Premier Boxing. Glory has ranged in average viewership between an all-time high of 659,000 viewers for Glory 13 to an all-time low of 352,000 viewers.

The average viewership for Friday afternoon's show will be interesting because of both the timeslot and because Glory is heavily recorded by DVR. Glory 21 saw a 245-percent uplift via DVR.

"I think the big takeaway from the increased DVR numbers is that they indicate the continual growth of a core fan base in the US which does not want to miss the action and is recording the show if they are unable to watch the live broadcast," said Franklin.

The problem is that DVR numbers don't really do much for ad rates. Advertisers are looking for shows that people watch live and have to sit through the ads rather than shows that get recorded via DVR and people just skip the ads. But the late afternoon live start for Glory 22 was probably done with the thinking that some people will watch it live, but many more will DVR it and increase the overall Live+ ratings.

"That is true, traditionally," said Franklin regarding shows taking place outside the US hurting television ratings on US television. "But GLORY is an international organization and there has been a lot of demand for a show in Northern Europe for some time now, so we couldn't really ignore that any longer.

"We're hopeful the momentum continues although we are of course aware that a certain percentage of fans may well use the internet to follow the event in real-time rather than wait for the tape-delay broadcast on Spike TV. Such is the nature of international sports event programming. It's a factor in every sport, not just ours."

An unfortunate situation also occured earlier in the week when Glory Welterweight champion "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini announced that he had to vacate his title due to lingering symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

"After winning the title at GLORY 17/LAST MAN STANDING I went straight back into hard training. I was chasing a rematch with Nieky Holzken and wanted that fight to come around soon," said Valtellini. "The doctors have diagnosed me with Post-Concussion Syndrome. It was something that occurred from training but I thought it would get better and I didn't take that time to recover, which just made it worse. As a result neither the doctors nor GLORY will clear me to fight until I am symptom-free."

"This is of course incredibly sad news and I know I speak for everybody at GLORY when I say that we share Joe's pain in seeing him vacate a championship title which means so much to him. At the same time, I can only salute the selflessness and fortitude he has shown in making what must have been the hardest decision of his professional career," said Jon Franklin.

Glory 23 takes place August 7th at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It airs live on Spike. Nieky Holzken faces Raymond Daniels for the vacant Welterweight title. There is also a four-man middleweight tournament to create a new challenger for that belt.

Jeremy Wall can be emailed at jeremywall1984@gmail.com and found on Twitter @jeremydalewall.