The pinnacle of every year in the world of kickboxing, the K-1 Grand Prix, has recently swung into full gear. After a slow start to the year, details for K-1’s annual championship tournament have recently been finalized. But for new fans, the Grand Prix structure can be a bit confusing. Here then, is your primer on the K-1 Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix is an annual event dating back to 1993 and crowning a yearly Grand Prix champion – the current champion is Remy Bonjasky. The tournament begins early in the year with a series of one night regional qualifying tournaments. Traditionally, these tournaments take place in Europe, Asia, Japan, and the United States. Winners of each of these tournaments move on the round of 16. On September 26, the 16 finalists will compete in fights to determine who moves on to the final 8. The 16 fighters here are comprised of the regional champions, the final 8 from last year’s tournament, and 4 or more wild cards chosen by K-1 management. The 8 winners of their fights here move on to the final – a one night, 8 man elimination tournament scheduled for December 5. The winner there will be your 2009 K-1 Grand Prix champion.
For 2009, 11 of the 16 finalists have already been determined. These include last year’s final 8: Remy Bonjasky, Badr Hari, Peter Aerts, Jerome Le Banner, Ewerton Teixeira, Errol Zimmerman, Ruslan Karaev, and Gokhan Saki; along with the 3 regional champions: Zabit Samedov, Singh Jaideep, and today’s Japan champion. With no US qualifying tournament this year, that leaves 5 wild card slots. Expect 3 of these to be filled by former champion Semmy Schilt, K-1 legend Ray Sefo, and HW champion Kyotaro. Of the 2 remaining wild cards, look for possibilities including Sergei Lascenko, Tyrone Spong, Melvin Manhoef, or Mighty Mo.
No matter how it ends up, this year’s tournament looks to be full of new blood, and if last year’s excellent finals are any indication, this promises to be a superb road to the championship.