Europe’s It’s Showtime promotion is a company that has achieved great growth over the past 10 years, and today stands tall as the top kickboxing organization in Europe. With a number of anticipated upcoming shows and fights, there is growing interest in the company on an international level. K-1 Legend recently had a chance to interview It’s Showtime founder and CEO Simon Rutz to get his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company.
K-1 Legend: It’s Showtime has come a long way since it first opened ten years ago, with 2009 looking to be a particularly strong year. How do you feel as you look back on the company’s progress?
Simon Rutz: I started my company in 1998 and organized my first event in 1999. In the beginning people where laughing about our formula, which put sport and entertainment together. Now, people like this formula and almost every event is sold out. Especially in the last 2 years we’re growing very fast with events in the Netherlands, Belguim, Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Greece, etc.
K-1 Legend: How about the future – where do you see It’s Showtime in 5 years?
SR: In 5 years the situation will be totally different than now. Next year we are organizing 9 events, but I think that in 5 years we’ll be organizing between 15 and 20 events a year. Also our management is growing very fast, from 50 fighters now to maybe 100 in the future. But our main business is and shall be the organization of fighting events. Also, in 2011 we will introduce something new for our organization, but for now I can say nothing about that.
K-1 Legend: As you look forward, what do you think about the United States as a market? K-1 has seen a recent increase in popularity and awareness here. Does It’s Showtime have plans to tap into the US market? It seems like you have strong potential here with your use of popular fighters like Badr Hari and Melvin Manhoef.
SR: At the moment we don’t have plans to enter the US market. Of course we understand that it could be a big and interesting market, but at the moment we are busy with the European market, which is bigger than the market in the US. When we come to the US it will be with a strong US partner, who’s living there and with whom we can work well together. We will never make the mistake of thinking we can do it by ourselves.
K-1 Legend: What about England? In May you mentioned the possibility of holding a show there. Is this still something you are looking towards?
SR: At the moment we are still talking with some future partners in England. But when we do it, we will do it good. We don’t have to rush.
K-1 Legend: You seem to have a great working relationship with K-1, co-promoting shows, sharing fighters and creating huge fights like Badr Hari v. Semmy Schilt. From the fights you have scheduled for the Amsterdam Arena it seems like you will still work together in 2010. Is that true?
SR: We have a good relationship with K-1 but we do not work together on events. Only in the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 did we work together with our event at the Amsterdam ArenA. Starting in 2009 it was a 100% IT’S SHOWTIME event again. For us after 2008 it was less interesting working together on our Amsterdam event. A lot of people don’t know it, but we have a really big fighters management [division] with fighters such as Badr Hari, Melvin Manhoef, Daniel Ghita, Bjorn Bregy, Attila Karacs, Thomas Hron, Rico Verhoeven, Gago Drago, Murat Direkci, Giorgio Petrosian, Pajonsuk and many, many more. We also work close together with the Black Label management group, and they have also very good fighters such as Tyrone Spong. So we are really independent.
K-1 Legend: At some point, as you continue to grow and as fighters become more busy, is there a danger that your two companies will begin to view each other as the competition, and not as allies?
SR: Everything is possible, but it is not our goal. The world is big enough for two big and strong kickboxing companies.
K-1 Legend: You mention working with Black Label management and using their fighters. What about Golden Glory? I know you were upset at the way Gokhan Saki pulled out of your Amsterdam ArenA show earlier this year. How is your relationship with Golden Glory and Bas Boon now?
SR: What can I say about Golden Glory? They have some good and nice fighters and that’s all. About Bas Boon… I haven’t taken him seriously for a long time already, because even when he sings he is lying!
K-1 Legend: You recently had plans to announce Ernesto Hoost v. Badr Hari in a fight that unfortunately fell through. From Hoost’s comments it sounds like he was concerned specifically about facing Hari. Is the door still open for Hoost to fight someone else for It’s Showtime?
SR: At the moment we are not thinking about Ernesto Hoost fighting another fight for IT’S SHOWTIME. It was for us very disappointing that he didn’t want to fight against Badr Hari, because that was really a sensational fight. We at European Fighting Network work very well with Ernesto, so maybe we can make a deal in the near future about a fight.
K-1 Legend: How about Hari – will we still see him at the 2010 Amsterdam ArenA show?
SR: Yes, Badr Hari likes to fight in Amsterdam, and we already made a deal. We don’t know the opponent yet. We will wait until after the K-1 final.
K-1 Legend: Speaking of the Amsterdam ArenA show, you already have some great fights announced there, plus a number of exciting fights at other upcoming events. What fights are you most looking forward to?
SR: The fight between Melvin Manhoef and Tyrone Spong is very special because both are coming from Amsterdam and now they are fighting in their own city. Many people in Europe want to see this fight. But also fights like Buakaw Por. Pramuk vs Chahid and Arthur Kyshenko vs Murat Direkci are great fights. I do the matchmaking in Amsterdam myself – that’s one off the nicest things from my work.
K-1 Legend: Recently, a number of your fighters, including Daniel Ghita and Giorgio Petrosyan, have made great impacts in K-1. Who do you think are the next up and coming fighters to watch?
SR: We have many fighters who can fight directly with the worlds best right this moment. For example: Mourad Bouzidi, who beat Errol Zimmerman at the last IT’S SHOWTIME event in the Amsterdam ArenA. But also Chahid (-70), who is one of the most exciting fighters in the world. Rico Verhoeven, who is only 20 years old and who is in my opinion one of the future stars. And this week we singed a couple of new names for our management that we will announce later. Of course I must not forget Pajonsuk from Thailand. He stopped kickboxing for 3 years because he was doing only boxing (Olympics) and now he is back. I think he is the new Buakaw.
K-1 Legend: On a personal level, what fighters do you like to watch?
SR: I like fighters who are always attacking, fighters like: Badr Hari, Melvin Manhoef, Gago Drago, Joerie Mes, Chahid, William Diender, Murat Direkci, etc. But I like all my fighters from our management, that’s the reason why we give them a contract.
K-1 Legend: Finally, what can fans of It’s Showtime look forward to in 2010?
SR: We will organize 9 events in 2010, and in every event we have some special fights. The Amsterdam ArenA event on May 29 is of course the most special event of the year with a lot of special fights. For the English speaking people I have good news: in a couple of weeks our website will also be in English. I know, I know, it is much too late, but better late than never, ha ha. Check www.fight.nl.
It’s Showtime’s next show, featuring Chahid Oulad El Hadj vs. Murat Direkci, is set for this coming Saturday October 24.