Now that 2017 is in the books, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best that the sport of kickboxing had to offer. Over the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the ring to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
The kickboxing world is in the midst of another boom of young talent rising to the top of its respective weight divisions. Fighters like 23-year-old prospect Alim Nabiyev, destructive knockout artist and K-1 flyweight titleholder Yoshiki Takei, highlight-reel producing phenom Rukiya, and the shocking Enfusion tournament victor Endy Semeleer.
The fighter that stuck out from the crowd, however, is current K-1 lightweight Wei Rui. The 26-year-old Chinese prospect took his career to the next stage with one of the best years from any kickboxing competitor in 2017. Rui was victorious in all eight of his bouts during 2017, including his K-1 lightweight championship tournament victory over the likes of former Krush champ Daizo Sasaki, Superkombat lightweight titleholder Cristian Spetcu, and top Japanese prospect Ren Hiramoto.
Rui also featured prominently in his home country of China during 2017 with victories that continued to push his popularity higher in the fastest growing combat sports market in the world. Rui defeated No.1 GLORY contender and former title challenger Petpanomrung Kiatmookao. Petpanomrung later defeated Serhiy Adamchuk to win a contender tournament and lost controversially against two-division GLORY champ Robin van Roosmalen. Rui also picked up victories over Thai fighters Thanonchai Thor. Sangtiannoi and Narongwut Kaeongam under the Glory of Heroes banner.
Arguably the biggest win of Rui’s year and the fight that pushed him into the upper echelon of the sport was his title defense against top-10 bantamweight Gonnapar Weerasakreck. He topped off his year with his eighth victory to win the Strikers League 63.5-kilogram title against Spaniard Jesus Romero. The talented Chinese fighter has racked up victories in his last 33 fights dating all the way back to August of 2014.
Other finalists: Alim Nabiyev, Endy Semeleer, Yoshiki Takei, Rukiya, and Chris Baya
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 Kickboxing Award winners.