“Honestly like… It’s a tiny organization, and the level is very low. I mean, the level of striking is very low. That’s all I’m going to say. That’s why Takeru, the best striker in K-1 wants to leave and come to here. If you’re an expert striker, you understand what I’m talking about. The level is very low.”
Earlier this year, ONE Championship announced the signing of the multi-division and K-1 Grand Prix Kickboxing world champion Takeru Segawa. During the press conference, ONE CEO Sityodtong went out of his way to insult Japanese kickboxing athletes of the old and new. He said:
“Whether it’s Masato or Tenshin, they were only Japan’s champions, competing in Japan only.”
Chatri Sityodtong is referring to kickboxing legend Masato Kobayashi who is celebrated for his rivalry against Buakaw Banchamek, where the two fighters went 1-1 against each other. Masato is a kickboxing icon whose superstardom helped build the sport. He also earned multiple K-1 MAX Grand Prix world championships.
The other person Sityodtong is referring to is Tenshin Nasukawa. The unbeaten phenom had a blockbuster fight against Takeru in 2022. This was a marquee event that took place in a sold-out Tokyo Dome, with more than 50,000 tickets sold. Additionally, this kickboxing battle sold over half a million pay-per-view buys.
Takeru had to respond. On social media, the kickboxing star said:
“There is just one thing that I could not accept from today’s press conference. While they only competed in Japan, both Masato and Tenshin made an impact by taking on the world. I want you to respect that.”
Shortly after, the ONE Championship CEO took his aim at kickboxing once again during a live stream. Chatri said:
“In kickboxing, sometimes you have some people who pitter-patter for decisions. And it’s not as fun.”
Nobuyuki Sakakibara Responds
Sakakibara is an iconic promoter in Japanese combat sports. During the combat sports boom of Japan in the early 2000s, he had a hand in both PRIDE FC and K-1 Kickboxing. Currently, he is the President of RIZIN FF, which has been putting on impressive numbers for live ticket sales and television viewers.
THE MATCH, with Tenshin and Takeru, was a crossover event between K-1 and RISE kickboxing, and Sakakibara helped promote this once-in-a-lifetime event at the sold-out Tokyo Dome.
In an interview with MMA Mania’s Drake Riggs, Sakakibara said:
“I honestly think them as promoters talking about a sport like that. I don’t appreciate them talking like that. I think that’s an issue on their personal level because kickboxing is an amazing sport. It’s a fun sport. And, as a promoter, if you cannot promote that sport, you shouldn’t be doing it. I think there are a lot of great ways to promote a kickboxing fight. Kickboxing is interesting, it’s an entertaining sport.
“If you feel like it’s not happening, it’s a promoter’s fault that’s not doing their job. They’re not picking up the right points, they’re not promoting it right. So, I think, as a promoter, they shouldn’t be saying that to specific sports. If they’ve tried, and if they can’t do it, it’s up to them, and it’s their fault. We know how to promote interesting fights, and we make it interesting.”
K-1 Producer Carlos Kikuta responded to Chatri on Twitter with a warning:
“In Japan, not only in the martial arts market, but also in other markets, sensitive and detailed marketing work is important. Foreign promoters who do not understand this will not be able to continue to operate their shows. Continuity is power.”
K-1 Kickboxing was founded in 1993 and has been a staple of combat sports ever since.
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