‘Eight’ is a lucky number in Chinese numerology and that’s a coincidence, because in an eight-man tournament luck is often a test of fortune as well.
I am excited for this tournament. These things have a special energy to them. It’s not just what is happening in the ring, but also what is happening backstage. Teams are working on their fighters, the athletes are riding an emotional rollercoaster, doctors are running from room to room assessing physical condition. It’s like Formula One, a pit-stop before returning to the race.
Maybe one or both of their legs has taken heavy damage from low kicks. Maybe they have damage their shin throwing low kicks of their own but meeting hard defense. Perhaps a hand is hurting, threatening to break, or they suspect a rib has been cracked. This must all be dismissed and overcome.
But the physical element is only half of it. It is backstage, between fights, that mental strength is really tested. Ordinarily a fighter goes through a training camp, has his fight, and it’s over. Here, if he wins, he has to go back to his dressing room and get ready to do it all over again - and then again, if needs be.
Three fights in one night, accumulating damage from fight to fight, each fight against a seasoned professional who wants it as much as you do - show me a tougher sports competition than this.
For a kickboxer, this is the Super Bowl. It’s their Le Mans 24 Hour: once you’re off the starting grid, as long as you’re ahead, there’s no turning back, you’re in there til the finish line.
I’ve always been a fan of this format: it’s a self-contained story and a special thing for a fighter to take part in.
The only reason it hasn’t been a fixture of GLORY Kickboxing thus far is because of the timeslots dictated by television broadcasters - a two-block is not enough time for an eight-man tournament to play out.
On Saturday, the tournament will commence during the Preliminary Card with the opening four bouts. The winners then progress to the Superfight Series, where the semi-final and final bouts will be fought.
I’m interested to see how it works out. Maybe it’s something we will see more of in the future, as special events.
For this weekend’s tournament, we’ve gathered up eight of the best lightweights in China. Whoever wins this, you can say he’s one of the best in the country. They all have experience, they all have winning records. There are no newcomers or fillers here.
Is the winner THE best lightweight in China? I’m not going to say that exactly, because the format is so grueling and luck plays a part, but certainly he can have his name in that conversation. The weight of his achievement will be undeniable.