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Caged K-1: the grass routes

The K-1 style of kickboxing remains one of the most exiting rulesets in combat sports, and nowhere is that more apparent than local, amateur Mixed Martial Arts shows.

K-1 kickboxing, at the lower levels at least, is still a niche sport in the UK. There are some promotions that solely showcase K-1 fights, such as Super Fight Series, K-1 Xtreme, and Contender promotions. K-1 fights, however, mainly dominate the undercards of MMA shows.

In the UK you would be hard pressed to find a local MMA show without a couple K-1 bouts scattered throughout the MMA fights. This is probably because it takes a while for even skilled athletes to pick up the ground game necessary for MMA, so they build up some cage time under the K-1 rule-set first.

Caged K-1 fights are often fast-paced and gruelling slugfests. you might see a bit more of a chess match from time to time, but the ruleset was designed to make fights exiting, and they usually are.

In K-1 you get three rounds, usually three minutes long but sometimes two at the lower levels, and you can box, kick and knee. The lack of time creates a sense of urgency, and the scoring rewards aggressiveness and knockdowns, this forces fighters to get on the front foot and chase a stoppage.

This is only enhanced by the cage, which has no 90-degree corners, meaning fighters don’t get bullied into a corner like they can in a ring. Because of this, the fighters will opt to trade shots with each other in the centre of the cage.

Can these fights be a bit sloppy? Sure. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t to be appreciated, they test heart and perseverance like little else can. The K-1 kickboxing matches on MMA fight cards have been able to steal the show on a fair few occasions, such as Alfie Davis’ viral axe kick KO at UCMMA.

The upper echelons of combat sports are only now picking up on how well K-1 and cages gel, with ONE FC showcasing great fights such as Nieky Holzken vs Cosmo Alexandre, and Giorgio Petrosyan vs Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy

Hopefully this will stick as some promotions in the UK are pushing solely amateur and professional MMA, it would be a shame to see caged K-1 pushed aside. Some may see it as a sideshow, but it provides cage time for aspiring Mixed Martial Artists as well as opportunities for those who want to eventually pursue a career in professional K-1 under the elite banners such as GLORY and Enfusion.

K-1 at the grassroots level may not be as pure as mixed martial arts, or as technical and tactical as Thai boxing, but it offers something the other two don’t, the short rounds push a pace and the ruleset forces aggression, K-1 kickboxing forces fighters to bite down and fight.