Winner of the 2009 World Games, three-times WKF world medallist (2nd in 2004 and 2008, 3rd in 2010), Hungary’s Adam Kovacs is the Karate Combat technical manager. Genesis, ambitions, rules... He enlightens us on the brand new Full contact Karate Professional League.
By Ludovic Mauchien
How is born Karate Combat ?
It comes from the USA. The founders of the League and the company which is behind it thought this was a really good timing in combat sports to launch something. In 2016, the UFC was sold for 4 billions $. It really became mainstream with Ronda Rousey and Connor Mc Gregor. The other thing is that, the same year, Karate became an Olympic sport.
The two together was an indicator that there is plenty of space to explore. A full contact Karate League is something which is not present on the combat sports market. Karate doesn’t have a major League like you have in MMA, in Boxing, in tennis… although the WKF (World Karate Federation) is trying with the Premier League. But the WKF is more on the amateur sport side. Our company have a different mindset on how to promote top athletes.
How do you think that the WKF sees Karate Combat ?
Well, I am not WKF so I don’t know how they see it. They haven’t come out publicly about it. And WKF is not one person, people could have a different mindset on it. One thing for sure, we met the WKF in its headquarters in Madrid last year, so this was not a secret for them. We are working towards a cooperation with them.
But Karate Combat doesn’t concern only WKF. This is a new sport, a new aspect of Karate. Of course, there are athletes who are superstars in WKF, but not yet superstars in the world of sports. Myself, I was a WKF fighter, I have three medals in Senior World championships (2nd in 2004 and 2008, 3rd in 2010), I am a Junior World champion (2001) and a World Games winner (2009). So, I have a lot of respect for WKF.
There is no competition between WKF and this new League from our side. We are trying to put a product together which is not only good for people who are doing Karate but also for everybody else, really good to show on TV, on social media… I think this is also a good promotion for WKF because we can promote its best athletes not only in Karate but worldwide.
« There is no competition between WKF and this new League from our side »
Many WKF champions running for Tokyo 2020 (Aghayev, Poorshab, Mamayev, Rojas, Ouchen…) signed up. Do you think they can do both as the fight preparation is different ?
In the long term, of course, we don’t know because this is new. But, what we see now is, for example, Rafael (Aghayev) fought in Budapest last February and, right after, he won the Dubai Premier League. To be a member of Karate Combat doesn’t mean that you must only train this. People can have fights two or three times a year in Karate Combat and, of course, we will respect the calendar of WKF and we won’t mix the same dates.
For us, athletes are really, really important. If one is concentrating on a Premier League, a World or European championships, we will put him on a card at a date that may allow him to train 2 or 3 months and to focus more on the full contact aspect of the sport.
We encourage all WKF athletes -we don’t only have WKF guys- to go to the Premier Leagues, the Worlds and the Olympic qualifications because, for us, this is as important as for them. If this is good for them, this is good for everybody.
Karate Combat signed with over 100 fighters from 30 countries. How did you proceed to choose them ?
There is a technical team within the company, who are experts, including myself as I was an athlete. We have top level coaches, top level referees, MMA experts as well. Everybody is on the top of his game, of what he does. Everybody is very high leveled. We really try to find the best people available.
Putting all together these names and also looking at rankings on Internet allowed us to see the top WKF athletes, the top Shotokan athletes and we still have had a lot of prospects who are not out there. It was very interesting and enjoying.
« Different deals with the distribution channels, Facebook and YouTube… »
What is the overall budget of Karate Combat ?
This is something I cannot talk about because, of course, this is a business secret. As you can see when you go to Karate.com, the founders of this League are not coming from Karate, but from the business world and with a serious background in Wall Street or in big companies. We are really stable and there are investors who are really interested in the company as well.
Among the 16 partners announced on our website, some of them are sponsors, some are partners. We have different deals with the distribution channels, for example Facebook and YouTube. This is not only traditional sponsorship like these platforms give money.
The company exists for a year or so and guys started to work more than a year ago. As you can see on the website, we have Kim Hurwitz as chief marketing officer. She used to be marketing director for DirectTV, which is one of the biggest pay-per-view company for the US.
The next events would be held in Miami (April 26th) and Dubai (next June). How can people watch them ? Only by pay per view ?
At this point, everything is moving because a lot of things are under development. Miami and Dubai are invitational events. You cannot just show up and try to get in. But you can watch it on live at karate.com, or on the distribution channels
In the future, there will some events that will be for a bigger audience, even stadium events. But the League has to develop first. As everything grows, we will go to a stadium, to Las Vegas. Now, we have the promotional licenses in the USA and we will have events in different parts of the world.
« It is a criteria for us that people should have Karate background »
Tell us more about the rules. How last a fight ? What are the weight divisions ?
A fight is 3 rounds of 3 minutes with 1 minute break between. In full contact, it’s very difficult to make an open category. In the early days of the UFC, they did it but we are not willing to because we don’t want to risk the health of the athletes. So, we have, at the moment, five male categories (-67 kg, -75 kg, -84 kg, -93 kg, +93 kg) and two female ones.
In the UFC early days, martial schools were opposed to each other. Does Karate Combat aim to confront karate schools and even some other full contact sports (ITF Taekwondo, Sanda…) ?
At this point, this is not the main thing for us. Mostly, what we are looking for is to have the toughest Karate guys in the world. We don’t want to make comparisons between schools. We just want to have really good Karate fights and we look at Karate as one.
It is a criteria for us that people should have Karate background, Shotokan, WKF, Kyokushin… We are looking for producing fights which don’t look MMA, Kick-boxing or Muay thaï. So we want to keep long techniques, longer stance and we don’t want close range fights. That’s why we don’t have knees, elbows or uppercuts. We want to keep it more in a traditional way, as you see Lyoto Machida or even Connor McGregor at the UFC, because the way he fights and he moves is very much like Karate style.
We want to keep it as close as Karate as possible so we only want Karate guys at first. At this point, we are not open to someone who is only coming from a MMA or a kick-boxing background.