Glory 17: Go Big or Go Home on June 21, 2014
We all would love to have nice things, particularly a successful, thriving kickboxing promotion that houses the world’s best fighters and generates widespread popular interest. So far, we’re half-way there–Glory is indisputably the world’s largest kickboxing promotion, but it has yet to achieve the popularity that will be needed to sustain its operations in the future. Ratings so far, while promising, aren’t stellar, and the reality of the television landscape these days is that even the most promising shows routinely get canceled.
What then do we make of Glory 17? Glory undoubtedly intends this event to be a breakthrough moment for the organization, staging an epic 8-man Middleweight tournament and a massive Heavyweight title fight on PPV to follow a free SpikeTV broadcast. Meanwhile, the SpikeTV portion features names like Mirko Cro Cop and Miguel Torres, fighters most likely slotted to boost viewership for the monumental event to follow, as well as some solid standouts like Andy Ristie. The show in its entirety packs all the punch of a K-1 Dynamite New Year’s Eve special and is seemingly poised to become a resounding success. But what if it fails?
No matter how many incredible events Glory has produced so far, the elephant in the room, at least for those of us with bad memories of K-1 and its final days, has always been the cost of production and talent and the actual return that Glory is generating. In short, I’m not convinced that Glory is making money. Dark mood lighting doesn’t conceal the empty seats in the 3,000 person venues that Glory has visited here in the US, and cutting large checks in these venues isn’t inspiring confidence in the balance sheet department. Of course, this should really come as no surprise to anyone; Pierre Andurand and other Glory bigwigs made clear from the start that they knew how challenging it would be to turn their business into a success and that they have been committed from the start to doing so. But for how long? We’ve already seen fight promotions wilt under the rising cost of expansion, and the organization in question (Strikeforce) had more going for it at the time.
Also, the SpikeTV deal, historic for bringing kickboxing back to American TV, has yet to expand. Glory still occupies a small 2-hour Saturday night timeslot despite producing hours of content from a single event. This is a far cry from the many hours of UFC content that formerly filled most of Spike’s daily programming lineup. Glory fighters have made virtually no promotional appearances in other SpikeTV programs, and Glory as a whole has received little promotion from Spike beyond a few commercials, late night Best of Glory program, and a Primetime special. To some extent, this is understandable as Viacom is not as invested financially in Glory as it is in Bellator, but it’s puzzling to see Viacom hold out for a product that would allow the network to better distinguish itself as a major combat sports outlet.
This brings us to Glory’s PPV debut. While the fight card is easily worth the money, many questions remain about the timing and earning potential of this event. Is it too early for Glory to make the move to PPV? It’s difficult to tell. Would it make people like me feel better if Glory had greater ratings traction going into this event? Sure. There is no denying that the kickboxing scene has been energized and revitalized, but I wonder if there’s still distance to cover before kickboxing is ready for PPV. On the other hand, it’s debatable whether there truly is an appropriate time to make the move. As the UFC has demonstrated, sometimes diving in and sticking through the rough times can be rewarding in the end. Ultimately for Glory, its ability to build an audience will matter more than the money it can generate at this stage. Some of the Glory fighters have endured years of hard times and hard knocks in order to reach the heights and achieve the success that they have; let’s hope that Glory’s investors are willing to do the same.