After much speculation due to the troubling financial state of event promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group, the K-1 World Grand Prix has finally returned with the Final 16 to take place on Oct. 29 at the the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium in Nanjing, China.
Badr Hari, one of kickboxing's most polarizing figures and the last man to defeat 2010 K-1 World GP champion Alistair Overeem, is also making his return following his absence from 2010's GP for a self-imposed break from the sport due to numerous disciplinary problems.
Hari, Hesdy Gerges, Tyrone Spong, Ruslan Karaev, Daniel Ghita, Ben Edwards, Melvin Manhoef, Dzevad Poturak, Sergei Lascenko, Rico Verhoeven and Anderson "Braddock" Silva are the names currently listed for the Final 16, with five more to be announced at a later date.
Although many fans will be delighted that Hari is back in the mix, there are host of missing names from the 2011 Final 16.
Traditionally the final eight from the previous year's K-1 World Grand Prix are granted slots in the Final 16; however Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt, Kyotaro, Gokhan Saki, Siala-Mou "Mighty Mo" Siliga and eventual champion Alistair Overeem are not among the names listed for Nanjing. Due to his recent signing with the UFC, Overeem will not be defending his title but the other absentees have not yet been explained.
K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa revealed that he has been in talks with Bas Boon and the Golden Glory team which houses Schilt, Overeem and Gokhan Saki among others, but he did not give the reason for their absence. Tanikawa did state however that the Final 16 is being produced in co-operation with It's Showtime promoter Simon Rutz which led to Hari, Spong, Ghita, Gerges and Karaev being included on the card.
Additionally, some of the remaining eight spots in the Final 16 have been traditionally filled by regional tournament champions but this custom has not been adhered to this year as there were no regional tournaments in 2011 due to the financial difficulties with K-1 promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group. In the past there has also been fan voting to fill remaining Final 16 spots but this has also not happened for 2011's tournament.
No broadcast details have been released for the Final 16 in Japan but the event is set to be broadcast to the Nanjing and Jiangsu provinces in China via co-promoter Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation. HDNet representatives were not immediately available for comment regarding broadcast plans in North America.
Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa promised that the Final 16 at the 13,000-capacity Nanjin Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium is only the start of K-1's expansion into Asia, also singling out Singapore as possibility for future K-1 events.
Speaking via the internet broadcast, Tanikawa did not address any of the financial issues facing FEG or the transfer of the K-1 trademarks to real estate firm Barbizon.