After being nauseated with incessant reminders that Badr Hari is returning to action this weekend, I felt I'd push some buttons by Tweeting that he and the sport of kickboxing were "overrated". This naturally lit fans of kickboxing on fire. They hurled epithets and wanted to know what reason(s) I would have for saying as much. I'll admit I was being intentionally provocative with the Tweet, but there was a more serious viewpoint hidden beneath the bravado; a viewpoint I try to articulate in the video above.
The video rests on a central question: why have MMA fighters found more success when crossing over into professional kickboxing than in boxing?
Matthew Roth of Head Kick Legend says the question is valid and there are certain undeniable realities about kickboxing's youth that hold the sport back relative to boxing. However, he argues I ultimately miss the mark:
Honestly, on first viewing of his video, it's hard to disagree with him. Kickboxing and MMA are young sports and neither really have the history to really back up claims for a fighter being "the best combat sports athlete in the world". The ability for MMA fighters to make the transition to kickboxing should set off some alarms when a 2-2 kickboxer like Alistair Overeem can knock out one of the best K-1 fighters. At the same time, a fighter like Shinya Aoki shouldn't be knocked out in MMA by a kickboxer like Yuichiro Nagashima during their mixed rules match at Dynamite!! 2010. With both sports being so young relative to the sweet science, there isn't truly an elite class of fighters and it's difficult to argue otherwise.
However, Luke's point of view is flawed in that it shows a disregard for the obvious fact that most MMA fighters train in kickboxing anyway for fights. This allows them to make a decent transition between the two sports which is also why a fighter like Alistair Overeem was able to knock out Badr Hari at just 2-2. As someone who has trained in BJJ, Kickboxing, and MMA, I can attest that before MMA fights, most gyms and coaches will want to see that you have competency in the individual aspects of MMA. And once you've made it to getting MMA fights, you're always improving your all around skills as well.
Finally, while he did go more detailed about his tweet, he never fully addresses the accusation that kickboxing is an overrated sport. I'd agree to a certain extent that Hari isn't the fighter that people have made him out to be, but the sport of kickboxing has a legitimate line of history in Europe and Asia. Even if he used the wrong word, he's still incorrect in his statement. Kickboxing as a sport is the last untainted combat sport in North America. Many fans are those that felt forsaken during the Zuffa purchase of PRIDE and as the last remnant of Japanese fight culture, it would be absolutely impossible to see kickboxing as anything but great. Luke's inability to relate to these fans is why he's wrong. As well though out and put together his reasoning is, he'll never be right as long as people are passionate about kickboxing and JMMA.
I'm still looking for more answers about potential reasons for the incontestable phenomena I outline in the question/video. Happy to hear more responses.
As for Matt's take, I don't discount that more MMA fighters train in kickboxing than boxing. MMA fighters more naturally kickbox than box during the course of MMA preparation. It's hard to find useful boxing trainers in the MMA space. That doesn't do much, though, to address talent pool shortages in kickboxing or why MMA fighters are still able to compete and defeat top-level kickboxers with very limited experience. Alistair Overeem's 2008 knockout of Badr Hari, as I explain the video, came after the Dutchman had four fights, two of which he'd lost. It's hard to envision that ever happening with a crossover boxing bout with a MMA fighter.
Is it the issues I've outlined? Is this a mountain out of a mole hill? Is it simply we need MMA fighters to be proactive in crossing over to demonstrate the parity with professional boxers? Let's hear it.