K-1 MAX Expands from an 8-Man to a 16-Man Tournament; Announces K-1 Versus RISE and K-1 Versus the World Match-Ups

Jan 23, 2024
K-1 champion & top fighters lined up. Photo: K-1 Japan Group
K-1 producer Carlos Kikuta invites fighters and fans to nominate partcipants for the upcoming Grand Prix.

K-1 and Krush producers Carlos Kikuta and Mitsuru Miyata announced three 'pillars' for the upcoming March 20th K-1 event: the return of the K-1 MAX tournament, as well as the K-1 versus RISE and K-1 versus The World themed series of fights.

K-1 MAX, which was first announced as an eight-man tournament, has now doubled in size due to the large number of requests to participate in the Grand Prix. The opening round of the tournament will be held on March 20, while the one-day finale (quarterfinals, semifinals and finals) of the Grand Prix will be held in July of this year. So far, only the former K-1 Super Welterweight (-70 kg) champion Hiromi Wajima has been confirmed as a participant, while the remaining 15 fighters will be revealed in early February. 

K-1 producer Kikuta had the following to say regarding the Grand Prix participants: "The match-ups and participating fighters are still being decided, so we would like to hear from the fighters themselves if they want to participate and from the fans who they would like to see and in what match ups". Although he has more or less confirmed that Ouyang Feng will take part depending on how his fight with Davit Kiria plays out, and has mentioned a 'good chance' of Marat Grigorian appearing, the rest of the spots are still available.

The second and third of the event 'pillars' will see five K-1 champions and prominent fighters take on five of their counterparts from RISE and an undisclosed number of K-1 stalwarts face fighters from around the world. No bouts have yet been confirmed, but K-1 has mentioned they'll try and arrange the following contests: Taito Gunji against Keisuke Monguchi in a meeting of featherweight (-57.5 KG) champions, Akihiro Kaneko against Masahiko Suzuki, as well as Leona Pettas against Chanhyeong Lee. Masashi Kumura was the fourth K-1 fighter to appear at the press conference, but no potential opponent was named.

With the recent cross-promotion between RISE and K-1, the possibility of a cross-promotional championship has also been mentioned in the Japanese media. While this would require some rule adjustment, most notably in the number of rounds a title fight entails, it would be another in a series of recent steps towards growing the sport and putting on fights kickboxing fans want to see.

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Kazuyoshi Ishii.

It was also announced that Kazuyoshi Ishii will be appointed as an advisor.

Ishii founded K-1 in 1993 in hopes of bringing together Heavyweight fighters from all over the world to compete in a one-night tournament. 

He had the following to say: "I founded K-1 30 years ago and resigned in 2002. It's been about 20 years since then. I accepted the position with the desire to return to the global K-1 and contribute to its revival."