What makes a promotion the best in the world for any given year? Is it consistently holding entertaining events, that feature back-and-forth wars, technical showcases, and stunning knockouts? Is it holding a few select events, that feature the truly special fights that are a culmination of long storylines and a career's worth of effort? Or is it simply good matchmaking – having the best fighters and pitting them against each other?
Thankfully, the Beyond Kickboxing staff members weren't forced to answer that question, or to spend time arguing among themselves on which particular attribute differentiates one promotion from the other. RISE fulfilled all these criteria and more.
On the event side of things, RISE held four events that could've contended for 'Event of the Year' honors: El Dorado and the three World Series events. In all four of these events, new and old storylines were developed: for example, Kento Haraguchi's crusade towards another showdown with his rival Petchpanomrung, Toki Tamaru's quest toward redemption following a 3-year-long cold streak, or YA-MAN's blossoming into a bonafide domestic star.
On the matchmaking side of things, we saw plenty of great match-ups that gave us entertaining spectacles. The five round rematch between two pound-for-pound fighters in Toki Tamaru and Kazuki Osaki, the war between Chan Hyung Lee and Hyuma Hitachi, Keisuke Monguchi's run through the Featherweight division were just a few fights that were on offer in RISE this year. We can't forget our 'Upset of the Year' either – Petchpanomrung's defeat at the hands of Chadd Collins certainly had us on the edges of our seats.
Last, but not least, RISE was one part of the new GLORY and RISE agreement, which will see the two promotions hold a joint tournament, unify their rules and rankings and hopefully continue to hold joint events. Fans of the sport were hoping for something like this to happen for years. Self-made boundaries from the various promotions prevented fighters from fighting the best possible opponents for years. Seeing them open like this could only bring about positive things.
Many kickboxing fans wondered what the future would hold for RISE once Tenshin Nasukawa, the promotion's biggest star and the fighter that made a major contribution to elevating them to their current status, departed from the sport. It seems the future held one of the best years in the promotion's existence.
GLORY had a great year recovering the ground they've lost during COVID. The promotion went on to rebuild their roster, made great new signings, kept their divisions busy and tried to create story lines throughout the year. While focusing mostly on the Dutch market, GLORY once again went international with events in Germany, France and Bulgaria.
They also ventured into the realm of reality television with 'House of Glory' in search of new challengers for their Welterweight division. A missed opportunity however, as the show was only distributed in the Netherlands. A lot of context was missing for the international audience when the inexperienced Anwar Ouled-Chaib stepped into the ring with Endy Semeleer at GLORY 90 and was taken care off rather abruptly.
Another positive note was the introduction of a transparent drug testing program in an effort to legitimize the sport.
Unfortunately, the supposed centerpiece of 2023, the GLORY Heavyweight Grand Prix, was postponed to next year due to injuries and suspensions of some of the more popular athletes. An unavoidable, but anticlimactic solution for an event that was build up over the course of the year.
With GLORY making big moves in 2024, such as one-night tournaments across different weight divisions, even more cross promotion with RISE, and Maurice Hols as the new general manager, they are primed to be the promotion of the year in 2024.