The president of the World Kickboxing Network (WKN) Stephane Cabrera shares historical facts of the global federation and the results of its distinguished work during the last two decades.
Indeed, this year the WKN celebrates its 20th anniversary. Stephane Cabrera exclusively tells FIGHTMAG the story of his early days in sport as a fighter, then trainer and manager, as well as the establishment of the WKN and its operation on every part of the Globe.
Cabrera also narrates about the introduction of kickboxing to Don King, its rise in the countries like Romania, invention to the places like Nigeria, popularizing in Malta and also development on the unique territories. In addition the bulletin includes the delivery of MMA to Europe via IVC, creation of the new concepts and brands as well as the involvement of the outstanding personalities and more.
Stephane Cabrera is a former four-time kickboxing champion of France.
“I’ve started Judo when I was 5 years old, and then Savate, a French boxing style with kicks,” Cabrera says.
“Kickboxing was quite new back then, so I was interested in it. At the age of 18, after 4 years of Savate, I’ve started it [kickboxing] and never stop until now.”
“I was 2-time French champion in amateur and professional classes. Also I was a challenger to fight Carl Emery for ISKA European title, but due to unfortunate broken hand I had to cancel the fight one week before.”
“I’ve also practiced Karate and participated in several Martial Arts tournaments. By the age of 19, I have also succeed to get black belts in Karate, Aikido, Jiu Jitsu and Taijutsu.”
[Kick-Boxing in France is big business. In a nation more associated with good food and rich living, the highly disciplined demands of the martial arts have never been so popular. To follow is a profile of two of the main players instrumental in the sports growth. First, there’s Stephane Carbrera, himself once a kick-boxer of huge potential and ability. When injury cut short a glittering career, he became first a coach then a promoter. He is now one of the biggest promoters on mainland Europe. His events attract the sort of national media attention that this country reserves for conventional boxing. And his stable of fighters – based in Nimes – has grown into one of the most feared in the world. French Kicks]
Cabrera headed one of the most prominent kickboxing teams out of France, KBCM Team Cabrera.
“After I had to stop fighting, I’ve started coaching. I’ve coached during more than 10 years at my gym Kick Boxing Club Marguerittes,” he says. “Under Team Cabrera we’ve built around 10 pro-world champions and 20 European. Back then they were some of the most famous fighters in France.”
“I’ve also had my biggest goal to get Samir ‘The Prince’ Mohamed on the very top internationally, undefeated with 100 fights. I don’t think anybody in the world succeed to do that before or after. He has really beaten the best from back then including Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, Kamel Jemel and many others.”
“I have started training and promoting Samir when he was 12 years old. At the age 16 he was already ISKA European pro champion. At the age of 17 he was the WKN and ISKA world champion. Two world titles he has won abroad, outside of France. He is very talented with a fighter’s blood in him.”
Best kickboxing team in France
“Back then our team was considered as one of the best in France. That time was great! I have enjoyed that period of being a trainer and I miss it sometime.”
“This is why now I do seminars and I like it. Most of them I do it with my close friend Osman [Yigin] who lives in Belgium. He is a great man and real warrior. I really consider Osman as the biggest name in the Belgium’s history of martial arts.”
“The gym I’ve passed onto Dominique Roman. He was also a great fighter and he is a good friend of mine since we were 13. Dominique continues to run the gym being the head trainer.”
“Some of my best fighters are still very close with me such as Bakir Habib. He is my right hand in France. He has all my trust, being an important person in the development of the WKN. He always gives me a good advise.”
“Bakir was a lightweight fighter from my gym. I have never seen anybody in the division tougher than him. He has also made a history in our sport. Bakir is the first world champion in kickboxing to win the title in Nigerian city of Lagos.”
[Habib Bakir has won the WKN World title on March 15, 2003 in Lagos, Nigeria, when he defeated Fernando Loureiro from Portugal. That event was the very first ever kickboxing show in the history of Nigeria. The fight night was held at Lagoon Restaurant in Lagos. The four Nigerians athletes, who has also made a history for their country by being the first ever to compete in the kickboxing event, were: Emmanuel Atagana, Martins Gabriel, Jooda Augustine and Ugochukwu Uz. All Africa]
[Last week we informed you of the expansion with the first event to be held in Nigeria. This week we can confirm that WKN European professional Champion Habib Bakir from Team Cabrera in France will fight on the 15th of March bill for the vacant WKN Light-Welterweight World title. Bakir has fought in Belfast on two occasions in the past, once against Gary Hamilton in a prestige bout, which Hamilton won and in a successful European title defence against England’s Peter Wilson. Bakir joins other top names Mohamed Samir and Andre Alexi. WKN World President Stephane Cabrera has told us of several government ministers who will be in attendance including the possibility of the Nigerian President himself. The People]
“In fact, we all come from the same small village of 6000 people, called Marguerittes in the South of France. We made our village so famous that the media giants like Eurosport, l’Equipe, Canal Plus were coming to make reports about us. I believe everyone in France definitely remembers most of them [fighters] that competed under my name, Team Cabrera.”
“Also there were a few who I have managed from other places such as Avignon, Montpellier and Ales. The likes of De Tholomese Baron De Prinsac, Mostafa Oumrani, Olivier Cerdan, Thierry Violette, Rafard brothers, Pascal Amodio, Hadj Brahim brothers, Moilime Ramia, Christine Mourrer, Bernard Laroudie, Christophe Tendil, Fabrice Rossi, Christophe de Ruggiero, Guillaume Sabatier and many others. All have won either the WKN or ISKA professional titles.”
The World Kickboxing Network evolved as a subsidiary of ISKA in 1994. The organizations split in 1998. Ever since the WKN operates as an independent organization.
“I have been a part of ISKA when I have just started promoting my own events and championship bouts. First I was ISKA France National representative, and then European continental,” says Stephane Cabrera.
“Back then my friend Olivier Muller was the world president of ISKA. It was him who nominated me in all those roles [in ISKA]. He has highly regarded and appreciated my work.”
“During my first years in fight business I have learned a lot from Olivier. We were already a great team back then. At that time we were the bosses of ISKA throughout. We have run the most of all biggest [ISKA] events.”
“Due to certain internal disagreements [in ISKA], we have decided to give a new blood for kickboxing.”
“We have invented the World Kickboxing Network. The WKN, known as the new generation of kickboxing.”
“It was very long ago, and we have always been very close friends with Olivier. We have many things in common and our friendship has nothing to do with business. Neither now nor back then. We are like family, this is the exact word.”
“Olivier is one of the most successful businessman that I know. But he still always looks at what is happening in the fight world. He is interested in all this, although his actual work is very far from the sport. But the warrior spirit is still intact in him.”
“Therefore last year he has organized the first VIP fight show in the world, Fight Night Saint Tropez. Jerome Le Banner headlined the event, Olivier is his manager for many years.”
“This summer Olivier has promoted the second edition and the third is already in makes. These shows give a lot to kickboxing worldwide, the concept is very special.”
“The village of Saint Tropez is magical. I have never seen a place like this to host a kickboxing show. We can really say it is the top of the top VIP event, that has a very bright future. It makes everybody dream, from the fighters to public. Especially today when people around the world are going through these hard times with economical and political troubles, we really need to dream more than ever before.”
[He is credited with being the biggest and most important kickboxing promoter in France. Some have even claimed he is the most important in mainland Europe. Yet Stephane Carbrera is keen to play down the rumors. “Bah,” declaims the Frenchman with that insouciance the French do so well, “I just like to put on the shows, you know. I like a spectacle.”
Stephane has been at the forefront of promotion since injury put the brakes on a promising kickboxing career six years ago. “I liked to train too hard,” he laughs, “I injured my ankles, my knee, had my cheek-bone broken, damaged my thigh and smashed my hand – all in training.” And it is his hand that shows the biggest scar. A badly broken left knuckle is curiously – and by the look of it, painfully – indented. Stephane was twenty three when he was forced to retire. Rather than give up he side-stepped immediately into coaching. He now runs a gym in his native Nimes. He looks after at least 120 fighters – 25 of whom are professional. They feature strongly on any show he promotes. “I put on between 10 and 20 big shows in France a year. They were all sanctioned by ISKA and all included bouts for either World or European titles.” Most of the shows are in the South of France. There was a huge event in Montpellier just before Christmas. Stephane now heads the high profile World Kickboxing Network.
However, when he tires of slumming it in such exotic surroundings, Stephane packs up and takes his bag of tricks to… the Caribbean. Rotten job, eh? “I’ve had shows in St. Lucia, Guadeloupe and Martinique. There will another in St. Martin in a couple of months. And the quality of fighters and crowd reaction out there is unbelievable. You can get 2, 000 people at one of those shows.” Does a problem not arise with freeloaders? Do some fighters – and remember many of them are still amateur – not just fancy a holiday? He is emphatic in his reply. “Not at all. When you have trained as hard as they do and become as focused as they are nothing is as important as the fight. It is the same anywhere. I’ve taken fighters to Poland, Russia and Brazil and it always the same. “And what of the fight game in France, is it in a healthy state? “Oh yes. The popularity is ever increasing. Under the umbrella of WKN we have the best fighters, the most events. Journalists follow WKN promotions. National French TV is now on board for the first time.”
Stephane finds it easy to explain why. “Kickboxing is a sport of the future. Unlike at traditional boxing bouts, we have many young people in the crowd – and many girls. Kickboxing is more attractive to watch. The popularity of kickboxing video games and Jean Claude Van Damme also helps immensely.” But the Hollywood portrayal of the sport seems embedded in the notion of aggression, when martial arts are all about self control and defense. Time will tell if this means of promoting the sort proves healthy. Others are keen to pay tribute to what Stephane has done.
“His shows are more than about several rounds of Kickboxing,” says Billy Murray, “They are really big events. With the music, the lights the drama of the thing, you come away from one of Stephane’s shows and know you have had your money’s worth.” In the meantime, Stephane sees a bright future for the game. “Kickboxing is growing at an incredible rate world-wide. It is not impossible that it will become an Olympic sport.” And why not? After all it worked for synchronised swimming. The French Connection]
Since late 90’s the WKN represents International Vale Tudo Championship in Europe. WKN went in history as the first organization to promote the bouts under MMA rules on European continent.
“Vale Tudo is with my friend Sergio Batarelli in Brazil. I am the IVC European representative and a vice-world president. I am the first person to develop MMA in Europe,” says WKN head Stephane Cabrera.
“Sergio has promoted in South America, Brazil and Venezuela. Myself, before even any kind of MMA existed in Europe, I have been already promoting Vale Tudo shows in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland, England, Spain, Serbia and Bosnia. So I think we can say I am pioneer of MMA in Europe.”
“We had great time with Sergio. He was running a very big machine. All the best fighters were involved, from Wanderlei Silva to Chuck Liddell. Sergio is still involved in our sport. He is currently a manager of Esquiva Falcao, Olympic boxing champion, who is now training and professionally fighting in USA. Sergio knows how to find and develop the talent. I believe his fighter will soon be a world champion. Sergio is the man who has found Wanderlei Silva and many other great fighters.”
[Sao Paulo, Brazil – A powerful alliance has been formed to organize and streamline the sports of vale tudo, no-holds-barred fighting and mixed-martial arts competition around the world.
Called the International Vale Tudo Council, the group recently held its first meeting here. The members include Sergio Batarelli (Brazil, world president), Miquel Iturrate (United States, vice president in charge of North America), Stephane Cabrera (France, vice president in charge of Europe), Koichi Kawasaki (Japan, vice president in charge of Asia) and Stephen Quadros (United States, international coordinator and public relations).
Batarelli is best known as the former world kickboxing champion who runs the International Vale Tudo Championship in Brazil. Iturrate is the matchmaker for Hool-n-Shoot, a growing United States-based NHB organization. Cabrera is a former kickboxing champion who is now president of the World Kickboxing Network and was instrumental in convincing boxing promoter Don King to feature a muay thai title fight on the undercard of a recent Evander Holyfield pay-per-view championship defense. Kawasaki is the matchmaker for the Pride NHB shows and has connections with every major fight organization in Japan. Quadros is a contributing editor of Black Belt and has worked with the K-1, IVC, Pride and Ultimate Fighting Championship as a commentator and official. BLACK BELT Magazine January 2000: Team Forms NHB Sanctioning Body.]
[Sergio Batarelli in 1999 met with Koichi Kawasaki (Pride – Japan), Stephane Cabrera (WKN – France), Stephen Quadros (Black Belt Magazine – USA), Miguel Iturate (Hook & Shoot – USA), and they founded IVC – International Vale Tudo Council.]
The structure of the WKN involves the leading industry participants.
“With Billy Murray and Carl Emery, at the start we were partners involved with the ISKA. We then became close friends,” says WKN president Cabrera. “I was supposed to fight Carl for European title. Back then he was the best welterweight in the world. He has never lost a fight. Unfortunately our fight never happened, but it would have been a great one for sure.”
“These two men are in love with our sport and they do a lot for it. I’m proud to be their friend and to have their trust. Billy was a great champion too. He has one of the biggest hearts that I know. He is a real gentleman and one of the best kickboxing promoters in the world. Last weekend he held the 25-years anniversary event since he has won his own first world title. That was a mega show in Belfast, I was pleased to be there.”
[Billy will now devotes his time to being a coach to those at ProKick, a fight promoter and a role as one of the sports most well known global ambassadors on behalf of WKN (The World Kickboxing Network) and producing kickboxing programmes for SkySports and many TV networks around the World. It is ProKick, though, that takes the majority of his time. Billy Murray]
In 1998 the WKN made history by promoting the world championship in thai-boxing on the same card as the world championship in boxing. Jerome Le Banner vs Espedito da Silva for the WKN super heavyweight world title featured on the card of Evander Holyfield vs Vaughn Bean for the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles on September 19, 1998 at Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA USA
“The cooperation with Don King is a long story. It was due to Pascal Iglicki who is one of the world’s best journalists out of France in the field of combat sports. Pascal presented me Jean-Christophe Courreges,” Cabrera says. “Since that day we working together in boxing with JC. Same as with Oliver, he [Courreges] is one of my closest friends and I have learned a lot from him. He is a real boxing promoter and manager, he knows all about it.”
“JC has managed and promoted more than 30 boxing world champions, including famous names like Henry Akinwande, Byron Mitchell, Christophe Tiozzo and many others. JC was Don King’s partner at that time, as well as the best boxing promoter in Europe.”
“The sentence was to organize with Don King in USA a world title fight for Jerome Le Banner.”
“At that time I was already the WKN world president, so I took that opportunity to show the WKN to the entire World. After that I have started working in boxing and entered that world by the biggest door, with the best teachers.”
“My first meeting with Don King was in USA in September 1998. I was very young, and he was considered as Mr Boxing at that time, the best of the best. I am the first person to introduce him the sport of kickboxing. This is my best souvenir.”
“In addition, the WKN world championship was promoted on the same show with the WBA and IBF boxing world championship of Evander Holyfield in front of 67000 spectators. Myself and Billy Murray, who was the referee at the event, were very proud of our achievement and we still are.”
“The second collaboration with Don King was the biggest show ever promoted in Poland, with the fighters like Andrew Golota and Tomasz Adamek. It was the same as in Atlanta: WKN kickboxing and Don King boxing.”
“So it is 2 times when Don King has promoted kickboxing match inside the boxing show. And it is 2 times – the WKN.”
“In Poland, that was Cezary Podraza who fought for the WKN title. He is the very first WKN world champion, my very close friend and probably the most accomplished and famous historical figure of Poland’s martial arts and kickboxing history.”
“This is just an example, as for me all the 20 years of the WKN events are always special. No matter where they are done or with who. I control and assist the matchmaking of 100% of the WKN shows, so every day is a special day for me. I consider this as a big luck in life.”
For over 15 years the WKN is involved in boxing. The most recent venture is the Bigger’s Better, international TV series of heavyweight boxing tournaments live on Eurosport network.
“I have worked with nearly all boxing federations and the most with the WBC,” says Stephane Cabrera, co-founder of the Bigger’s Better. “Our IBA boxing [International Boxing Association] is new breed in Europe. We will try to develop it with the help of the best boxing referee in the world and my good friend Steve Smoger. He is the man with a big heart.”
“With JC Courreges and Jean-Philippe Lustyk we produce live boxing TV shows on Eurosport, Bigger’s Better. The concept is a revolution in the fight world. There have never been a show, an 8 man tournament under classical boxing rules, that is open to all fighting styles, from amateur boxing to muaythai and MMA.”
“The WKN is an official partner of Bigger’s Better. So far we have promoted 27 events during 3 seasons all around Europe and also in Morocco, which is an African country. All our events air live on Eurosport, without any incidents, no show has ever been cancelled.”
“We now also launch the Bigger’s Better Pay-Per-View series. We aim to develop our project worldwide, attracting new partners, evolving a new market. The first online stream is on November 14. It will be the second revolution.”
“I also want to remark few more important people involved with us in Bigger’s Better shows. Our supervisor Emil Irimia, the brother of Eduard who is a promoter of SuperKombat in Romania, is coming from a family where their dad and his 6 brothers were all National boxing champions. Klaus Hagemann is our WKN representative in Germany and the Bigger’s Better referee. He is really an expert and at my point of view one of the best referees in the world.
“Also Bruno Wartelle who is our Bigger’s Better coordinator. When fighting he was in contract with Don King and PPG company. WKN works with Bruno for many years. He was in boxing world’s Top 10. We organized all of his title fights live on Eurosport. He is a great person with a big heart, the rebel.”
[On the 8th of September in Bulgaria, Varna. The WKN will sanction some titles on a WBC boxing card An Intercontinental WBC title is on the line with world rated N° 7 WBC Bruno Wartelle, Wartelle has defended his WBC Intercontinental 4 times now and is looking for a strait 5 out of 5 the WBC Champion Wartelle opponent has not been announced but is expect to name his challenger soon. WKN man Stephane Cabrera is in Bulgaria now to finalise the Boxing and the kickboxing matches this will be the first Kickboxing/Boxing event in Bulgaria. There is speculation that two times world kickboxing champion Mohamand Samir will make the cross over to Pro ranks in conventional boxing. Kickboxing – Gallina Guimisla, Bulgaria will challenge for a WKN full-contact title. Kickboxing News]
Alongside the WKN promotions with Don King in USA, the WKN spreads in Canada.
“In Canada we work with different people and some of the best promoters from over there such as Twin Dragon, Alin Halmagean and a few others from the Indian reserve,” Stephane Cabrera says. “I think the best and the biggest televised event we have put together in Canada was around 12 years ago. Chantal Nadon fought Christine Mourer for the WKN world title. That was one of the most technical female kickboxing fights I have ever seen.”
[North Bay native Chantal Nadon claimed unanimous decision and took the title off Christine Moure from France, becoming a new WKN Kickboxing Full Contact Flyweight Champion of the World in Toronto, Canada, September 2003.]
“We now cooperate with Angelo Di Bella, Jean-Yves Thériault, Paul Biafore who were also some of the best Canadian fighters. Angelo, for example, is now doing a promotion for his son Jonathan, who becomes popular in Canada.”
“In USA from the very beginning, the WKN is introduced the best possible way, with Don King. Also in 2004, the WKN sanctioned the world championship in muaythai in Belarus. We brought American Top Team, the best fighters from four different States to Minsk. In addition in 2009 the WKN supported MMA shows in Florida, called Uber Mash.”
“USA is now MMA and of course pro-Boxing. The place for other fighting sports is small. Glory does well and I congratulate their work and all what they try to do. It is very good for the complete fight world.”
The presence of the World Kickboxing Network in South America is significant.
“Argentina and Brazil are the biggest countries for the fight sport on South American continent,” says Cabrera. This is where we organize some of the biggest kickboxing events.”
“Argentina has a real legend, Jorge ‘Acero’ Cali. He is as famous as a pop-star or a footballer like Diego Maradona. Jorge is a great fighter. On the streets of Buenos Aires he cannot make 10 meters without a person to recognize him and ask for a photo or an autograph. He credits the WKN with all of his fame and fortune. WKN organizes all of his championship bouts, all live on FOX Sports that covers all South American countries. Huge audience, really big crowd, sold out events. They are held at the biggest arena, Luna Park.”
“At several events Jorge placed the name of the president of Argentina on all four corners of the boxing ring. I seriously believe that one day he himself [Cali] can become a president. We can consider Jorge as the real WKN success and example to follow. He devotes his life to our sport.”
“The new generation comes with Cristian Bosch, Ignacio Capllonch, Federico Roma and others. All are very strong fighters and all follow the road of their mentor ‘Acero’. The next event is on December 19 in Buenos Aires. Then the following is in April 2015, headlined by the fight that everyone there anticipates to see: Jerome Ardissone vs Ignacio Capllonch. Of course I am personally assisting these happenings.”
“Brazil is the country of Vale Tudo, MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They of course also love kickboxing, but it is harder to become more popular than people like Gracie family or Wanderlei Silva. Kickboxing is still active though, and they have some very good fighters that Sergio [Batarelli] has been sending to WKN events in Europe.”
“Today it is quite difficult to organize big shows in Brazil, as the sponsors are rare. However the WKN has promoted shows in Brazil since more than 15 years. Soon there will be the new promotions and more WKN Open Tournaments like the one earlier this month.”
“We have also promoted in Uruguay, Venezuela and Chile. We now have a new project in Peru and Mexico.”
[This Sunday, February 23rd, K-1 officially debuted in Brazil at the Maksud Plaza Hotel in Sao Paulo. A selective crowd mostly composed by VIP guests and members of the participant’s academies witnessed the result of years of effort by promoter Sergio Batarelli in bringing the most important stand up fighting event in the world to Brazil. With two spots at K-1 USA at stake in an 8 men tournament, plus a WKN Muay Thai title fight and an alternate bout on the card, there was plenty of action secured for fighting fans, and K-1 standards were followed in every aspect of the show, once again defining this as an official K-1 event, and the first of many to come in the country. K-1 Brazil Ready To Make History In Sao Paulo!]
Europe is the home of the World Kickboxing Network.
“In Western Europe the WKN is always very active. In every country.”
“Our people like Osman Yigin, Antonio Alias, Carlo Barbuto, Ricardo Perez, Juanito Garcia, Paulo Magalhaes, Chris Christodoulou, Cezare Podraza, Klaus Hagemann, Lukas Body, Hakan Ozan, Mohammad Tehrani, Borislav Juvanovic, Lukas Bastinac (RIP), Sinisa Kovacic, Daniele Brunozzi, Lutz Busmester and many others involved help the rise of the international kickboxing with their promotions and serious work. Each country has its own complete and interesting history with the WKN.”
“In Portugal, for example, with Paulo Magalhaes we promote all our shows under the flag of the prestigious football team Benfica Lisbon. They have created a very nice museum there [at S.L. Benfica] where you can see the WKN title belts with trophies and memorabilia. It is important for us to be featured with one of the best football teams in the world. Famous footballers always attend our kickboxing shows. This provides great support, and at the same time gives another dimension to the events.”
“Italy with Carlo Barbutto has always been a very active country. Carlo has organized the first WKN European Cup. He is also a promoter of the famous show Thai Boxe Mania in Turin, where the best Italians face off the best of the world. Jorge Cali himself fought there. Carlo is a real sportsman and has done a lot for the WKN and sport in Italy.”
“Spain covered by the famous fight series Armados y Peligrosos. It is run by our representative Ricardo Perez who is with the WKN since 15 years. Ricardo has been making some of the biggest fight nights in Barcelona. Some of his event gain around 8000 attendants like the one, for example, with the WKN world title clash between Cesar Cordoba and Aurelien Duarte. Before the WKN in Spain had been run by Javie Moya, who is himself, probably, one of the most famous kickboxers from there. Javie won more than 10 world title fights, and he is with the WKN since the very first day. We we are still in touch, and now he is a successful coach and still trains himself every day.”
“Germany is a very sport developed country in general. Klaus Hagemaan and Lutz Busmester do serious work and all their WKN events are really successful. Once they have even organized a live Eurosport broadcast from the football stadium with boxing world championship and the WKN kickboxing world title bout on the same night. Very well done.”
“France is probably the most active WKN country in Europe, where Habib Bakir works with the WKN from A to Z. France is a country that is ruled by the government, so there is no any official representative. All events are done with the promoters in agreement with the National federation. Bakir assists all the best promoters in their the WKN affiliation. France has a really a big potential, kickboxing is very developed there. There are fight clubs everywhere, excellent fighters in all styles. The most famous is Jerome Le Banner, who has been always supported by the World Kickboxing Network, and of course in those, some of his biggest challenges, like the one at Don King event, The Post Tenebras Cup in Geneva, and now Fight Nights in Saint Tropez. In 2014 the WKN has made an agreement with David Blanc to support his beautiful project the GBC World tour.”
“Most of the best promoters in France organize their events under umbrella of the WKN. Samy Kebchy, Eric Romeas, Badri Rouhabia, Christophe Dragole, Christophe Errera, Jean Fernandez, Aurelien Cramail, Foued Ezbiri, Mr Pignolo and many others. Also in France the television is involved in the most of promotions, so all country knows kickboxing and its champions, which is a great thing.”
“Belgium is run by the legend Osman Yigin, who is also with the WKN since the day one. Osman is a former 16-time world champion under different sanctioning bodies. In Belgium Osman is our best ambassador and cooperates all our activities. They have excellent fighters and even the country is not very big, they have regular activities and fight promotions. Soon one of the best Belgium fighters Allan Gozdzicki will be defending his WKN European title in France at World GBC Tour.”
“Scandinavia is also an active WKN territory. In Finland the shows are promoted by Maunu Peterri, in Sweden by Hakan Ozan and his Supremacy League. Mohammad Tehrani from Denmark also has promoted several very big shows mixing kickboxing and MMA. We have a plan for the future with him to promote a show in Greenland, with his fighter Franck ‘The Iceman’ Madsen, who was born there.”
“In Eastern Europe, the WKN is very active since 20 years. We do shows in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia including all Baltic countries. This part of Europe was previously managed by our friend from Bulgaria Eric Carlton. He has started to make the WKN popular there through the number of his links with the biggest promoters. Being involved in boxing, kickboxing and MMA, few years later Eric has become the boss of Eurosport in Bulgaria and has been always helping the WKN with all needs. Also at the start, when Olivier Muller was the world president of ISKA, Eric Carlton was the first person to involve in our sport people like Jimmy Barletta, Will Raven, Ivo Dalbo, Juan Pinilla, Canabate brothers, Eric Romeas, Carlo Di Blasi, and many others throughout the world.”
“Some of the biggest shows were promoted in Belarus since more than 15 years. There we have done some of the largest events for Eastern European regional, with 80% of them broadcast live on Eurosport. We have had a great sporting relationship with the chairman of Belarus National federation General Valeri Haidukevich, following the link of our former representative Evgeny Kotelnikov-Dobrotvorski. I consider Belarus as one of the nations where the sport is developed the most. Belarus has some of the best muaythai fighters in the world. Most of them received their fame and international recognition via the WKN, like former champions Alexei Pekarchik, Dmitri Shakuta, Vasilyi Shish, Evgeny Gvozdev, Andrei Kotsur and today’s Belarus leader Andrei Kulebin. All of them have been internationally promoted by the WKN and only. This is because the WKN is the first organization ever to take care of the athletes out of Belarus, of all weight classes, where the most of the previously known abroad Belarus’ fighters were managed by K-1 and were heavyweights, like Alexei Ignashov, for example.
“Unfortunately in 2011, at the last promotion of the Big-8 tournament in Minsk, some financial problems have happened with the promotion company running the event, and they did not follow the signed agreement. Back then, I have personally supported that event, as well as the following one in the city of Mogilev, by making an executive decision, as the WKN head, to provide a complete sanction fee free and much more, to help them to raise enough funds and cover their depth. The WKN have put all its efforts to help that situation during the last two and a half years. But unfortunately no serious, constructive or positive actions have been made by the side of Belarus promoter. So we have decided to stop our business relation with the former office there. We hope that in the nearest future we can resolve this issue and restart our sport relation in Belarus and keep helping the sport as we used to during more than 15 years.”
“The WKN has also sanctioned big shows in Russia, in the cities of Saratov and Krasnodar where we had a contract with casino and had been promoting on the regular basis. We now cooperate with the biggest Russian promoter Kamil Gadzhiev and his team at the Fight Nights who are a very good and efficient team. Their work is professional and they are very nice people in general. We look forward to keep a strong collaboration with the Fight Nights, as they are exactly what Russian fight market needs.”
“In Ukraine, the WKN has promoted many top shows with the boxing club Nikolaev, run by Oleg Bogomaz and Vadym Merikov. Both are my friends who are devoted to sport. Their events were always the first class, with real top level bouts. We are restarting the WKN promotions in Ukraine soon. There is already a new generation of fighters there, they are very talented and strong.”
“WKN has also a long history with Georgia and Gocha Javakhia, our representative there. Georgia has the very strong and talented fighters. When 10 years ago I brought there a complete WKN European team, their hospitality was something very special, coming from the heart. I personally like this country and the way the people are. This is why every time I can, I give them as many international fights and as much exposure as possible.
“In Poland, with our representative Cezary Podraza, we organize many shows and have created many stars including renowned Tomasz Makowski. Cezary is a figure in Poland, that everyone knows. He has been always organizing the very good promotions throughout the country. The WKN promotes and manages a big number of Polish fighters internationally. They compete on all continents. I can proudly say that we have developed kickboxing in Poland.”
“We also have held quite a few shows in Baltic countries. For example in Latvia, at the championship finale of the second season of Bigger’s Better, we have organized the WKN kickboxing female world title, broadcast live on Eurosport. That event was the very first time when Eurosport has made a live broadcast for a world title between female athletes. Also in Riga we had Alexander Ustinov fighting for the WKN European title. There are planned shows in Estonia and in Lithuania. We have a good collaboration with our friend Andrius Sipaila, who promotes kickboxing events under the WKN umbrella in Vilnius.
“Now we are making the shows in Slovakia and Czech Republic with Lukas Body. He is a very active person, and he helps the development of the WKN there. I am assisting his next show Simply The Best in Poprad on October 4. The fight card is great.
“In Romania with Eduard Irimia we have built the Local Kombat branch. Kickboxing was completely unknown in Romania, but now their fighters are even more popular than football players.”
“WKN is the first in history to promote kickboxing world championship on the territory of Romania.”
“Local Kombat became very successful and I let Eduard continue running it alone, as my job was done. He is now one of the biggest European promoters who makes the SuperKombat show every month live on Eurosport with a large audience. We are still friends and he is doing a good job for sport.”
[22 October 2004, Braila, Romania – The first kickboxing world championship ever promoted in Romania with the unique fighter in the world, undefeated in 99 fights, Samir Mohamed facing WAKO European Champion Alexander Kozachenko from Ukraine. WKN Makes Kickboxing History in Romania]
“WKN in England has been very big when my friend Ali Jacko promoted a complete series of kickboxing shows in London, all televised by Sky Sport. It was at least 10 WKN actions a year. A very big exposure in all United Kingdom.”
[Ali Jacko – London’s biggest promoter and Britain’s biggest TV producer is making even more great work. His programmes are currently airing on Terrestrial television Channel 5 which is a big plus for the sport, he also has programmes running on Sky Sports as well. Here are just a few of his dates to watch out for. World Kickboxing News 2002]
“They also have a star in England, Riyadh Al-Azzawi. He has been always promoting the WKN since the very start of his career. Riyadh is a 3-time WKN world champion. He is from Iraq but lives in England since he was a kid. Riyadh organizes the nextt event in December. He is now considered as the most famous fighter in all Middle East. His brother Mohammed is also a great fighter. Two years ago he has succeed to become the WKN world champion. Two brothers and two real champions.”
“Scotland also provided the regular shows and serious work with the promoters like Albert Ross and Gary Langford who have been making great events and have always been loyal to the WKN.”
“Personally my heart is in Northern Ireland. This is where my friend Billy Murray promotes tremendous shows. He is a very talented person and all his shows are magic. Something, that is very hard to explain with words, but I can easily confirm that all people, fighters, guests, spectators who is involved or at least once attended Billy Murray promotions, have a great souvenir for life. He is the man.
“WKN in Corsica was established since the very start, by my friend Toussaint Andarelli. For example, when I have just created the KBCM Team Cabrera, Toussaint was the first person to invite my fighters. We have been friends forever and this have never been changed. So it is normal for me, being the head of the WKN, to take him as a partner. He is in charge of the Mediterranean Islands.”
“Toussaint is a star in Corsica and everyone knows him. He was the first kickboxing champion from the Island. His shows are televised by French National networks. Also in France everybody knows Toussaint’s legendary fight against American Curtis Bush in Ajaccio.”
“Toussaint has created the WKN Corsica Cup. Televised fight show with some of the best fighters from around the world taking on Corsican and French selection. Fighters like Samir the Prince, Loris Audoui and many others fought there.”
“Toussaint is he first person to organize kickboxing championship on the boat, in the harbor of Ajaccio. He is also the first person to bring a Chinese fighter and link China with the WKN. Corsica is an important branch of the World Kickboxing Network. It plays a big role in our history.”
“Another island where the WKN is very active and has made several historic events, is Cyprus, run by Chris Christodoulou. We promote WKN shows in Cyprus for over 10 years. This is where we have held the first three Bigger’s Better shows and also promoted two WKN kickboxing championships live on Eurosport. Very successful events called The Aphrodite’s Kick have seen some of the world’s best fighters. We have gained a high Europsort TV-rating and audience. Chris is devoted to the WKN since the first day he found himself in the fight sport. He is the WKN man in Cyprus and the first person to ever promote kickboxing shows on the Island.”
“We also have the WKN events in Palma de Mallorca, in Balearic Islands, run by our champion Juanito Garcia. He is one of the most famous sportsmen of the islands. Juanito is a fighter with an extremely big heart. When Juanito promoted his final world championship bout against an opponent from Thailand, over 8 thousand people came to see and support. In Palma, it was something practically impossible, as the island is not so big and the sport is not so developed like on the continental part of Spain, it is more a tourist place, resort. But Juanito’s fame and his very attractive way of fighting full fills any sport hall in Palma even now. Also we are very close friends and he always invites me to all his family events. This is something very important for me, as we don’t live close, we don’t see each other every day, but our mutual respect and friendship is very strong.”
“We now also promote shows in Sardinia with Antonio Alias. They have some very good fighters there, and a strong fighting spirit. Antonio is a very nice person and he is involved in sport since more than 45 years. His son is a very good fighter too and could probably be the first WKN world champion from the island. I know they are working on this and the WKN world office is here to provide all necessary help and assistance.”
“In New Zealand Lollo Heimuli was considered as the best trainer and promoter. Long time ago he has promoted the first WKN title in South Pacific region. He now reconnects with kickboxing world, after he has been involved with boxing for a long time. There will be the WKN promotions in New Zealand again.”
[UK fighters fighting abroad: Lolo Meimuli promoted his first WKN event in New Zealand on the 18th Feb 2000 report to follow. Staphane Cabrera,World president unfortunaly could not be there. Three fighters from the North of Ireland attended the Scottish fighters with drew at short notice to a brevment in one of their familes…our thoughts are with them. The promoter for the event was Lolo Heimuli. UK fighters fighting abroad]
“Australia, a country of the pioneers coming from Europe, that have lived in the very hard conditions at the start, is known as the warrior’s land. So of course kickboxing is very popular there. The biggest events, during five solid years, we make with Darren Curovic and Ed Zouroudis in Western Australia and Queensland. These super shows headlined by muaythai stars John Wayne Parr and Nathan ‘Carnage’ Corbett. There are also quite a few other top international and Australian events throughout the country with different promoters. There is a great generation of the WKN champions in Australia, like Danial Williams, Robert Powdrill and Taylor Harvey, and of course many others, who we manage and bring to compete at the WKN events around the World.”
“To be honest I don’t think there is any other federation that takes care of Australian fighters the way the WKN does. For many years we build their names and promote internationally. It’s all thanks to our work with Parviz Iskenderov who is my right hand in Australia. We are friends since 2001 and constantly in contact. He is in charge of all our web projects including Bigger’s Better. Parviz has also developed a renowned online media out of Australia, FIGHTMAG. I can also say that he is a master of memory. He is up to date with all our shows and can recall those events and names that even I have completely forgotten.”
“WKN have been active on African continent were we promoted very big shows in Tanzania, Morocco, Tunis, Uganda, Nigeria, Zanzibar, South Africa and many other countries. The biggest ones were probably in Morocco’s Rabat with the WKN world championship for Mustafa Laksem, in Tunis when Olivier Cerdan fought Imed Mathlouti and in Nigeria when Habib Bakir faced off Fernando Loureiro and became the WKN world champion on Leo Rossini Promotion.
“These the championship events are very important as they are written in the history books of these countries. They were promoted on the National level. I remember the one in Tunis there were more people outside the venue than inside… [The venue] was completely full with around 10 thousand people and outside even more.”
“In South African Capetown, for example, I have met Mike Bernardo, when I promoted live boxing show with Eurosport 16 years ago. Also with Jean-Christophe Courreges we have promoted his [Bernardo’s] WBF world title fight in Hungary.”
“African continent has many talents in our sport, but the lack of financial help, unfortunately makes it very difficult. We always try to help them as much as we can. We have relations with nearly all countries in Africa.”
“WKN has been always linked with Japan via a good relation with Shidokan federation. Three times we have sent there Loris Audoui from Guadeloupe. He has made three great victorious performances in defense of his WKN title. That was a great moment to see the WKN belt in the country where the most of the Martial Arts are born.”
“Now since two years we collaborate with the RISE promotion. We have an excellent relation with Ito Takashi, with who we organize fights in Europe and in Japan. Mr Takashi regards our serious work and the agreement, and he has introduced the WKN to another promotion in Japan, called REBELS. It is all going very well.”
“Soon will be more and more WKN fighters fighting in Japan and Japanese fighting on the WKN shows all around the world. I think it is very important, when managing a federation, to make sure it is truly represented worldwide and is active on all continents.”
“Another country in Asia, where we have worked is Mongolia. We are the pioneers there too. In 2006 we have promoted the first in history professional kickboxing championship. We received a big exposure in Mongolia. The president of the country [back then] Mr Nambaryn Enkhbayar has offered some special prizes – a fee to the winner Namjilmaa Bat Erdene and his manager to go all over the country and demonstrate his WKN title belt. That fight show was a massive event broadcast by all National TV stations. It was a premiere and was a big success.”
[The WKN world president Mr Stephane Cabrera will visit Mongolia for a meeting with the Mongolian President M. Nambar Enkhabayar. Before the Kickboxing show billed as Imperial 1 kicks off on Friday 23rd May in Mongolia. WKN Mongolia Imperial Kickboxing event]
“Regarding other places in Asian region, we develop the concepts nearly in every country including China and India, that are the biggest areas with milliards of people.”
“In Turkey, which is partly in Asia and in Europe, the WKN has made 17 kickboxing shows including three world championships. All live on FOX Sports with a very big audience. We have created a new market in Turkey and built the star fighters like Adem Bozkurt, Erkan Varol, Seyda Duygun Aygun. These shows are organized by Orhan Ergen under the name of Ergen Ring Atesi. In 2015 we are going to start a new series of fight shows in Turkey. International events called Ismail Yilmaz Fight Arena are organized under the coordination of Osman Yigin.”
The Kingdom of Thailand
“WKN is connected with Mr Songchai and his family since more than 20 years. Songchai is the most famous, and has been considered as the best Muay Thai promoter in Thailand. Some of his best fighters have competed at the WKN events for many years. One of the most famous, Sakmongkol became the WKN world champion in Abu Dhabi, at the show promoted with Samy Kebchy.”
“The WKN has also worked as the official matchmaker for the Grand Tournoi. The series of tournaments in the 72 and 90 kg weight classes has taken places all around the world. The finale was at the King’s birthday event in Thailand.”
United Arab Emirates
“As I’ve already mentioned we have worked in Emirates and promoted multiple mega shows with Samy Kebchy. Incredible events promoted under the patronage of Royal Sheikh Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Also Elodie Gossin, Miss France and Miss Europe, back then, attended events as a special guest.”
The World Kickboxing Network is known as a pioneer to develop the sport at the places where it practically does not exist.
“Nepal is the most rare, with Nigeria also. Plus few others like Caribbean Islands. Recently in Nepal, for example, after I had a meeting with the mayor of Kathmandu, he has decided to give to Binod Khadgi a piece of land, and to finance the Martial Arts centre there. In a country where monthly salary is around 30 Euro, I was very proud to success in this. We will hopefully see soon the athletes out of Nepal fighting internationally.”
“In Caribbean we have the very good people like Marco London in Sint Maarten, Fred Audoui in Guadeloupe, Rebecca Bolla in Trinidad and Tobago, Oj Simson in Curacao, and many more that are doing a great job in a very difficult area for the sport to be promoted in general.”
“Around 17 years ago, the WKN has promoted the first WKN world title in St Marteen, with the star of the island Marco London.”
“Fred Audoui is making the incredible shows in Guadeloupe. He flies in [to Guadeloupe] the fighters from Australia, Japan, from all around the world. His son Loris is also a very nice person and one of the strongest fighters that I know in 60 kg. He has built all of his career under the WKN with the 8 world title wins. Loris is now studying for his new job at the Gendarmerie. He will probably get involved in the GIGN soon, which is a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces.”
“Taking Malta as an example, the WKN is introduced there since more than 10 years with the help of Adrian Axisa who is a ‘Mr Fight Sport’ of the Island. A lot of work has been done for sport there by the WKN Malta office. Kickboxing has become very popular, till the point that after every event, the team is received by the President of Malta. After years of competing in Malta and abroad, they have succeed to build the very first professional world champion, Daniel ‘The Jet’ Zahra.”
“Worldwide known and recognized, Zahra is a pure example of what the WKN is capable of doing for the promotion of our sport in the country, and for an individual. We have developed [kickboxing] there up to the highest level.”
“Zahra is managed and trained by Noel Mercieca and Isaac Chetcuti. The two are the best and the biggest promoters of the Island. Zahra has passed all the steps of a champion, from National, amateur European, intercontinental and world. He then became professional European and intercontinental champion. In conclusion, he has finally earned the biggest grail as the title of the WKN world professional champion. Daniel has already defended his belt twice, at home and overseas in Northern Ireland. He has also recently defeated one of the best Japanese athletes at the latest WKN promotion in Malta. In plus Zahra is a very nice and attractive fighter with an incredible spinning back kick and jumping knee. In Malta, he is an example of a person to success in sport. He is a locomotive of the development of kickboxing there.”
“The WKN is the first organization to arrange the Eurosport live broadcast of the Maltese athlete, when Zahra fought Bruno Torres in Portugal.”
“I also want to mention that Maltese competitors have a strong fighting spirit. It is in their blood since the old times, when they had to face many invaders in their history. I’m personally very proud to have developed our sport in Malta on such a high level. It is really a personal success for me again.”
There is over a dozen of kickboxing federations these days.
“Federations… Everybody can ‘invent’ their own world federation, create their own world title belt… I don’t think it is good for the sport.”
“Personally I have nothing against this, because I know that each federation needs the head, and not everyone can be that head that thinks right and is able to manage such a machine. Only few people in the world are able to do that, and to take that also. This is why, the real federations, is just a few. It is better like this.”
“Concerning the World Kickboxing Forum, it is a big work that my friend Carl Emery has been doing for many years. He is the only one in the world to success in getting closer in this, to unit all sanctioning bodies together, under one leader, of course the WKN. He has all my deep respect for it.”
“Future will say what will happen in our sport regarding the Olympic Games. But the road will be long and hard for sure.”
All Times Champions
The first WKN championship was promoted in 1994 in Katowice, Poland with Cezary Podraza facing off Mark Waters of England. Stephane Cabrera mentions several names of those who have earned a prestigious WKN belt.
“There have been many and everyone is famous in their prime time. I can name a few from the top of the head like Jerome Le Banner, Tyrone Spong, Billy Murray, Jorge Cali, Alexander Ustinov, Osman Yigin, Samir Mohamed, Ali Jacko, Cristian Bosch, Toussaint Andarelli, Juanito Garcia, Stefan Leko, Rayen Simson, Giorgio Petrosyan, Gabriel Varga, Loris Audoui, Daniel Zhara, Gary Hamilton, Riyadh and Mohamed Al-Azzawi, Daniel Ghita, John Wayne Parr, Batu Khazikov , Bruce Codron, Nathan Corbett, Sakmongkol, Dmitri Shakuta, Jerome Turcan, Roberto Cocco, Marco London, Yohan Kongolo, Karim Benmansour, Tomasz Makowski, Christophe Tendil, Patrick Carta, Jomhod Kiatadisak, Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee, Eduardo Canuto, Diakos, Lello Perego, Javier Moya, Erkan Varol, Xhavit Bajrami, Andre Manaart, Mourad Bouzidi, Olivier Cerdan, Christine Mourrer, Nicolas Wamba, Valerie Henin, Amel Dheby, Kamel Chouaref, Farid Khider and many others, I am sorry to forget.”
“There is also a Pro-Am division, that was created by the WKN. We have then stopped it for a pure amateur branch. But now the idea is to rebuild it for the B-class fighters, and to start organizing the Open Tournaments around the World, giving a chance to everybody to compete under the brand of the WKN.”
[The 20 of November 2004, Florin Ventila from WKN Romania team will challenge his first international title in Germany in the PRO/AM European division. This will be the second time in the history of Romania (since Aurel Boccoci, WKN European Champion) that Romanian athlete will fight for the International title outside the country. WKN Romania]
“I also want to say thank you to all our referees and judges, who do great and important work for sport. The ending of the shows and finalizing of the bouts depends on their work and the level of their professionalism.”
“So thank you again Klaus Hagemann, Jerome Loisel, Roger Reuter, Jean Calamel, Elian Nouvel, Lukas Staeger, Cezar Gheorghe, Vladimir Kondov, Rafael Girardi, Carlo Barbuto, Bob Hunter, Gary Langford, Ivo Dalbo, Bill Seth, Jimmy Barletta, Velimir Karanovic, Stephane Conus and many more. I can not name all as there are many. You work is highly respected and appreciated.”
“Also a big thank you to Cold Company, sportswear and clothing brand, that supports the most of our best champions and famous figures worldwide.”
“With a high respect, I would like to outline two important people who are unfortunately not with us any more. Mr Nuno Ferreira from the WKN Portugal and Mr Lukas Bastinac from the WKN Serbia. Rest in Peace, the memory about you will always remain in our hearts.”
There is certainly much more can be added. The WKN history is an on-going story that began 20 years ago.
“As for the perspectives, they are always the same. To always be on the top, find new talents and make quality and safe shows. The WKN has no concurrence and has peace with everybody.
“For the WKN the priority is to keep developing our sport and remain Simply The Best.”