In describing what is happening in Glory right now with the rise of five kick boxers sounds like something from an old Patrick Swayze or Eric Roberts movie. There are six weight-classes in Glory and after Glory 20 two of their current champions are Canadian with a third countrymen earning a shot at another title. As a country, Canada currently has the same number of Glory champions as the Netherlands.
What makes this so remarkable is that professional kickboxing is illegal in Canada but that did not prevent Gabriel Varga and Joseph Valtellini from earning Glory titles, and Simon Marcus getting his chance to earn one.
This is not a case of just having two or three great athletes in Varga, Valtellini and Marcus coming along at the same time. There are also two young future stars in Josh Jauncey and Robert Thomas. With these five fighters leading the way for the next generation, look for the Canadian kickboxing revolution to continue.
Gabriel Varga is guaranteed action and excitement
Varga is one of the more technical fighters in Glory. He has excellent movement, which he uses to set up angles to land his combinations, while working all levels with all of his weapons. For most of his career he has used a very technical approach to his offense and defense but in the finals of Glory 17 he engaged in a brawl with Shane Oblonsky. It was one of the best fights of the year. Varga’s win in that fight earned him this title shot. He must have gotten a taste for the brawl because he found himself in another thrilling one with the number one ranked Mosab Amrani.
In each fight some of the praise needs to go to his opponents. To have a truly great fight, one that tells a compelling story it takes both fighters rising to the occasion. That is what we got in the title fight between Varga and Amrani. Each fighter showed tremendous heart, absorbing punishment but continued to come forward trying to stop the other until the final bell. They snapped the other’s head back but could not get the stoppage. It was not for lacking of trying as they combined to throw 629 strikes in five rounds.
The fight was close, competitive, compelling and calls for a rematch in the future. It is easy to see them fighting several times for Glory. We can only hope that any future fights between them are anything close to this one.
Varga becomes the second title holder for Canada but will face many challenges to hold the belt. The division is one of the deepest. So far Varga has proven to be quite adaptable and able to win against different style of fighters.
Simon Marcus looks to join Varga and Valtellini
By winning the four-man tournament at Glory 20, Marcus earned a title shot against Artem Levin at Glory 21. If he can defeat the champion that would give the country of Canada half of the Glory titles. Again, something absolutely remarkable given that kickboxing is not legal in their country.
Joining his countrymen as a Glory champion will not be easy. Levin has been almost untouchable in his Glory career with his only loss being a very close decision one to Joe Schilling. He avenged that loss by defeating Schilling in the finals of the Last Man Standing tournament. Currently Levin looks to be almost unbeatable but Marcus showed a lot in winning this tournament.
He came into Glroy undefeated as a fighter, with most of his fights taking place under Muay Thai rules. Those rules allow for clinches, sweeps and dumps. Marcus excels in theses areas, especially the clinch aspect. All of those elements are illegal in Glory.
Despite not having access to one of his best weapons Marcus fought Schilling to a draw after three rounds in the quarter finals of the Last Man Standing tournament. This forced an extra round and Schilling scored the KO. That was Marcus’ first loss of his professional career. Instead of allowing the loss to discourage him Marcus used it for motivation. Now he is poised to follow in the footsteps of Varga and Valtellini.
Someone has to be the first
Last July at Last Man Standing Joseph Valtellini defeated Marc de Bonte to become the Glory welterweight champion. It was on that night that Canadian kickboxing made an impact. Earlier in the night Varga had won the featherweight tournament in a brilliant performance. Marcus lost his fight to Schilling but put on a great fight. Valtellini winning the title capped the night off for Canada.
You could not have casted a better role model than Valtellini as the first champion to lead the way. Besides being a talented and hardworking kick boxer he is also a full-time Physical Education teacher for special-needs children. Many people give up their jobs once they reach a certain level of success but Valtellini loves his job as a teacher. Instead, he manages his time to fit everything in and by training smarter. He maximizes his time in the gym when he trains to get the most benefits possible out of it.
The approach has led him to the Glory title. Like Varga he also has a group of talented challengers to fend off. First up will be the only fighter to defeated Valtellini in Glory in Nieky Holzken in the finals of the four-man tournament at Glory 13.
It was an amazing fight and the rematch promises to be even better. Now they both get to gear their respective training camps towards the other fighter. When they met in the finals they each had to train for that tournament with more of a focus on the first round opponent. It will make a difference in how the fight will unfold since they have fought each other once and now that they can study each other for a whole training camp. You can still expect another classic from them.
The Young Guns
The Canadian Glory kickboxing scene is more than just two champions and another contender. There is also two young upcoming fighters in Josh Jauncey who is 3-0 in Glory and Robert Thomas who is 1-2 for them. Thomas’ two losses are to Levin and Schilling. After Schilling defeated the 20-year-old at Glory 19 he compared Thomas to a young version of himself. Jauncey is only 22 years old and they both are ranked in the top ten of their respective weight classes in Glory.
They both are poised to follow Valtellini, Varga and Marcus and help Canadian kickboxing continue to rise. Seeing two young fighters like this show that it is more than just a couple of talented fighters that happened to come along at the same time. Instead you can see a foundation being laid for the sport in the country of Canada.
They may not have the traditional of the Netherlands but they are equal in current Glory champions. You have to wonder how much the sport could grow in the country if they were allowed to hold events there. They have two likable champions and potential third one and none of them can fight in front of their home fans.
It was not that long ago that it was the same for MMA in Canada but having one of the UFC’s most popular champions in Georges St-Pierre helped get that ban overturned. We can hope that the same will happen for kickboxing in Canada next. They have plenty of bright young stars to pack a card right now.
The Canadian style of no-style
One of the interesting aspects of this kickboxing revolution is how it has emerged. These five fighters while all fighting currently and even training together at times, they all have different styles and approaches to the sport.
The Dutch style is one of the more famous styles in the sport today. It takes Muay Thai and Kyokushin Karate as a base then mixes in more boxing and low kicks. There are a lot of combinations and movement as well. Raymond Dekkers is one of the first and most famous practitioners of this style. Many fighters from the Netherlands have used this style with success and fighters from other countries come to learn it.
It is the base for Jauncey who has spent much of his time training at the legendary Mejiro Gym in Amsterdam. This has given him the chance to work with some of the best fighters in the sport like Remy Bonjasky, Rob Kaman and Andy Souwer. His style reflects that background. It has also led to great success in a short career as he is 22-4 overall to go with his 3-0 Glory record.
Fellow young gun Thomas shares a Muay Thai base for his style with Marcus but they are very different in their approaches. Thomas uses more movement in his style while Marcus has favored the clinch element but we saw changes in his approach in his wins over Barrett and Wilnis at Glory 20.
The two champions Valtellini and Varga started training in different martial arts when they were children. Varga trained Shotokan Karate, then went into Muay Thai and kickboxing. While Valtellini got his start in Tae Kwon Do then moved into Muay Thai. Currently he works with Paul Minhas who uses movement and low kicks as a base.
An aspect that they also share is versatility. Both, Varga and Valtellini are very adaptable and have defeated multiple styles in Glory. Their backgrounds in Karate and Tae Kwon Do respectively have given them a larger martial art vocabulary to use in the ring. They have used their skills to bring two Glory kickboxing titles to the country of Canada.
The future of Canadian kickboxing is a very bright one. You have three shining stars in Valtellini, Varga and Marcus leading the way. Then there is the young, talented and hardworking Thomas and Jauncey ready to join them at the championship level of Glory kickboxing.