K-1 Elite to Yokohama; New Weight Class Announced

TOKYO, January 25 — K-1 announced today it will launch its World Grand Prix 2007 season with an All-Star event in Yokohama. The fightsport organization also outlined plans to create a new weight class, as well as a program to kickstart the development of young Japanese fighters.

Joining K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa in the Imperial Hotel press conference were a couple of K-1’s Japanese stars — Musashi and Yusuke Fujimoto. These fighters will face one another at this year’s first World GP event, set for Yokohama Arena on March 4. Headlining the talent-rich card is a bout between defending WGP Champ Sammy Schilt and Ray Sefo of New Zealand. In other action, Korean giant Hong-Man Choi will step in against American Mighty Mo; Ruslan Karaev of Russia will tango with Dutchman Badr Hari; Chalid “Die Faust” of Germany will take on Japanese tough guy Hiromi Amada; and French kickboxer Cyril Abidi will test Japanese fighter Mitsugu Noda.

Tanikawa also outlined a new K-1 weight classification scheme. “In 1993, when K-1 started, the final eight fighters in the championship tournament were all about 90 kg each,” he said. “But in recent years, bigger and bigger fighters have emerged who have good skills. And so, in order to make the sport more competitive and exciting, we will be experimenting this year with a 100 kg (220lbs) weight classification.”

The new over/under 100kg weight division will be applied in K-1 Superfights. Overall, the World Grand Prix will continue as an open weight class format.

Also unveiled today was a reality television concept aimed at discovering and developing fighters in this country. The program will take the form of an ongoing competition between two teams — one coached by Ernesto Hoost, the second by Mike Bernardo. Tanikawa said he hoped young Japanese fighters would flourish under the tutelage of these K-1 veterans. Viewers will follow their progress on the weekly Fuji TV fightsport program “SRS” (Special Ringside).

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