Updated: Sep 28
In 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship heralded the dominance of mixed martial arts (MMA) in combat sports. Seemingly, eclipsing all other martial arts competitions, MMA has appeared as the last station of competitive martial arts programming. Is it time for something else?
Enter Karate Combat. With its inception in 2018, Karate Combat is still a relatively new contender in the combat sports arena. For viewers that are seeking a more traditional stand-up contest, Karate Combat may be just what some fans have been looking for. With the completion of their exciting third season, which contained plenty of incredible martial arts action, it seemed like a good time to speak with Adam Kovacs COO and League President, and find out what the organization has in store for their next season and beyond.
How is Karate Combat different from other combat sport programs? Karate Combat has changed the game. We've created a completely new professional sports league and reinvented production and presentation at the same time. Before Karate Combat, if you were watching professional combat sports you were watching boxing, kickboxing, or MMA. You'd see fights that took place in a ring or cage under one of a few rulesets and every organization using basically the same production methods. The only major difference between them was the name and the logo on the canvas. We've changed all that - you don't even need to see our logo on the screen to know that you're watching Karate Combat. From the production to the aesthetic to the actual fighting surface, everything is brand new and completely ours. It's very rare you see something truly original in sports these days and I think that's a large part of why we've had such a positive reaction from fans and such rapid growth.
How did Karate Combat come about?
I've been in karate all my life and I was on the Hungarian national team for many years, until my retirement from competition. I reached the top level in karate, but I was always conscious of the fact that as a karateka, you had no way to compete professionally unless you went to fight in a different sport like kickboxing or MMA. It always seemed strange to me, because statistically, karate is the world's most widely-practiced martial art; there's such a deep talent pool.
Another thing I was aware of was that most casual fight fans don't love the grappling and clinching aspects of MMA and Muay Thai; it's quite boring to watch unless you have a fairly large degree of technical knowledge to understand what you're watching.
On the other hand, one of the things I love about karate is the emphasis on timing and precision, getting in to land that perfect strike, and then getting out intact. I always thought it had the potential to be a very fan-friendly professional sport, so long as the fights were full contact and the rules were well-designed.
By chance, that had also been noticed by some Wall Street investors. They had started looking into the fight-sport industry after seeing how the UFC had grown into one of the world's most valuable sports franchises. They saw this enormous martial art which was a household name all over the world yet didn't have a professional league. It was sort of a perfect storm: our paths crossed, and we found we had both been thinking about the same thing but from opposite directions.
So between us, we were on the same page. We felt the three 'classic' combat sports - boxing, kickboxing, and MMA - left a large audience unserved. We began designing a new league, which eventually took shape as Karate Combat.
What we've done is add a fourth pillar to the combat sports pantheon. Now, if you're a karateka or a traditional martial artist who has the desire and ability to turn professional, you don't have to go into kickboxing or MMA. You have a home here. And if you're a sports fan, Karate Combat is where you can see a whole new world of martial artists in full-contact fights which showcase the best of the art and don't get bogged down in grappling or clinching.