KSW reminded everyone that it is king in Poland.
According to KSW President Martin Lewandowski, there are no qualifiers needed when discussing the popularity of his promotion in its home country, as he claims that it surpasses even that of the globally dominant UFC. This claim is backed up by the massive KSW Colosseum 2 event that went down at PGE Narodowy in Warsaw, Poland, which reportedly had 50,000-plus in attendance.
On The MMA Hour, Lewandowski was asked point blank if KSW is bigger than UFC in Poland, and he stated that it is.
“True,” Lewandowski said. “People want to train KSW here in Poland. That’s what I heard also in U.S., some people want to train UFC. ‘I’m going for UFC training.’ So that’s what is happening also here after 19 years of being in the market. I think that’s the value of being a leader on the market and the pioneer also because we started MMA here in Poland before KSW, it was real underground. So I think that’s what makes us very unique and I think Poland is very unique on the world market, to be honest.
“Of course, the biggest is U.S., but in terms of the promotion, the way how people treat the fighters, and I must say that this is many thanks to KSW, that we started this 19 years ago.”
KSW held its first event in 2004 and has gradually emerged as one of the top promotions in all of Europe with its mixture of homegrown stars (including former UFC champion Jan Blachowicz, and current lightweight contender Mateusz Gamrot), Polish sporting heroes (such as World’s Strongest Man legend Mariusz Pudzianowski and bronze medal-winning Olympian wrestler Damian Janikowski), and consistently high production values.
The key to the promotion’s success, according to Lewandowski, will always be the fighters and what they bring to the table.
“First of all, the fighters, the heroes, without them we couldn’t put on such a great event and sell so many because we are talking about sold tickets, not giveaways,” Lewandowski said. “It was a little bit, maybe one hundred less than 50K, but we just round up to 50K, so first it’s the heroes.
“The second thing, which is one of the most important I believe, from Day 1 when we started KSW it was very important for us not only to get the best fighters on the market and to match the best fights we could probably have at that time, but also the packaging. The production value, all that you can combine when you think about going to great concerts and to see the great MMA fights. I think this combination gives you this unique standard, I must say, because we’ve been kind of famous for this production quality for years and also, I think we put a little bit more attention to the small details, including the promotion. Even the theme, we did it in Colosseum, of course colosseum originates in Rome but it’s been famous because of the gladiators, so we put everything around that event. Everything was about the gladiators so we just kind of drift and we want to show and bring the people this real colosseum vibe with the gladiators and crazy fights.”
Following the success of KSW Colosseum 2, Lewandowski’s promotion now holds the record for the two biggest MMA events ever to take place in Europe, with the first Colosseum event in 2017 seating nearly 58,000 fans. Given that this show clearly attracted a broad audience, Lewandowski was asked if there is any interest in possibly booking a show in North America.
“We’re not going to grow in America or just fight for this market because it’s been taken by three promotions,” Lewandowski answered. “It’s a tough market, so Europe is something we feel OK, we understand, we’re all European, so better communication and also understanding on the field.
“Yes, because of Mamed Khalidov, Mariusz Pudzianowski, these two guys who are very famous and popular in the Polish community, not only in the U.S., but in Canada, wherever the Poles are living. So definitely it’s been in my mind. One of the Chicago Sears Arena approached me and also Madison Square Garden, they want to host KSW, but this is a nice dream, we need to work on that.”
As for how he plans to continue the massive Colosseum series, Lewandowski preaches patience due to the logistical effort it takes to put together such a complicated show. While he’s entertained by the idea of having a Colosseum event every year, he doesn’t see it as being realistic at this moment.
“[KSW International Communications Manager] Alan Murphy brought up a crazy idea for me today about doing it more often, but I’m considering because to sell those 50K, or like we did previously 57K, really it takes a year of planning plus half of the year of promoting that event. … We need to just put everybody, all our stars were involved in promoting that show,” Lewandowski said. “My first thought was coming every four years, just like the Olympic games, because this also makes this event unique. People are waiting, like, ‘Oh, it’s coming. Not this year, next year.’ When you do it every year, it might be like, ‘It’s just average. KSW is doing June or July ‘Colosseum 35.’’ But now it makes it very unique and you just need to wait for it.”