LAS VEGAS, August 13, 2005 -- You can't spell 'Mirage' without 'rage' -- and that is exactly what 22 year-old Russian kickboxer Ruslan Karaev brought to the ring at the Mirage Casino and Hotel tonight, brutalizing three challengers en route to victory in the K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II.
Testosterzone: K-1 Tryouts at the Mirage
LAS VEGAS, August 12, 2005 -- Sven Bean is having a rough day. While other guests at the Mirage Hotel and Casino sip daiquiris by the pool or feed dollars to the slots, Bean holds court in a roomful of fierce and sweaty martial arts fighters. These are a pumped-up bunch, hoping to punch and kick their way to a shot at glory. Bean isn't complaining though -- in fact it's all in a day's work for the K-1 USA Director of Fighter Development here at the K-1 Open Tryouts 05.
Coinciding with this Saturday night's K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas II, the tryouts are designed to identify and evaluate new talent for the world's premier fighting sport. Fighters from both regular K-1 and K-1 Max (under 70kg/154lbs) class are participating, along with a few fighters whose background is in mixed martial arts and grappling.
Over the last three days, Bean has scouted some 100 amateur and semi-pro hopefuls -- local and California fighters; country boys from the Midwest and beyond; and more than a few from outside the United States altogether, such as 25 year-old Muay Thai stylist James Phillips, who flew in from Germany.
"James has what K-1 wants -- combinations, stamina and aggressiveness," says Igor Jushko, a veteran manager who has worked with some of the best from Eastern Europe and is representing Phillips here.
A panel including K-1 representatives as well as K-1 fighters Ray Sefo and Gary Goodridge evaluate the fighters as they answer questions about their backgrounds and motivations, engage in kicking and punching displays on the pads, and finally are paired off to do some sparring.
"We are looking primarily for fighters who have experience in the ring, and good skills," says Sefo. "There are a lot of fighters here who look good on the pads but when they are sparring they are worse than they were on the pads. But then other guys are not so good on the pads, when they are sparring they put good things together, mixing it up. Fighters who are willing to stand up here, and look like they could step in against good K-1 fighters -- that's how we're judging, that's what we're looking for."
A K-1 spokesman said the organization is "very pleased" with the turnout and quality of American fighters this year.
Gary Goodridge agrees. "They are prepared better than last year, a lot better," said "Big Daddy," who won the K-1 WGP in Hawaii last month. "I think the guys here know what K-1 wants, we've seen some good talent!"
A fighter who attended last year's tryouts -- 21 year-old Canadian Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout, got a shot in the ring at the K-1 World Max Open Tournament in Tokyo this May, and beat Koutetsu Boku of Japan. Truly these tryouts are a road to success for fighters with the right stuff.
As the last group of fighters steps up late Friday afternoon, a slightly weary Sven Bean goes over the tryout format once again -- then makes a simple but important request: "Please, guys, hit the pads and not the guy holding them, I've been kicked a heck of a lot over the last few days!"
Tomorrow, several dozen fighters who made the cut will be invited back for a second look from Goodridge, Sefo and K-1. The bruised Bean will be there again as well, quite probably taking more punishment than ever, but loving every minute.