If you have recently started going to kickboxing shows or a kickboxer friend posts their fight poster on Facebook, you may have seen various championship titles and wondering what is the difference between them and which one is the best.
In fact, there are hundreds of different kickboxing sanctioning bodies but only a hand full get recognition for their champions and titles.
This is because the best kickboxing sanctioning bodies will only make a title fight with fighters who have earned their shot for it and have worked up through the ranks. Whereas, some bodies may make what would be just a non-title fight and make it a British title for instance.
How many Fights should a Fighter do Before Going for a Title?
That is a bit of a grey area as there is no set amount before going for a title. However, a fighter should look to build up their record before thinking of a title shot. Their first title should be for a local area title and working towards a world.
That Boxing Voice suggests that:
‘22 is the average number of fights a boxer has before they fight for a world title for the first time. When you exclude world-class amateurs, the average number of years rises to 5 years and 8 months, and the average number of fights extends to 24.’
List of kickboxing titles:
- Local area eg. Southern area title
- British champion
- European champion
- Intercontinental champion
- World champion
A kickboxing promotion uses a particular sanctioning body they choose to work with, and all their fights will be sanctioned by that organisation. So depending who a fighter beats or loses to, determines their rank in that sanctioning body.
This applies even for some of the best promotions in the world, as up until recently Glory kickboxing had their fights sanctioned by the ISKA. However, the ISKA made the decision not to continue to work with GLORY as they had been taken over by a new parent company, which the ISKA was not confident in working with.
Some leading global kickboxing promotions like One Championship and Enfusion choose to sanction their events in-house and have their very own rankings and champions.
With so many different organisations, it can cause a lot of confusion to who is the best fighter because you can have 2 different fighters, in the same weight class but each has a world championship belt. The best example of this is currently in boxing, Uysk holds 3 World heavyweight titles and Tyson Fury holds the WBC.
What is the Difference Between Kickboxing Sanctioning and Governing bodies?
In boxing you have the British Boxing Board of Control who govern the sport of boxing from top to bottom – i.e. insurance, licensing, standards, certification/courses, etc, whereas a sanctioning body like the WBC would provide the titles and officials but the show itself would be governed by the BBBofC.
In kickboxing, because it doesn’t have dedicated national federations / governing bodies equivalent to the BBBofC, then the so-called world bodies often take on the whole responsibility, or governance of the event, not just the title.
Here is a list of some of the main kickboxing organisations:
- ISKA (International Sport Karate Association) – The ISKA are a massive organisation. They are one of the major international bodies regulating sport karate and kickboxing matches established back in 1985.
- WKA (World Kickboxing Association)– Oldest and on the rebuild currently. It is considered the largest amateur and professional sanctioning organizations of kickboxing. Although it is called the World Kickboxing Association, the logo uses World Karate and Kickboxing Association.
- WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations) – Largest and most prestigious globally for amateur kickboxers. It was created to develop support and govern at an amateur level however it also sanctions the champions of kickboxing.
- IKF (International Kickboxing Federation)– Mainly American kickboxing, it is the oldest and the largest professional sanctioning organizations of kickboxing and Muay Thai
- WKU (World Kickboxing and Karate Union)– Mainly German and parts of Europe, the World Kickboxing and Karate Union professional and Amateur Martial Arts World Organization under the umbrella of the Global Combats Sports Organization.
- WKO (World Kickboxing Organisation)- Massive for mat sports mainly. WKO is the world governing body for Kickboxing and works to support all other Martial Arts throughout the world.
- WKN (World Kickboxing Network)- Really good on the pro side. They tend to get the upper end of the shows but not quite Glory, Enfusion, Krush, K-1, level. A good body. I see it more as a sanctioning body than a governing body.
Over the years, more and more promotions have started to sanction their own events and award their own title belts. For example, Enfusion kickboxing have their own rankings, similar to what you would see in the UFC. They generally do this as they have more control over their fights and events. However, the downside to this is, as the fighters are signed to a contract, they can’t fight an opponent from another promotion.
This type of sanctioning in kickboxing only seems to work with the worlds biggest promotions as they are capable of getting the best fighters from around the world.
Is ISKA kickboxing good?
The ISKA is the largest professional kickboxing organisation, and to many is considered the most prestigious.
In 2022, the ISKA sanctioned 457 events, including 290 ISKA Championship title fights in 57 countries on 6 continents. In March 2023, they sanctioned 64 events in 25 countries, returning to pre pandemic levels of activity.
Read more about the history of ISKA here.
Who is the best kickboxer in the world?
That is very tricky one to answer because of the fact their is many different organisations and different rules.
In all combat sports, the heavyweight division seems to get the most excitement and Rico Verhoeven fighting on Glory Kickboxing is considered the best in the world right now. His nickname has gone from the ‘Prince of Kickboxing’ to the ‘King of kickboxing’.
Take a look at his highlights below: