Story by GLORY SPORTS INTERNATIONAL
Incredible fights and all-out action are two things which define GLORY kickboxing, but even the most experienced observers were left awestruck by what they saw in the World Lightweight Championship fight between Andy ‘The Machine’ Ristie and Davit Kiria (22-9, 7 KO’s).
“I started to train karate at nine years old and ever since then I dreamed of this day. I always wanted to be a champion and now it has come true. I think that this is the happiest day of my life,” said Kiria, tears running down his face as being crowned the GLORY World Lightweight Champion sank in.
“I think I will sleep with the belt tonight! If not on me then definitely near me. I like this belt and I am going to keep it for a long time.”
Kiria’s victory was an upset of legendary proportions. Ristie came into the fight off the back of a career-defining tournament win at GLORY 12 NEW YORK late last year, during which he stopped both Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin Van Roosmalen to take the #1 spot in the world rankings.
Originally he had been set to face Ky Hollenbeck of the USA but when the California native was forced out of the bout the place passed to Kiria, who came in as a significant underdog but one with a reputation for insane toughness.
As it turned out, that reputation was richly deserved. Ristie almost finished Kiria in the first round, came close to doing so again in the second, then had to watch in disbelief as the dogged Georgian hung on and came back into the fight.
Had this fight happened in a movie, people would have switched it off because it was too unrealistic. Kiria had been dropped twice and was one knockdown away from having the fight waved off.
He came back from that to knock Ristie out in the dying seconds of the round, a Davit vs. Goliath moment which is without doubt one of the most epic occurrences a kickboxing ring has ever hosted.
“Georgian people are a warrior people. All through our history we have had war and battle so we have a warrior spirit,” he told the post-fight press conference after being asked how he had managed to cling on despite being all but KO’d following a trademark Ristie knee.
“And I am a karate fighter, since I was a young boy. The spirit of karate is that you must keep going and keep going until your dying breath, you can never give up. So I think what kept me going was my Georgian heart and my karate spirit.”
Kiria’s exploits were being followed closely in his homeland and particularly in his home city, where an entire neighborhood doubles as his support team.
“Where I come from in Georgia, everyone is very close. My street is like one big family,” he explained with a laugh.
“So when I go back I must take the belt to each house on my street and let them see it and touch it, because they will feel like it is their belt also – we won the belt, not I won the belt.”
Now that he is champion, Kiria has instantly become a target for every other top fighter in the lightweight division. The likes of Robin Van Roosmalen and Giorgio Petrosyan will be very keen to get back in the ring with him.
As it happens, Kiria has losses to both of those fighters and is keen to redress the balance. He won’t be avoiding anyone that fate or GLORY places in his path.
“I am happy to fight anyone. I am a fighter, I am not someone who picks his opponents. Whoever wants to fight me, bring them,” he said.
“But I do agree that there are some possible rematches. When you lose to someone it is never right in your mind, you know? So it is obvious that there may be rematches with Robin Van Roosmalen and Giorgio Petrosyan, these are two guys I lost to and I would like to beat them of course.”