July 24, 2012 5:00 am by Pedro Carrasco

They came from all over the world with one dream and one chance to make it come true, and on July 19 at Muscle Beach, in front of the K-1 owner, executives and legendary judges they got their chance. In the first ever K-1 Open Tryouts in Los Angeles, more than 200 Hopefuls demonstrated their skills before hundreds of fans and five of the biggest stars in the sport.

Alistair Overeem, who was the last man to win the K-1, attended the tryouts as a judge. From start to finish, he sat before the Hopefuls, sharing with them the heat of the Los Angeles sun, and the long stretch of the four-hour tryouts.

“I came to LA because I respect that K-1 is trying to bring kickboxing to America,” said Overeem. “I supported the tryouts today because as a fighter you want to prove yourself, and this was it, this was every fighter’s chance to demonstrate their skills and get into K-1. I had a lot of fun and I saw a lot of talent, a lot of potential, but mostly throughout the day I saw tremendous passion and dedication for this sport.”

Masato, who twice held rank as K-1 MAX Champion (2008 and 2003), and runner up of K-1 MAX (2007 and 2004) and who now serves as an Executive Producer for K-1, sat beside Overeem as a judge. Masato flew in from Japan to attend the tryouts and help the organization scout new talent for the Grand Prix and MAX tournaments this year.

“I was very pleased to see how many people came to the tryouts and their enthusiasm for K-1,” said Masato. “I saw many talented kickboxers from America and abroad, they came from all over to the tryouts. It seems that fighting is getting bigger and bigger here and with more young fighters learning the sport. I’m excited for the future of kickboxing and for K-1 in America.”

Along with K-1 owner Michael Kim, the Chief Executive Officer for K-1, Doug Kaplan, also attended the tryouts from beginning to end and saw every Hopeful demonstrate their skills.

“First, I think everyone that came and tried out today felt appreciated and respected,” said Doug Kaplan, CEO, K-1. “We were excited to have such a great turnout, and even more excited when we heard over and over what this opportunity means to them. Today, not only did every Hopeful get to tryout in front of the K-1 owner, myself, Alistair Overeem, Masato and other stars, they also received a pair of VIP tickets to the US Grand Prix in LA on September 8. We wanted everyone to know we are thankful for their support and that we recognize they are K-1’s biggest fans.”

K-1 Hopeful Josh Pickthall, who journeyed through the tryout process, stated, “Amazing atmosphere! I could definitely feel the excitement in the air. Just being involved with such a magnificent promotion like K-1 made my dreams come true, hopefully it was just the start! It was an honor to showcase my talent!”

Also celebrating the K-1 Tryouts were K-1 veterans and action film stars Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Don “The Dragon” Wilson as well as the current champion Kevin Ross. Each of these K-1 standouts were impressed with the day’s events as well as the crowd of fighters who arrived in LA for this historic chance to stand before K-1. The top trainers in the business including Colin Ayama, Mark Breecher, Paulo Tocha, Rob Kamen and Gene Fields were also on hand to guide the Hopefuls through the various stages of the tryouts.

Each of the Hopefuls tried out for a slot as a MAX or Heavyweight participant in one of the 2012 K-1 events, and the chance to compete for $2 million in prize money. In coming weeks, K-1 will contact select Hopefuls and bring them to LA for Callbacks.

Vinnie Shoreman, longtime kickboxing announcer and Nicky Whelan, model, actress and sports commentator also attended the tryouts. The pair provided commentary and named the Hopefuls one by one as they stepped before the judges.

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