KSW and its 60,000-Seat Stadium Power Move

By Peter Carroll Mar 22, 2017

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki has reportedly sold over 30,000 tickets to its blockbuster KSW 39 show on May 27 at the 60,000-seat PGE Narodowy Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. KSW appears destined to break the European attendance record for an MMA event, which was set by UFC Fight Night “Gustafsson vs. Johnson” on Jan. 24, 2015 in Sweden.

According to KSW founder Martin Lewandowski, sales for “Colosseum” have given the promotion reason to celebrate after more than a decade in the mixed martial arts business.

“If you break any record, it’s always something that should put a smile on your face,” Lewandowski told Sherdog.com. “Of course, we are delighted that we can do something of this magnitude, as we have been in the market for 13 years. Personally, I’m very happy. When I first became involved in MMA, the first shows I looked at were the Pride [Fighting Championships] shows. Over 10 years ago, those guys were selling a lot more than 30,000 tickets for their shows. It’s not like we’re trying to mimic Pride, because we have a very different market, but it’s good to be making moves towards creating those big shows again.”

MMA fans in Western Europe often forget about KSW due to its lack of television broadcasts and the presence of other organizations, like Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts and Absolute Championship Berkut. KSW has thus far focused primarily on the Polish market, but it hosted an event in England in 2015 -- it drew a crowd of better than 9,000 -- and hopes to begin promoting shows outside of Poland again next year. In fact, Lewandowski has designs on four international shows per year, fashioning fight cards that are tailor-made for a given market.

“Since the first show we’ve put on, we have always been internationally minded,” he said. “Yes, we are based in Poland, but we believe this is the first step towards more shows in Europe. We have put shows on in England before and soon we will look to Ireland and the UK again. This is something we’re working on. Poland is small in sense, but we are able to sell 18,000 tickets over here. We would want to put the same effort into any shows we put on in different countries. We are concerned about catering to each individual market. Through our experiences in Poland, we know that we just can’t show up and expect to sell out a venue.

“I really don’t think we could go to another country and hope that the same model we use in Poland would work over there,” Lewandowski added. “We would need to adapt to the local market. We would have to find the local stars just to create a buzz amongst the people who are living in whatever country we choose to visit. I’d prefer to wait for as long as it takes to go back to England or to go to Ireland so we can guarantee the success of the event we put on there. I don’t want to show up for the sake of it and put on an event that is crap.”

KSW officials have asserted that they have a stronger MMA brand in Poland than the Ultimate Fighting Championship enjoys in the United States. Lewandowski believes the UFC failed to capitalize on the market because it did not study the shows KSW had put together in its home country.

“They come over here and they’re selling tickets at huge prices,” he said. “They have a couple of very good fighters from Poland, which could push them towards doing a show here in the future. They did an event here before, and it didn’t go well. The pricing was wrong, the promotion was wrong, the setup for the fights was wrong; a lot of things didn’t go they way they thought it would.

“They came as a huge machine and they decided to do their thing in their own way without considering what Poles like,” Lewandowski added. “They could’ve looked at what KSW has done in the Polish market to help them promote the show. They didn’t, and for me, that was a mistake. They failed, actually. They only sold about 6,000 tickets in a 17,000-seat venue.”

Lewandowski expects KSW 39 to be a promotional and box-office hit.

“I’m expecting to get to about 50,000 [fans],” he said. “I would be really, really happy with that. I think we’re at about 34,000 or 35,000 tickets sold. I’m delighted with that already because the venues we’ve done before are usually about 17,000 or 18,000. We’ve nearly doubled that already, so it’s been a great success. We’ve already beaten the European record, so we should drink a really good pint of beer to celebrate at the moment. Any number over that would be a great success.”

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