Karate Combat looks to fill sports void

Competitors land kicks in Karate Combat, an upstart league that merges real fighting with video game effects, in a still image from video provided April 19, 2020. Karate Combat/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Karate Combat, a league devoted to showcasing the ancient martial art, said it is hoping to take advantage of the stalled sports calendar to premiere its prerecorded second season, which blends real fighting with video game settings.

The full-contact league believes it is sitting on a valuable commodity that can attract viewers, especially the highly-prized younger demographic, at a time when COVID-19 has put the brakes on live sporting events around the world.

"There's been a big push to fill this void and combat sports are fun to watch," Karate Combat co-founder Rob Bryan told Reuters in an interview.

"And we're presenting combat sports in a way that the younger demographic loves."

While season one relied on large live audiences and glamorous locales, season two incorporates outlandish CGI effects to transport viewers to locations ranging from ancient temples to space stations.

With more than 150 professional fighters, some of whom have Olympic experience, computer-generated settings and celebrity hosts like charismatic NFL great Marshawn Lynch, the league believes it has a formula for success.

Karate Combat also borrows from reality television to highlight the varied backgrounds of its fighters, which include Louisiana preacher and former MMA fighter Josh Quayhagen and German Buddhist monk Maximilian Mathes, who lives a nomadic life.

"Because of the diversity of karate athletes, we have fighters who battled their way out of poverty, some who have PhDs and some who have fought in their country's Special Forces," Bryan said.

"We're doing our best to discover interesting parts of their backgrounds and bring those to life in our videos."

The missing piece of the puzzle is a deal to broadcast the second season, although discussions are ongoing, Bryan said.

Karate Combat also recently enlisted sports and entertainment agency Octagon to help find a broadcaster.

"We look forward to securing distribution for Karate Combat in this market where networks are aggressively trying to fill content holes and new premium content is scarce," Daniel Cohen, senior vice president at Octagon, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)

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