Just today, I stumbled upon and old clip of Andy Hug fighting in the K-1 tournament. It’d been a while since I’d thought about him so I figure I might as well share it with you here.
Andy Hug was one of those guys who inspired martial artists from all over the world. He started with Kyokushinkai karate and made a big name for himself as a fighter in that art. Later on, he became one of the most exciting fighters of the (then still young) K-1 circuit and actually won the tournament in 1996. All that stuff isn’t what made him special in my opinion, this here is:
- He came from a karate style and despite all his training, his body mechanics always kept some of that background when he fought in the ring. But he went up against world-class muay Thai fighters in K-1 and actually beat them, often knocking them out. Very, very few karateka were able to do this.
- He was by far the smallest and lightest guy in K-1 fighting. He came in at only”220Lbs for 5 ft 11. In other words, he fought in a style that wasn’t his own and went up against taller, heavier and stronger guys almost every single time.
- He used flashy techniques but did so exceptionally well. He was famous for both his axe kicks and the low spinning heel kick (which I haven’t seen many fighters try ever since). The only reason he got away with it (again, against taller and heavier guys) was tons and tons of training.
- He never gave up. You’d seem him get pounded upon by a behemoth of an opponent, be knocked to the floor and tossed around and he just got back up again. The only way to stop him was to knock him out.
All this is what made young fighters try to emulate him back in the day. I was his size when I started competing and always admired him for having the courage to go up against these huge monsters. But even that isn’t really why I wanted to write about Andy here:
The one thing that every single one of his opponents agreed upon is that he was simply a great guy.
He didn’t trash-talk, didn’t act like a prima donna, nor did he behave like an asshole in the ring. On the contrary, everybody liked the guy as he was always in a good mood and and friendly to his opponents outside of the ring. He was respectful to his fans and the Japanese people embraced him as one of their own.
When he suddenly died of leukemia in 2000, over ten-thousand people took to the streets for his funeral. If you know anything of Japan, then you understand how rare such a crowd is for a foreigner’s passing. My girlfriend lived in Tokio then and she once told me of how the entire country seemed floored by his death: it was all over the news and like nothing she’d ever seen there.
My point is this:
Back then, the K-1 was the biggest game in combat sports. Andy Hug showed it was possible to not only be an amazing fighter but also a genuinely nice guy. He proved that kindness and friendliness are not Kryptonite for a fighter. Some of today’s K-1 and MMA fighters could do worse than follow his example.
Here are two videos to give you an idea of the man:
I like this one because it shows Andy in and outside of the ring. But for those of you who prefer the fighting, here’s a highlight reel: