December, 2007. Holland's Semmy Schilt captures the K-1 World Grand Prix Championship for a third time, beating out a field of veteran fighters including Jerome Le Banner, Peter Aerts, Glaube Feitosa and Remy Bonjasky. Established in 1993, K-1 fused traditional martial arts like Karate, Kung-Fu, Kick-Boxing and Tae Kwon Do (they all have a K in the name, get it?) with elaborate production values to deliver a product fans around the world could cheer.
May, 1996. A driven and aggressive fighter with a Kyokushin Karate background wins the World GP. Crowds ate up his never give up attitude, impressive physicality and exciting fighting style. Nicknames like Iron Man, The Typhoon, Blue Eyed Samurai and Mr. K-1 were bestowed upon him as he embodied the traits of a champion. As composed and respectful as he was skilled and eager to win, Andy Hug was a crucial example and reason of K-1's popularity across the globe.
Before entering the realm of Kick-Boxing, Hug was the most successful non-Japanese fighter in the sport of Kyokushin's history. When he segued into Kick-Boxing, Andy became a noted generalist fighter, never relying solely on his hands or feet in a bout. As one of K-1's smaller fighters, Andy constantly gave up inches and pounds to much larger fighters like Mike Bernardo, Ernesto Hoost and Mirko Filipovic. Andy's ability to weather storms of punches and kicks then retaliate quickly and unexpectedly made him a favorite among crowds. His rapid-fire punch combinations, wicked low kicks and impressive ax kicks were more than enough to excite the fans.
Coming into his own as a fighter and in the middle of his career, Andy entered the 1996 World GP, defeating Bart Vale by Knock Out, Duane Van Der Merwe by Knock Out and Ernesto Hoost by Decision to face Mike Bernardo in the finals. Hug had lost two hard fought matches against the formidable Bernardo before but was ready for their third meeting. Utilizing his quickness to strike and move in and out of range, Hug landed low kick after low kick until Bernardo hit the canvas in pain. Bernardo managed to get back to his feet, trying to use his lead leg to keep Hug at bay. But Andy saw the opening and unleashed a highlight reel low spinning hook kick that buckled Bernardo's knee.
In 1997, Hug defeated Pierre Guenette by Technical Knock Out, Masaaki Satake by Knock Out and Peter Aerts by Decision to face Ernesto Hoost in the finals. Andy would fall by Decision in the third of four matches with Hoost throughout their careers.
In 1998, Andy battled his way to the finals again, defeating Mark Russell by Knock Out, Ray Sefo by Technical Knock Out and Sam Greco by Decision to face The Dutch Lumberjack, Peter Aerts in the finals. In their fourth and final match against one another, Aerts emerged victorious via Knock Out by head kick.
Outside the ring, Andy Hug's life philosophy can best be summed up in his own words. "Know yourself, keep yourself under control, understand yourself, steel yourself, cleanse your mind and keep your body fit." Reserved and respectful, Hug worked hard in the gym and expected much from himself. Known for training while sick and fighting with broken toes, fingers, even a hand, Hug was a true warrior. His popularity among fans prompted the K-1 organization to hold a Fight Night event in Hug's homeland of Switzerland for six consecutive years where Hug went undefeated.
Looking to retire from Kick-Boxing and begin acting, Andy Hug died suddenly from complications arisen from treatment for acute myeloid leukemia and bone marrow disease in 2000. He was 35.
As a former martial artist, body building enthusiast and Mixed Martial Arts fan, I appreciate and admire what Mr. K-1 brought and represented inside the ring and out. I only wish to have been familiar with his exploits sooner but will continue spreading the word.
For more information, check out:
Andy Hug Official Web site
Fighting & Entertainment Group
Words and still images don't do Andy Hug near enough justice. These videos available on YouTube as Andy Hug the Story are a fantastic introduction to the Blue Eyed Samurai and also serve as great motivators when you just don't feel like training or the day has been a drain.