Professional Kickboxing Organizations: The Industry’s Biggest Names

Kickboxing is a pretty young sport with roots dating back as late as the 1970s. Since then, it has grown to be a viewer sport with a massive fan base across the globe. Professional kickboxing organizations have cropped up in numbers. So have aspiring pro fighters everywhere.

The history of kickboxing is a complex one. Karate players didn’t like its with “unrealistic” combat systems. And so, they branched out to play by their own rules. Full-contact karate came as a result, bringing together a mix of diverse fighting styles. The sanctioning body at the time unified these styles with a standard set of rules. This is how the Professional Karate Association brought the start of American Kickboxing.

Kickboxing Match

Kickboxing is more than just the American style, though. There are many types of kickboxing. The most popular kickboxing styles are Muay Thai, American style and Dutch style. You can read about them in detail here.

There are many professional kickboxing organizations that sanction kickboxing events. And until recently, there had been no governing body that unified them.
Some of these organizations cover multiple kickboxing rulesets. Others are exclusive to specific styles. This adds another layer of confusion to the structure of kickboxing.
That’s also why no one can make a true ranking of the best kickboxing organizations. Instead, we can only make a general judgment of the top ones based on their image.
Want to go deep with your knowledge of kickboxing? You can start by reading this article to learn about the different kickboxing styles. It’ll help you better understand the context of this article.

Anyway, in this article, we go over the world’s most popular professional kickboxing organizations.  

  • World Association of Kickboxing Organizations

    Until recently, there was no governing body for kickboxing. It was only in July of 2021 that things changed. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) recognized the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations. This officially names WAKO the world governing body of the sport.

    Today, it is the only professional kickboxing organization recognized by the IOC and the Global Association of Sports Federations. WAKO has 126 affiliated nations worldwide. In 95 of them, the link is officially acknowledged by their sports councils. WAKO came from Europe and currently covers seven kickboxing styles. Four of these are on tatami, while three are in the ring.

    • Point-fighting
    • Light-contact
    • Kick-light
    • Musical form
    • Full-contact
    • Low-kick
    • K-1 style
  • World Karate and Kickboxing Association

    The World Karate and Kickboxing Association is another well-known in Kickboxing. It sanctions amateur and pro matches alike since the 1970s.

    (This was when people were only starting to see Kickboxing as a unique martial art.)

    The WKA is one of the oldest and largest professional kickboxing organizations, reaching 107 countries. It covers rulesets such as:
    • K-1
    • Glory
    • Low kick
    • Full-contact karate
    • Thai boxing
    • Muay Thai

    Some famous names under the WKA are Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and Brandon Vera.

  • World Boxing Council Muaythai

    The World Boxing Council is one of the four major bodies that sanction pro boxing. It brought us many historical high-profile matches. In 2005, it branched out to become a professional kickboxing organization. And thus, the WBC Muaythai came to life.

    Today, the WBC Muaythai is one of the biggest kickboxing organizations worldwide. It is active in over 75 countries, including Australia.

    In fact, we’re very proud to say that TFC has had the pleasure of bringing home a WBC Muaythai belt to Australia. In 2018, TFC head coach Ben “The Blade” Johnston went against one of the biggest names in Muay Thai, Dan Edwards. The night ended with Ben becoming WBC Light Heavyweight World Champion.
  • International Sport Karate Association

    The history of kickboxing began with the Professional Karate Association. It came at a time when people sought changes in traditional Karate. The PKA led the sport until it declined due to money and legal issues. ISKA came as a response to that decline.

    Today, ISKA sanctions all kickboxing styles, MMA, and sports Karate in over 50 countries worldwide. The US Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championships is one of the world’s biggest events. More than ten thousand viewers and four thousand athletes attended this yearly event. (Or at least, they did before the pandemic.) This event is the longest-running program on ESPN.

  • Traditional Thai Boxing Titles

    With the sheer number of bodies giving out their own belts, things can get a bit confusing. So which champions’ belts do fans really care about?

    Mainstream media sees the big global organizations. True Muay Thai fans, however, know a couple more belts. While the global stuff is great, the traditional stuff is what the hardcore fans get all feely about.

    The belts in Muay Thai that get the most honor are those that come from its homeland: Thailand. Two title belts carry the most weight in Muay Thai: the Lumpinee and the Rajadamnern. Each is named after the stadiums where they happen. Both the belts and the venue bring a lot of historical significance.

    Thailand’s professional kickboxing organizations run these championships.

    Lumpinee Belt

    The Army Welfare Department of the Royal Thai Army runs Lumpinee. All income that come from these events goes towards various units of the army. It has become one of the symbols of modern Muay Thai, equaled only by the Rajadamnern. The “Muay Thai Champion of Lumpinee” is the highest point of achievement any Muay Thai fighter could aspire to have.

    The Lumpinee Boxing Stadium was erected more than a decade after the Rajadamnern Stadium. It also had its first event almost a decade after the Rajadamnern. Still, popularity polls recognize the Lumpinee belt to be the better option.

    Rajadamnern Belt

    The Rajadamnern belt is one of the two main belts for modern Muay Thai. It is by the Chuwattana Muay Thai & Boxing Camp under the Rajadamnern Co, Ltd. The Rajadamnern Stadium lost money when the government ran it, so it later went to a private entity where it thrived. 

    The Rajadamnern belt lags behind Lumpinee in terms of global fame. However, the public sees that it’s starting to put on bigger and better shows than the other.

  • Final Thoughts

    Does it really matter whether or not you know these names? The answer is: yes. Each body has its own set of rules, which may affect both the viewers’ and the fighters’ experience.

    That said, it’s easy to see why fighters must at least be familiar with them. It’d be bad if a K-1 fighter signed onto a match sanctioned by the WBC Muaythai. The skills and expertise just won’t match the demands of the event.

    It’s not as vital when you’re a casual viewer. It’s pretty easy to see who’s doing better even when you know nothing about the sport. For true enthusiasts, however, it’s a bit different. Knowing these provides a reference point so they can fully grasp what’s going on.