KSW 51 Zagreb: TCN Discusses Upcoming Spectacle with CEO Martin Lewandowski

Daniela Rogulj


October 22, 2019 – TCN caught up with the CEO of KSW, Martin Lewandowski, about the upcoming MMA spectacle at the Zagreb Arena on November 9, 2019. 

To begin, can you tell our readers a bit about KSW as an organization?

We launched KSW in 2004, starting with a really small event in front of just 300 people. Over the past fifteen years, we’ve grown to become the biggest MMA promotion in Europe and one of the world’s leading promotions. In 2017, we staged KSW 39 at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. This event drew an attendance of 57,766 people and became the biggest MMA event ever in Europe and the second biggest MMA event of all-time, behind an old Japanese event and larger than any UFC event ever.


Primarily we are a Polish-based promotion, but in recent years, we began our expansion more into Europe. We’ve had three successful events in London, Englan, a fantastic event in Dublin, Ireland, and now we are coming to Croatia for the first time on November 9th with KSW 51. I’d say it is safe to say we are moving to become a European MMA promotion now rather than just a Polish MMA promotion. Although since the early days of KSW, we’ve had fighters from all over the globe compete for us.

KSW will be coming to Zagreb for the first time next month – what can we expect from this event?

What makes KSW so unique is that we don’t just promote fights; our event as a whole is a spectacle. From the production to the music to the lights and our famous opening ceremony, a KSW event is like no other. You add all this on top of high-quality fights from the start of the card right until the end, and you have an unforgettable night. We treat each event like it is a night at the theatre or the movies for fans. People attend these from start to finish and they are entertained throughout.

martin lewandowski milan.jpg

Lewandowski with Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic

What was it about Zagreb that enticed you to host the KSW MMA event there in November?

Everything just fell into place perfectly for this event. We have great support already in Zagreb and the Mayor of the City Milan Bandic has been very welcoming to KSW.
There is a huge gap in the market here in Croatia as there is no promotion regularly staging large scale events here. It is a nation with a rich & impressive history in martial arts & combat sports and, much like Poland, this region has been forged through hard times in the past. It reminds me so much of Poland. MMA is already an accepted and much-loved sport here.

In regards to putting an event on in November, it just seemed right for us. It was one of the months which was open for us and we were actively seeking to stage an event then. I had been looking at the Balkan market closely for a while already – looking at other cities, investing in Balkan fighters – and after speaking with Croatian manager Ivan Dijakovic for hours about doing a KSW in Zagreb, we saw an opportunity to come in and take over the city for one night.

Roberto Soldic Entrance.JPG

Roberto Soldic

What can you tell us about the MMA fighters on the card for Zagreb?

Well, the main event is a huge heavyweight clash between five-time world’s strongest man Mariusz Pudzianowski and social media star & bodybuilder Erko Jun of Bosnia. Both men are big stars worldwide. The co-main event is former KSW champ Borys Mankowski, who is one of our most popular fighters in Poland, versus Vaso ‘The Psychopath’ Bakocevic, one of the Balkans’ most entertaining and popular fighters & personalities.

Croatia is well represented on the card. Dubrovnik’s Antun Racic has a chance to make history and become the first-ever KSW bantamweight champion when he faces Poland’s Damian Stasiak. Undefeated light heavyweight Ivan Erslan will make his KSW debut, the exciting Filip Pejic and Aleksandar Rakas are also on the card. On Wednesday, we just announced that Croatia’s top heavyweight Ante Delija will face Bosnia’s Denis Stojnic in what is arguably the biggest ever heavyweight fight between two fighters from the Balkans.

Where do you see MMA in the Croatian sporting landscape?

In the overall landscape, I think it has fallen back a bit. It is obviously a very popular sport in Croatia, KSW has a great fanbase here. However, when you haven’t got a regular promotion to follow locally, which constantly uses local fighters and stages major events, then the sport will take a back seat to all the other major sports.

One of the biggest Croatian stars is Mirko Cro Cop. He still ranks very highly amongst stars from all sports not just kickboxing or MMA. The majority of other countries don’t have this, they have icons from other sports like soccer, tennis, golf etc., so when you have a hero from a particular sport who is so universally known, then this gives you an indication of the popularity or potential popularity of MMA.

Where does Croatia currently rank in the MMA world? What Croatian fighters should we be keeping an eye on for the future?

I think Croatia is an emerging nation once again for MMA. In the past, we’ve had Croatian fighters like Goran Reljic, who was KSW light heavyweight champion, and Igor Pokrajac compete for us. Obviously, Mirko Cro Cop has arguably been the best fighter this country has produced and there hasn’t been anyone who has recreated his success since, but looking at the current crop of fighters coming through, I think the future is bright.

Antun Racic2.JPG

Antun Racic

KSW welterweight champion Roberto Soldic is easily one of the top prospects in the whole sport. It is worth keeping an eye on Ivan Erslan and Filip Pejic; both will be competing at KSW 51, they are so exciting and have all the potential in the world. Then you also have experienced pros Antun Racic and Ante Delija, who are currently among the best in the world in their respective divisions.

And I also believe Croatia can half-claim Stipe Miocic as their own, haha. He is a phenomenal fighter and a great champion in the UFC.

What potential is there to grow the sport in Croatia? What advice would you have on how to accomplish this?

There is a lot of potential here to grow the sport more in Croatia and throughout the Balkans. As I said before, there is a rich history for the sport in this region and already there is widespread acceptance. It is actually one of my personal goals to help the sport grow by staging a yearly marquee KSW event here and to continue to provide a platform for Croatian fighters to compete on.

On the regional level, the only advice I can give is to urge people to support local fighter and local events. There is huge emerging pool of fighters from all over the country and they need support to grow.


Filip Pejic

Any closing words?

I look forward to bringing KSW to the beautiful country of Croatia for the very first time, and I hope to see you all these on November 9. Let’s make the first KSW event a historical event that makes the whole Balkans talk about KSW!


More information on KSW 51 can be found here

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment