It’s an interesting time to be Robin van Roosmalen. With a full-time leap to MMA lingering, the GLORY featherweight champion enters GLORY 45 on Saturday on the last bout of his contract against title challenger Serhiy Adamchuk.
It’s crowded in The Colosseum. Undeniable sweat aromas pierce your nostrils upon entering and there’s not much smiling going on this Tuesday afternoon.
It’s sparring day and some of the country’s top kickboxers have gathered in north of the Utrecht to sharpen their tools and prepare themselves for battle, or as the gym lovingly likes to call it: ‘Happy Hour’.
On one end you’ll see GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven trading shots with Enfusion Live heavyweight champion Jahfarr Wilnis and Tomas Hron, under the watchful eye of longtime trainer Dennis Krauweel, while former world champions Albert Kraus and Jason Wilnis mix it up with prospects like Mohammed Jaraya, Kevin van Heeckeren and Tyjani Beztati on the other.
It’s one of the few days without cameras to capture the action of some of the current top kickboxers, not even to see how famous Dutch comedian Jandino Asporaat keeps up with pros.
The only image that’s captured today, is made after the twelve rounds when head coach Danny de Vries orders the sweaty bunch to come into the ring and smile for the gym’s social media pages.
After everyone is immortalized on the world wide web, MMA Plus caught up with one of the veterans and gym leaders, who drives 60 kilometres up and down three times a week from his hometown Den Bosch to train at the gym where he feels he has all the tools to stay on top.
“There a big diversity in size and styles here, which is ideal for sparring,” a drenched Van Roosmalen says right after kicking and punching for an hour. “You constantly need to adjust with guys like Tyjani and Muhammed. Young guys who really want to prove themselves, because I’m one generation ahead of them. But it all goes in a sportive way, so it’s fun.
“Outside of the gym I’m very close with everybody. Jason and I are two peas in a pod, with the same character and humour. That makes sparring fun and hard work at the same time. There’s no hatred and envy, so I’m looking forward to this day every week. I’ve been at The Colosseum for three years now and I’ll never leave this place.”
“Pokerface” had to miss these days for over two months while staying in Florida. There he improved on other skills at the Combat Club under head coach Henry Hooft. Skills he primarily won’t need on September 30 in Amsterdam, but three weeks later on FFC 30 in Linz, Austria, where he’ll hope to improve his unbeaten MMA record to 3-0.
“Kickboxing is my first love, it’s the one you’ll never forget. So, at this moment I still wanna combine the two sports to build up my MMA record,” Van Roosmalen says. “I started at the bottom and I’m 2-0 now, but I still have a lot to improve on.
“I know nobody beats me in the striking department, but I’m simply not a wrestler. I still have catching up to do to compete with the best. It’s getting up there, and when I don’t have a bout scheduled I always go back [to Florida] to train.
“And when I can keep up with the rest of the guys there, it’s time for me to win things. That’s why it’s not a matter of if, but when I cross over into MMA.”
And just like he did in kickboxing, Van Roosmalen wants to reach the top in MMA: “My goal is to become world champion in Bellator or the UFC, simple. It’s good to set goals and I guarantee you that I’ll be the champion in two years after my debut fight in either organisation.
“I’m still young, one day after my upcoming fight I’ll turn 28. But I wanna reach a certain level as quick as possible. Only the best is good enough for me, so I know that if I put my mind to it, I will get that world title.”
But there’s a reason the judo black belt returned home from the United States. One that involves a 27-year-old Ukrainian training 50 kilometres north of Utrecht at Mike’s Gym, in hope of taking back the title he once had. It’s a challenge that “Pokerface” welcomes with open arms.
“If Serhiy fights like his last bout, it’s gonna be a spectacular fight that will not go five rounds,” Van Roosmalen says. “He’s a very good fighter. He’s clever, can fight in multiple ways and is a nice puzzle for me to solve. But of course he has his weaknesses that I wanna exploit.”
It will also be the second time in a row that the Dutchman fights in front of his own. Last May, he beat Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao by split-decision in Den Bosch to regain the GLORY featherweight title, and on Saturday he returns to the city where he lost the GLORY lightweight title to Sittichai Sitsongpeenong in June 2016.
“Fighting in the Netherlands has his ups and downs. I like to travel and see other places to give me a feeling that I really have to focus on the job at hand,” Van Roosmalen says. “But in the Netherlands, I can sleep in my own bed and my friends and family can see me live.
“That lights a fire under my ass. My grandma and grandpa are coming and I don’t wanna lose in front of them. They are diehard fans that get up deep in the night to watch fights. They probably see more kickboxing matches than I do!”
Should Van Roosmalen win and extend his stay with GLORY, then the stage will be set for a showdown with Kevin VanNostrand on December 1 in The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
A new challenge, but not one that Van Roosmalen thinks very highly off: “Kevin VanNostrand is a fun fighter, he really tries his best with heart and determination. He’s an awkward fighter, so you have to be careful when you fight him.
“But other than that, I think he has half of the qualities of previous opponents I’ve fought. I don’t really see him as a challenge. But if I have to (fight him), fine, that’s an easy payday and easy title defence for me. At the end of the day, business is business.
“It may sound a bit arrogant, but after Serhiy, I don’t see real challenges anymore. I’m the only kickboxer that won GLORY belts at two different weight classes and I’ve only fought against the numbers 1,2 and 3 in my divisions and beat them all.
“Of course, one punch can change everything, but at this level, I think there’s nobody that can beat me and do what I do. The others may be good, but I’m simply better.”