When Rico Verhoeven was in negotiations with GLORY for his current multi-fight contract, the heavyweight champion pushed hard to headline the promotion’s debut fight card in China.
And on October 14, he will do just that.
GLORY held a press conference in Guangzhou, China on Friday, to announce Verhoeven (51-10-1) will face former UFC heavyweight Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in a three-round non-title bout at GLORY 46.
“I said that China was one of the new markets I wanted to open up,” Verhoeven told MMA Plus on Friday via phone call from Guangzhou. “It’s a new territory and we want to conquer that as well. There is a big kickboxing fan base over there and I believe GLORY has a good shot. I was excited when they announced the China event. I said, ‘I want to be on it. I want to be on that one.’ So, they discussed it with the Chinese partner and they were excited as well. So we made it happen and with it a very special opponent as well.
“It’s going to be big. It’s new. GLORY approached ‘Bigfoot’ for a kickboxing match and he was excited. They reached out to me. I said, ‘Yeah, why not. He’s a good athlete. I have a lot of respect for him. He beat some good guys, so why not? Let’s make it happen.'”
On paper, this fight looks like a landslide victory for Verhoeven. A 28-year-old champion, considered the best heavyweight in the sport, taking on Silva, a 37-year-old shopworn MMA fighter, who has lost five straight fights; However, there is some risk involved with this matchup too. Silva still has power and if he were able to catch Verhoeven and score the upset, it would be a huge setback for the champion.
“Yeah, definitely, of course,” said Verhoeven in agreement. “We are not thinking about that. We are just thinking about winning and how we are going to perform as well as possible. Like I always say, I never get comfortable. I always stay focused and It doesn’t matter who it is. if it’s ‘Bigfoot’ or whoever. Every heavyweight has power, has strength. You have to stay focused and watch out for everybody. That’s what I am and that’s why I’m still the champ.”
On Silva’s power, Verhoeven added: “He fought a lot of good standup fighters. He fought Alistair [Overeem]. He fought Fedor [Emelianenko]. He definitely has a good KO ratio in MMA. It shows that he has that dynamite in his hands. So, we have to watch out for that.”
It’s worth noting that China has not been kind to Verhoeven. The only time he fought there, he lost a unanimous decision to Andrey Gerasimchuk at Kunlun Fight 15 in January 2015.
Verhoeven was asked if that loss still weighs on his mind.
“No, not really,” he said. “Last time I was here it wasn’t the right moment for me to fight. So much things going on. Wife being pregnant and going to the hospital. In the end, if you lose, you lose, there’s no excuse. For me, that wasn’t the right moment to fight. But, I did it and it happened. We are over it and on to the next one.”
Coincidentally, his wife Jacky is pregnant once again, but she is due in September, so Verhoeven won’t have to worry like he did before his last fight in China.
Since that defeat, Verhoeven has won seven straight fights to improve his GLORY record to 14-1, including five straight title defenses. In addition to the fight with Silva at GLORY 46, Verhoeven will fight Jamal Ben Saddik in GLORY’s last card of 2017, which will take place in Amsterdam.
Suffice to say, he’s keeping busy.
“Yes sir. And a lot more big things coming,” Verhoeven said. “That’s how we do it. We keep working. Going to the next level. It’s working and I’m enjoying it.”
The “big things” Verhoeven mentioned have to do with his budding acting career. The Dutch fighting icon is represented by Paradigm Sports Management and has been auditioning for different roles for a while now. But he wouldn’t divulge any details.
“Stop fishing, man,” he joked. “When I got some news you will hear from me.”
Verhoeven has already been preparing for the bout with Silva, but broke camp briefly to fly in for Friday’s press conference. He will return to training and then head to the U.S. next week for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight on August 26. McGregor is also represented by Paradigm, so Verhoeven will be there in support of the UFC lightweight champion.
I’m part of the Paradigm family, so I gotta be there,” he said. “It will be fun. People say, ‘Oh, McGregor, he’s going to have no chance.’ It’s a fight. Every fighter has a fighter’s chance. If Mayweather is just a little rusty or his reflexes are just a little bit sloppier than they used to be, it could be over.”
After the big fight in Vegas, it’s back to training camp in the Netherlands until the October showdown with Silva. Verhoeven said he plans on arriving in Guangzhou, or somewhere very close to it about 10 days out from the fight.
And when the fight finally arrives, the GLORY heavyweight champion is looking to gain a new fan base in China, and to shine the light on lesser known Chinese talent, who will be fighting on GLORY 46.
“I love to give fans good fights and to show that you can follow that dream. And what you want to accomplish in life, you work hard and in the end it will happen. Especially here in China, there is so much talent that hasn’t been discovered yet or haven’t got the big platform that GLORY can give them. So they will also be famous.”