Aundre Groce achieved one of his career ambitions in kickboxing by competing in the -95kg K-1 World Grand Prix on October 27 in Serbia. However, his dream of being crowned the K-1 World GP champion would be short-lived as he exited the 8-man tournament at the quarter finals stage against, Atha Kasapis.
Reflecting on the most prestigious moment of his kickboxing career to-date, Groce admitted that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind leading up-to the K-1 World GP and couldn’t quite “switch on” come fight night.
“I was in good health during the fight, I just wasn’t focused. Even when I got dropped, I was thinking to myself, ‘get up, just get up’. I didn’t feel focused, I didn’t feel like I was on it. Like I’m about to go to battle, I just felt too comfortable like it was a sparring session kind of thing. This is the wrong mentality to go into a K-1 fight week and I knew it myself.”
The British light-heavyweight who trains out of Firewalker gym in Wolverhampton, was unfortunately stopped in the third round by Kasapis after the momentum of the fight quickly turned against him in the second round.
“It started off alright. I think I got dropped in the second and then for the last round it was more desperation which, messed me up. I lost focus on the game plan: just to keep it long, straight shots and roundhouses. Even the guy, Atha, said at the end, ‘your roundhouses are so hard’. I should have flipping used them more.”
Kasapis progressed to the semi-finals but was on the receiving end of a third round KO from the eventual tournament winner, Roman Kryklia who, would win all three of his Grand Prix fights by knockout.
“To be honest, I thought a lot more of him [Kryklia] in his previous fights than the K-1. Even with the fight with Atha, Atha had him on the blackfoot for the whole of that fight and he was gassed. Even in the second round I thought, ‘oh, Atha’s got him’ and then the last round if he didn’t pull something out of the bag, Roman’s going to lose; and luckily enough, he summed up energy enough to give him those knees and it worked for him on all the other fights.”
“There’s probably a lot of things I was thinking of like personal things back home and stuff that shouldn’t be thinking about at that time cause obviously you get that one opportunity in the K-1 to demonstrate your talents, or, what you’ve been working so hard for.”
The construction management graduate now an official K-1 fighter, has since taken time out to consider if he had fallen out of love with the sport and whether or not personal issues had distracted him from achieving his life-long goal that night in Serbia. However, drawing inspiration from his kickboxing hero, Hesdy Gerges, the Wolves kickboxer was sounding more optimistic.
“I watched him [Gerges] back in the It’s Showtime and in the old K-1. I think I saw him fight in 2010, that was like one of the first shows I’d ever watched, the first K-1 Grand Prix, one of the old K-1 Grand Prixs and it really drawed me into it. And seeing him go from all his achievements so far and even when he loses he’s still positive – it doesn’t matter, its the fight game – and that’s the mentality that I appreciate.”
In recent years, Groce has been able to train and spar with Gerges who, later tonight, competes in the 4-man heavyweight tournament at GLORY 35 in France; with the other three competitors being Benjamin Adegbuyi, Jahfarr Wilnis and Mladen Brestovac.
“He drops horrible low kicks, horrible. I’ve been on the receiving end of those low kicks and they’re absolutely horrible. I love them [jokingly]. I cry deep inside but I respect him for it.”