Photo: James Law/GLORY Sports International

Badr Hari will be fighting at a much lighter weight when he faces Hesdy Gerges later today at GLORY 51.

Hari, 33, weighed in at 224.4 pounds on Friday, which is 28 pounds lighter than when he fought Rico Verhoeven at GLORY: COLLISION in December of 2016. The Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer hasn’t fought at a weight this light for many years now, and it came as a big surprise at yesterday’s weigh in.

“Big Mike” Passenier, Hari’s long-time coach, said to prepare for the matchup vs. Gerges, they “went back to the way things were when they started” working together well over a decade ago. Passenier, who once told Hari, “You are too small to fight the big guys,” explained why he wanted him to start fighting at a lighter weight than his last couple of fights.

“I told him, ‘Listen, you don’t need to be big anymore.’ Because the way we were when he was still like 105 kilos (231 lbs), he was knocking people out as well,” Passenier told MMA Plus. “So, we better go back to this and do our normal routine, and instead of eating and pumping iron, he became more of a kickboxer. You will see tomorrow.”

Passenier fully believes Hari will regain some of his explosiveness and quickness now that he is fighting at a much lighter weight this time around.

“You see with most heavyweight boxers when they get over 108 kilos, 109 kilos (240 lbs), they become slow and they start to move differently, they start to breathe differently,” said Passenier. “Even with Muhammad Ali or with Mike Tyson. They were great when they were like 99 kilos (218 lbs). They were at their best. Then once you become 100, 112, 114, it’s simply isn’t there anymore and it looks differently. It doesn’t look good anymore in my opinion.”

Hari is now into his 30s, and Passenier is of the mind that the weight cut will help elongate his career since he’s getting older.

“I told him, ‘Listen, you are past 30 now and if you stay this way your career will end shortly because you cannot move this body weight for long because that’s not the way you were built naturally,'” he said. “And now we go to a more natural body weight so he can last longer.”

When Hari faced Rico he weighed 252 pounds and won the first round 10-9 on all three score cards, before losing in round two due to an arm injury. Passenier said the current version of Hari would fare much better than the last one.

“When we were fighting Rico, we were dictating and it was good,” he said. “But if he had the speed and the movement that he has now then it would be different.”

The crowd in Ahoy Rotterdam will undoubtedly be a raucous one for GLORY 51, and while Passenier is expecting a great showing from a now lighter and faster Hari, he’s also expecting a good battle with Gerges in their highly-anticipated rematch.

“I think it’s going to be some kind of exhibition,” he said. “The way kickboxing should be. And hopefully Badr gets the KO. We know Hesdy can take a lot. He’s a very proud man. So, he doesn’t give in that easily. So, we will just have to make it happen.”

And despite the fact that Gerges has dropped four of his last six fights, Passenier said everyone brings their “A” game when they fight Hari.

“Every fighter who steps in the ring against Badr is going to be in good shape and he is going to be very motivated. He has to be because otherwise he’s going to take your head off. So it brings them an extra sharpness. That’s been with us for over a decade now. Nobody steps in the ring and says, ‘Oh, this fight against Badr I don’t care. I’ll just take it the way it is.’ No, it’s not. They come in and they make sure they are prepared very well. That’s the way it is.