GLORY Kickboxing embark on a bold conquest to deliver their grandest spectacle, ultimately defining two decades of Kickboxing and as their recent presser proved, despite differences, Badr Hari and Rico Verhoeven are equally essential to Collision’s success.
With substantial intentions; and now the backing of sporting powerhouses UFC.tv and Ziggo Sport, GLORY Collision has all the makings to be one of the greatest marquee events in kickboxing history.
Earlier this week, GLORY took to the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands for their inaugural Collision press event, which saw Hari and Verhoeven meet publicly for the first time since the fight’s announcement.
The €30 million building which played host to the presser was erected in 2001, at this time in history Hari was merely one year into his Kickboxing career and had lost his only bout to Rocky Grandjean.
Interestingly, around that time Hari actually flirted with the idea of competing in mixed martial arts, but a less than impressive showing in 2002; a 22-second loss by submission, halted any aspirations.
Fast forward 14 years and not only is Hari one of the most successful Heavyweights in kickboxing ever, but he’s also one of the sport’s very few mainstream draws.
Upon first viewing it was hard to truly appreciate any discourse from Hari or Verheoven at the presser, with the GLORY Dutch-English translator proving to be woefully bad at his job.
Aside to that, the line of questioning from the Dutch media was equally as troublesome. One journalist; having somehow sneaked in two canvas prints of Badr, found an absurdly abstract way of questioning Hari’s physique.
I’ve been to both of GLORY’s Amsterdam events at the Rai and it was impossible to sneak in a bottle of water, let alone two 18″ by 24″ glossy canvases of a half naked Moroccan behemoth.
Regardless to say, Hari still mustered some humour in his response, joking: “First I’m going to start with a question, is this picture hanging above your bed?” A golden response, in spite of the abundantly facetious question.
The inadequacy of the translator meant that only be upon re-watching; this time with the added benefit of subtitles, could the Moroccan’s prose truly be appreciated.
His first open public appearance in over a year, the eyes were firmly on Hari to deliver something special and that’s exactly what he did. A lot of what Badr had to say lacked true substance, it was opinionated jokes for the most part, yet he had the entire audience lingering on his every word.
He laughed: “I see Rico as a grand finale fight. I know he will cry after this fight for a rematch and maybe I will give it to him.” And that quote is definitive of Hari’s entire approach throughout the event. He seemingly wanted to torment the champion, get under his skin and I think he did that; especially with the face-off debacle at the end which saw Hari rush from the stage, leaving a confused Verhoeven to pick up the pieces.
It must be noted, Verhoeven continues to be a great ambassador for GLORY Kickboxing. Everything about him at the presser was befitting of a champion. His manner, his responses, the Dutchman proved once again he is the ultimate professional, but is this enough to build a fight of this enormity?
Similarly, Badr as an entity isn’t necessarily an instant box office star, he has always needed an intense rivalry to ignite public fascination. Feuds with Peter Graham, Semmy Schilt and Alistair Overeem were his highest grossing because he had a tremendous counterpart to play off. But with Verhoeven, he may have found his best partner yet.
The entire presser, it was apparent how both men played off each other, each jibing and rebutting at constant will. However one of the most malicious sequences of the night, Rico tried to question his opponent’s fortitude, claiming that Hari had turned down a five round fight. But it was the Dutch-Moroccan’s response and his earnest delivery which showcased exactly why he is such a once in a lifetime character.
“It’s not that I don’t want to fight five rounds, I think in terms of other opportunities, he thinks this is a fun fight for honor and thinks it’s a joke,” said an intense Hari. “I’m a street fighter and money is what motivates me into the ring. Cor Hemmers, get ready for Rico to lose this fight, because the value of the belt will be zero when he loses.
“If I knock down Rico in the first round, the belt is worthless. So what’s the next fight? If he loses the fight, we have to do a title fight, for the real deal. So it’s a two time payout for me. This one is a warm up, the next will be for the title. That’s the whole idea behind the belt. Rico thinks of five rounds, I think of two payment rounds.”
The way Badr belittled and mocked the champion, it’s an approach very few men have ever taken with Verhoeven. It was fresh ground, it was direct, but most of all it was real. Hari has never shied away from the term prize fighter, he champions that term, whereas Verhoeven is much the opposite. A modern day fighter who puts his legacy and the fans first, Hari’s speech showed the alarming difference in dichotomy between the K-1 era and modern kickboxing.
Alas, GLORY are taking a risk putting their event on pay-per-view, with their last outing being deemed less than a success. In 2014, a much greener Verhoeven battled Daniel Ghita in the main event and despite a star studded Middleweight tournament, the Last Man Standing PPV reportedly peaked at around 6,000 buys.
To re-write history and make up for their troubled first PPV outing, GLORY have magic in a bottle with Badr and Rico. Both men are modest draws in their own right, but together their dynamic. volatile relationship is what makes Collision such a must see moment in time.
Rico and Badr embody the philosophy of Yin and Yang and if we learnt anything from the GLORY Collision press conference, it is their fundamental differences which will be key in making this fight a commercial success.
Excited for GLORY Collision? Watch Anoop Hothi and Andreas Georgiou in a very special Rico-Badr podcast discussion.