GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven (52-10) sat in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. as a spectator for Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor this past summer. As he watched the mega fight in support of McGregor (the two are both represented by Paradigm Sports Management) his mind wandered off a bit to imagining himself in the ring for a huge event like that instead of just watching it.
“Yeah, of course, you know?” Verhoeven told MMA Plus recently. “Just thinking about fights that could be interesting for me personally, and for the fight fans to watch.
He added: “We are always working to the next level and always looking for new fights and fun fights that people want to see. First, 2017 is full. We are totally full. Let’s see what 2018 is holding for me.”
Verhoeven, 28, has certainly had a full 2017. He just laid waste to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in September at GLORY 46, knocking the former UFC fighter out in the second round of the main event, which took place in Guangzhou, China. And Next up for the champion is a long-awaited rematch against Jamal Ben Saddik (32-5) at GLORY: Redemption, the kickboxing promotion’s third foray into pay-per-view, taking place this Saturday in Ahoy, Netherlands.
Verhoeven was in the headlining bout vs. Badr Hari in the promotion’s PPV card in December of 2016. But that card, GLORY: Collision, had a much bigger buzz than this time around. The champion, who defeated Daniel Ghita to win the inaugural heavyweight title on the promotion’s first ever PPV event back in June of 2014, is cautiously optimistic for Saturday’s card.
“Let’s just see what it does,” he said. “GLORY has their view and their strategy to build up the pay-per-view so let’s just see what it does. For me, I just hope it works and we can also bring GLORY to the next level in the U.S. Let’s see. We are still a growing brand. We are not so big yet. But still, we are an exclusive fighting brand.
“We entertain people. That’s what we do. I think we are on the next level of entertainment. And I think we are more exciting than the MMA fights, but we are not on that level yet, on that level of publicity and that level of audience that we reach. But we will get there. We will get there, but it will take some time.”
Should he defeat Saddik, Verhoeven will have cleared out most of the GLORY heavyweight division. Right now he’s 13-1 in GLORY, with his last professional loss coming in January of 2015 to Andrey Gerasimchuk, a unanimous decision loss on the Kunlun Fight 15 card. It’s safe to say he’s running out of contenders and interesting matchups. There is still the possibility of a rematch with Hari, but with the controversial kickboxer just being released from prison, it will be a while before that fight can actually take place.
The size and scope of a big UFC or boxing event is highly alluring to “The King of Kickboxing,” because he’s always thinking of the bigger picture. Verhoeven wishes to test his skills against the best of the best, and mentioned the desire for a super fight against a heavyweight boxing or MMA champion.
“I’m interested to do double fights against anybody that wants it in kickboxing or in MMA,” he said. “For example, if a crossover deal ever comes my way, who knows? Why not? So for example, fight Stipe Miocic or an Alistair Overeem, or the UFC champion in MMA and in kickboxing, or in boxing. Fight Anthony Joshua in boxing and in kickboxing. I’m interested in that. I’m open for everything. I just love the fighting game and I think I can be on the top level in more than just kickboxing.
“But the thing with UFC, there is tight contracts where they can’t fight outside of the organization of the UFC. So, but let’s see. Maybe in a cross-fight deal we can do something. And the same thing in boxing. In an interview (with Sky Sports) Joshua said, ‘well, I’m open for an MMA fight, just not on the ground.’ So, he’s talking about a kickboxing fight. So, why not fight the best standup fighter there is?”
Verhoeven vs. Overeem?
The one opponent that seems the most logical and seemingly has the best chance of happening is Overeem, who won the 2010 K-1 Heavyweight World Grand Prix championship before leaving kickboxing to fight in MMA full time. A fight between Verhoeven and Overeem would undoubtedly draw huge attention should it ever be put together. The two have spoken about one another in recent interviews and in the media as far back as 2015.
In a video interview with Dutch Fight Network at GLORY 45, Verhoeven said “Who is Alistair?” before saying he’d show him “every corner of the ring” should he come to GLORY. Overeem responded by posting a clip of the video on his Instagram page and wrote the following: “We both know that I fight in the ‘King-Tiger league of real combat sports’ so anybody wanting that fame, money – and real GLORY – come to the UFC. I’ll be happy to welcome anybody to the big boy league. If not stay at (little) Glory and keep on fighting in empty venues until Badr Hari is back.”
“I said, ‘hey, I’ll fight you in MMA and in kickboxing and I’ll beat you in both you big bum,” Verhoeven said, describing his response to Overeem’s Instagram post. “So, Let’s go. I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready for anybody, especially for this big guy. I’m younger. I’m fitter. I’m better. I’m smarter. I’m better looking. He’s behind me on every level.”
Overeem, who has done some guest commentary work with GLORY, re-signed with the UFC in February of 2016 and has fought five fights since then. He was the No.1-ranked UFC heavyweight heading into UFC 218 before losing via vicious KO to Francis Ngannou. In an interview with SiriusXM RUSH leading up to UFC 218, Overeem said “absolutely not” when asked about fighting Verhoeven in GLORY. However, if the fight took place in the Octagon, the former K-1, Strikeforce and Dream champion said he’d be down for it.
“If he would come to the UFC that would be definitely something that would interest me,” said Overeem. “But I can guarantee you this, he will never come to the UFC because he’s a very clever man. I know him personally. He’s very clever. Very strategic. He will never come to the UFC. Never, never, ever, ever.”
We will have to wait and see what the future brings.
But first up, Verhoeven has to take care of business against Saddik, who defeated him back in 2011 by TKO in the “It’s Showtime” promotion. A loss the champion recently called “a learning and growing experience.” Should he prove victorious on Saturday, it likely won’t be long before the talk of super fights for 2018 resumes.