Filip Verlinden will return to the Glory cage for the first time in nearly a year. | Photo Courtesy: James Law/Glory
Filip Verlinden returns to the ring at Glory 22 for a Superfight Series clash with Mourad Bouzidi on June 5 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France. Their bout will take place at light heavyweight and represents Verlinden’s first outing under the Glory banner since the eight-man “Last Man Standing” middleweight tournament a year ago. That gap between appearances explains why Verlinden (43-12-1, 16 KOs) has returned to light heavyweight.
“I just took the fight because it was available,” he told Sherdog.com. “It’s not that I have left middleweight behind; that is still my main goal. I want that title in the middleweight division and I want to fight there, but when there is a good fight available at light heavyweight, then I will take it.”
“Bouzidi is a nice opportunity,” Verlinden added. “He has more [of an] advantage because he is heavier than me, but I have previously fought in this division, so it’s no issue for me. I have fought at heavyweight and light heavyweight, so I am used to fighting bigger guys.”
Verlinden’s training camp for the fight with Bouzidi (77-22-2, 34 KOs) has been split between Florida and the Netherlands. He is among the Dutch and Belgian kickboxers who have forged ties with the Blackzilians camp since Henri Hooft and Tyrone Spong arrived there to spearhead the team’s striking revolution.
“Yeah, I was in Florida for a month training with the Blackzilians; that was fun,” Verlinden said. “I was helping Anthony Johnson and Vitor Belfort prepare for their UFC fights. If you look at their fights, you can see they were doing good work in the standup, so as far as I am concerned, I did my job -- ha.”
When video of Verlinden sparring with Belfort recently emerged, some fans were quick to comment on how much “The Phenom” seemed to be getting tagged. Verlinden cautions against reading into it too much.
“Yeah, my level in the standup is higher, but, obviously, I only do standup,” he said. “These guys have to do wrestling and jiu-jitsu training, as well as their standup. It’s like if I go and train with a boxer and we just box, he is going to be on a higher level than me. One thing with MMA fighters is they don’t throw long combinations like kickboxers do, because they have to be careful of being taken down if they are in one place too long. Also, they fight from a further range, and the cage is just so big in the UFC. There is a lot of space to move around.
“The training was good for me, though,” Verlinden said. “There were small things which I was able to learn and take from him, stuff about movement. The strength and conditioning part of the Blackzilians is really interesting to see, as well. I think in the U.S., all the teams are further ahead than us in Europe when it comes to things like that.”
With a good training camp behind him and a competitive fire burning inside, Verlinden sounds ready to get back in the ring and show fight fans what he is all about.
“[Bouzidi] is a good fighter with a lot of experience and he fought all the best guys in the world, just like me,” he said. “He fought Errol Zimmerman, Gokhan Saki [and] Badr Hari. We are two experienced guys, and I think our styles match well to make a nice fight for the audience. I am going to try and be faster than him ... I would never be so arrogant as to say that any fight was in my favor. In any fight, one punch can change it, but I see us having a very exciting fight.”
Verlinden repeatedly stresses that his latest fight does not represent a desire to return to light heavyweight on a permanent basis. Having boiled down to middleweight after starting with Glory as a heavyweight, his heart remains set on campaigning in that weight class.
“I still don’t know why Glory didn’t give me a fight since the ‘Last Man Standing’ tournament. I never got an explanation,” Verlinden said. “I need a fight, so I am taking this one at light heavyweight, but I want to fight at middleweight. I still want to prove myself in that division and in this sport. I want to be the middleweight champion.”
Verlinden’s resolve to achieve his goal was only strengthened by the middleweight title fight between champion Artem Levin and challenger Simon Marcus at Glory 21 on May 8.
“That was a really s---ty fight,” he said. “I think Marcus should have gotten the decision because he was trying to make the fight happen. Levin was anti-fighting, in my opinion.”
Glory 22 will air live on Spike TV at 4 p.m. ET. Rico Verhoeven will defend his heavyweight championship against Benjamin Adegbuyi in the main event.
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