Raymond Daniels’ knockout of Francois Ambang was breathtaking. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Raymond "The Real Deal" Daniels’ two-touch flying spin-kick finish of Francois Ambang at Glory 16 “Denver” in May last year left witnesses speechless and had fans and kickboxing pundits alike declaring it kickboxing’s “Knockout of the Year” for 2014.
The only person who wasn’t amazed by the kick was Daniels (25-1, 15 KO’s) himself. For the Los Angeles-based karate master -- a sixth-degree Shotokan black belt who also holds black belts in taekwondo and Kempo karate - it was merely one more clip to add to his highlight reel.
“For me it was kind of another day in the office. It’s not something I haven’t knocked someone out with before. I have done these kind of techniques before at martial arts tournaments; they just didn’t happen to be on national and international television,” he told Sherdog.com.
“I think the first time I knocked someone out with that technique was one of my first full-contact fights. So it’s kind of the standard I set myself and what I expect of myself. That keeps me energized and focused and keeps people entertained. People want to keep watching me either to see me do it again or to see me get beaten. Either way works for me.”
Mixed in with the deluge of praise following Daniels’ win was cold water from detractors.
“They said that the opponent wasn’t high-level enough or that I can only beat B-level guys or whatever. Things of that nature,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t let any of that affect me though. You get that any time you do something that is not of the norm, that people don’t see all the time.
“All I will say is this: My goal is to fight the best. I have never ducked anybody and never will duck anybody. Whoever is considered the best or fighting at the highest level, I will step in front of them. I have no problem in doing that. There is no hesitation at all. I feel that I am stronger, I am very competitive, I am hungry and I am going to be the champion. It’s just a matter of time.”
On Feb. 6, Daniels will be one of four fighters taking part in the welterweight contender tournament at Glory 19. Whoever wins the one-night single-elimination contest will go forward to a title shot against Canada’s “Bazooka” Joe Valtellini, the current Glory welterweight champion.
The tournament also includes top-ranked contender Nieky “The Natural” Holzken (85-11, 45 KO’s), Russia’s Alexander “The Great” Stecurenko (51-10, 24 KO’s) and Jonatan “Maloquiero” Oliveira (20-3,11 KO’s), who Daniels faces in the semi-finals. Ironically, Oliveira’s nickname translates roughly as “Street Villain,” and Daniels is a former police officer.
Daniels and Valtellini have history. They met in the semi-finals of the Glory 13 “Tokyo” welterweight tournament and went three rounds before Valtellini found a fight-finishing head kick. The Canadian also made a lasting impression on Daniels with his brutal leg kicks, which aren’t a feature of karate competition.
“The one person who has got by me now holds the title. I want the title and so I get to kill two birds with one stone: beat the person who beat me and get the title, all in one night. But first things first -- I have to beat Oliveira and then beat either Nieky Holzken or Alexander Stecurenko in the tournament next Friday,” he said.
“I think it would be a fairytale,” Daniels said. “Somebody loses to somebody who is now the champ, comes back to win by way of an awesome knockout to get a spot in a tournament -- which he wins to get a shot at the title and the only guy who has ever beaten him like that.”
Daniels, undefeated in kickboxing before he met Valtellini, says the loss lit a fire under him and has benefited him more than a win would have done.
“My mindset is completely different after that fight. When you have never been beaten before in a certain format, your confidence and your thought process has you thinking that you know everything,” he said. “But you don’t know what you don’t know. So Joe opened my eyes to a lot of things. It made me humble myself and open myself up to a whole new style of fighting.
“I was kind of playing around in the beginning, but now my mood is different. That’s why I came out how I did against Ambang, to let everyone know that I am serious. I am looking forward to competing in this tournament and letting everyone know that I am here for the title.”
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