Overeem Says Stamina Not an Issue, Wants ‘Cro Cop’

By Tim Leidecker Jun 12, 2008
Talent alone isn't enough to be successful in mixed martial arts.

While the pioneers of the sport were often able to get by on one outstanding quality, MMA, especially in the last five years, has been merciless on those fighters who have ignored the other aspects of the game.

One fighter who has had to learn the hard way is "Demolition Man" Alistair Overeem (Pictures).

The kickboxer from Amsterdam is a gifted athlete. At 6-foot-5, he has a frame that allows him to compete in various weight classes. He has incredibly long legs and a huge reach. And last but not least, he has an older brother in Valentijn Overeem (Pictures) who introduced him to Golden Glory, the premier fight team in Holland, when he was a teenager.

Overeem gained priceless experience early in his career by fighting in Japan for the Rings organization while also storming through domestic competition and amassing a perfect record of 9-0 in bouts at home in the Netherlands. That was when Pride came ringing and invited him to be a part of the 205-pound grand prix in 2003.

In the opening round he fought Chuck Liddell (Pictures), who had just come off a surprise defeat at the hands of Randy Couture (Pictures) in a bout for the UFC interim light heavyweight title. Overeem held his own against a motivated "Iceman" for a couple of minutes before eventually succumbing to a series of punches and knee strikes.

It was this bout and the ones that followed against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) and Maurcio Rua that gained Overeem a reputation as a very inconsistent fighter. One critic at the time hit the nail on the head by comparing him to a Ferrari -- fantastic appearance, excellent technique and capable of a fast pace but also equipped with a small gas tank.

"They were probably right," the 28-year-old told Sherdog.com when reflecting on his early Pride fights. "I am working hard on my stamina, though. I have changed parts of my training, and right now I'm feeling stronger than ever."

Dutch fight fans recently got a glimpse of the incredible shape Overeem is in. They saw him at the weigh-ins for the April K-1 World Grand Prix in Amsterdam, where he was scheduled to square off against countryman Gilbert Yvel (Pictures) in the lone MMA bout on the card. The all-Dutch superfight had to be cancelled, however, after Yvel suffered a torn muscle fiber in his left calf in training.

"I was very disappointed when the fight was cancelled," Overeem said. "I had been in preparation for four months and I deliberately canceled other fights to be 100-percent sure to be fit for the K-1 show in Amsterdam. Alas, I have to say that injuries do happen, but the fact that the organization wasn't able to arrange another opponent for me was a disappointment for me and for all the fans who bought a ticket to see me in action."

Getting his share of Overeem's surplus energy Sunday at Dream 4 will be the 6-foot-6, 295-pound giant Tae Hyun Lee (Pictures).

The 33-year-old Ssireum star was originally brought into the MMA game by former Pride promoter Dream Stage Entertainment, which was looking for a counterpart to rival FEG's Korean ace Hong Man Choi (Pictures). His debut fight was a failure, though, as he lost to Brazilian Ricardo Morais (Pictures) via TKO late in the first round. Because of a change of promotions and trouble with the Ssireum governing body, he has only fought once more -- a quick knockout over Yoshihisa Yamamoto (Pictures) last October.

"I'm looking forward to fighting against anybody," Overeem said. "Lee is a big dude; he's 6-foot-6 and outweighs me by 60 pounds. But after having trained for six straight months now, I'm ready for everybody. It doesn't matter even if they match me up with a guy who is a hundred pounds heavier. I'm ready to kill everybody."

A fighter who has very high hopes in Alistair is his Golden Glory teammate and reigning Shooto light heavyweight champion Siyar Bahadurzada (Pictures).

"Alistair is going strong," the "Afghan Killa" told Sherdog.com about Overeem's preparation. "He has better cardio and has been doing his homework really well. He is much bigger and stronger and has become an all-round fighter. The way he trains now, I see him as a big threat in the heavyweight division. Going heavyweight was a good decision for him. He will be busy kicking ass there for a while. Within the next 18 months, he is going to be a top-five heavyweight in the world."

Overeem fought twice for the Strikeforce promotion in California, defeating Vitor Belfort (Pictures) and Paul Buentello (Pictures) to become the event's heavyweight champion, but he sees his fighting future in Japan.

"I love Japan," he said. "The fans are very enthusiastic, and just walking the streets of Tokyo is a great experience."

An opponent he is gunning for in the future is none other than his longtime Pride companion Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

"Mirko has been offered to fight me twice, and he has dodged me both times," Overeem said. "That's why I will get on the house microphone and issue him a challenge in the middle of the ring after I have finished the big Korean."

Despite being in the best form of his life, Alistair has set modest goals for the remainder of the year. The "Demolition Man" wants to improve his technique, gain strength and weight and also win all of his fights, beginning with Tae Hyun Lee.

"After having not used it for the last couple of fights," he said, "I think I'll bring my hammer again this Sunday."
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