Going into Glory: Collision 3, Rico Verhoeven is all in on the return to the ring. Originally set to fight MMA and kickboxing legend Alistair Overeem, Verhoeven is now taking on Jamal Ben Saddik in a series that is 1-1 looking to take the rubber match in definitive fashion.
To open our interview, I hit Verhoeven with a hypothetical: Alive or dead, who is the one fighter he would most like to box or kickbox? His answer is the summation of his entire kickboxing career thesis. Verhoeven always looks to fight the best and he would love to have the opportunity to take on the greatest: Muhammad Ali.
“Of course if it would be a dead person it would be Muhammad Ali. He was just the greatest. The way he put boxing on the map and he’s outspoken. He was just a really smart guy. I think that’s what I really like about him. A lot of people think it’s so easy. ‘Oh, they fight because they can only fight and make money. That’s good for them.’ But I think that was the beginning of a new era that you see where fighters can be really intelligent and be more than just fighters and be more for the people. Definitely, it would be Muhammad Ali.”
If his options are limited to the living, Verhoeven has his eyes on Tyson Fury. The two have had a history training together in their earlier years. Then Verhoeven floats an idea that Fury first suggested to him: a one-and-one series in their respective disciplines.
“How amazing would it be to fight for the heavyweight boxing championship? I’ve trained with Tyson Fury. I think we worked out together multiple times a week for four years in a row. It was even before I was champion, like a decade ago. Then we met last year after a long time of not seeing each other. I remember we worked out and he said, ‘I’m going to be the boxing World Heavyweight Champion’ and I said, ‘I’m going to be the kickboxing World Heavyweight Champion. So many years later we both did that. It’s just amazing. How cool would it be to do a fight together? We even talked about a cross mixed fight. I would go into his world to do a boxing fight and he would come into my world to do a kickboxing fight. Let’s see how that goes and what the future brings.”
Verhoeven’s Will to Fight
Verhoeven believes his mental fortitude has been key to his success. His ability to get up after being knocked down is one of his best fighting characteristics.
“I think the biggest secret is that we fall and we get back up. That’s the only thing. If you make sure you stand up every time you fall and you make sure you keep doing that one more time than the other time, then you always win. That’s how it goes. Just keep standing up. When the other guy falls he thinks, ‘I’m just going to stay down because this guy keeps getting up.'”
Glory “Collision 3” is exclusively available on pay-per-view and can only be purchased online at www.gloryfights.com. You can purchase and stream the pay-per-view for €19.99, £17.99 or US$24.99 from anywhere in the world.
Verhoeven continues on the mental part of fighting and his philosophy of just getting back up. “To answer your question [seriously], it is a mental game. It’s how I approach it. It’s how I stand in it. I just always want to be better. Of course when you get hurt in a fight you feel like, ‘Ah, f***…’ It wasn’t meant to happen but now we got to make sure we come back, but we come back better. How I look at it [is], everybody in the heavyweight division and everybody who steps in the cage is fit, strong and has good technique. On all of those three points it’s hard to be a lot better. Maybe someone is a little bit stronger than the other person or a little bit bigger, it’s not a lot of times on all three levels you’re a lot better. So for me, where I want to be better is in the mind. I want to be so much stronger and show no emotion. Just keep working hard and it’s just two things are going to happen: either I’m going to drop dead or you’re going to quit.”
Verhoeven goes on to talk about how that mentality can be applied to life. He lives life looking to improve not only in kickboxing but in general. An optimist, Verhoeven likes to look at the positive out of every situation.
“Mentality is a big part of life. Let’s address the COVID situation. How mentally strong are people to cope with that? You see how so many people get nervous instead of looking at the things that are possible, so many people are focusing on what they can’t do. It gave me the time to be grateful for a lot of things I think I took for granted. I had so much more time for friends and family. You never know what’s going to happen. People live by the day and any day it can be over. I think that was a very important lesson I’ve learned throughout this whole situation. We keep learning every day. I try to be better than I was yesterday, read a book or listen to a podcast.”
Earlier this year, muay Thai, sambo and kickboxing were recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Verhoeven is ecstatic about the prospects of kickboxing being included in the Olympic Games. He also says that had the opportunity presented itself to him, he would have jumped at the chance to compete in the Olympics.
“It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to make the sport even more professional.” When asked if it would have been something he would have been interested in, Verhoeven said, “100%, everyone would love to do that. How amazing would it have been to add this amazing medal around my neck? That would have been amazing.”
Verhoeven vs. Francis Ngannou?
Fury isn’t the only champion in another combat sport to have Verhoeven’s attention and respect. When asked what a potential kickboxing match with UFC heavyweight champ Ngannou would be like, Verhoeven was enthusiastic about the the idea, also mentioning that he plans to do some training with the French-Cameroonian knockout artist after this weekend.
“That would be an amazing fight. Me and Francis have been talking a few times already. I’m planning after the fight to go to Vegas or LA and we’re planning to link up. It would be amazing. But I think kickboxing is a totally different sport. I’ve got to say he’s really been getting better at kickboxing. I hope to add some things to his game.”
For now, Verhoeven prepares for his rubber match with Ben Saddik in the main event of Glory: Collision 3 on Oct. 23. The event will stream live on pay-per-view at gloryfights.com.