This Friday, February 6, Glory 19 is live on Spike. Included on this show is a big Welterweight tournament that sees Glory 13 Welterweight tournament winner Nieky Holzken return to the Glory ring for the first time in over a year. He takes on the tough Alexander Stetcurenko in one semifinal, while on the other side of the bracket, karate stylist Raymond Daniels tries to build on the momentum from his incredible KO of the year (decade?) victory over Francois Ambang last year when he takes on Jonatan Oliveira. Winner of this one night tournament earns a shot at Glory Welterweight champion Joseph Valtellini in what will be Valtellini’s first title defense since winning the belt last summer.
To get a sense of what to expect from the Glory 19 Welterweight tournament, we turned to a man with a lot of interest in Friday’s fights – Glory Welterweight champion Bazooka Joe, Joseph Valtellini. Here are his thoughts on how the tournament shakes out, and also his feelings on the man who defeated him at Glory 13, Nieky Holzken:
To me this is a tough tourney to call. Obviously Nieky is the favorite going in but there may be some surprises. Raymond Daniels is a guy who is unorthodox and can beat you in surprising ways. I won against him at Glory 13 and I know how tough he is and how he can come at you from every angle which is tough to defend against. If he has cleaned up some of his defence then he could be a force in this tourney. Olivera is an up and comer and I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings. Stetcurenko has been quiet but this is a guy who holds a win over Levin so he is no slouch as well. I don’t think this tourney is clear cut for Nieky by any means. That being said Nieky is dangerous and it’s going to be a tough task for the rest of the athletes in this tourney to best him.
I would love to face Nieky again. When we went to the fight of the year at the Glory 13 tournament I was a different fighter. The 20 minutes between my match and the finals didn’t help but it is what it is in a tourney format. I’ve had over a year and the experience I’ve gained in that fight and my title win against De Bonte, as well as the work I’ve put in the gym have changed me as an athlete. When we meet again Nieky will see a fresher, more experienced and more dangerous competitor and I am confident the outcome will be different this time. I know that I’m the better fighter, I’m always evolving and getting better and that’s why the title is around my waist as the Glory Champion. As the champ though I always want to fight the best and I feel I need that rematch against Nieky to show the world how different the outcome would be this time in a non tourney format.
Ever since this show was announced, there has been a sentiment that Holzken should not even be in the tournament – that his credentials should earn him an immediate title shot, with some even calling him the true champion. Valtellini is not bothered by this:
Those comments don’t bother me because fans are fans and they will always support their favorite. Glory 13 was to crown a tourney champ not the Glory champ. I’ve always felt that tournaments are a poor way to crown a champion because luck of the draw comes into effect instead of skill vs skill. That being said Nieky was offered 2 shots to fight for the title and unfortunately had to pull out due to injury and no fault of his own, but he was given the opportunity and at some point Glory needed to move. At that point you put the belt up for grabs and let the active fighters compete for it, which is what happened. Since Nieky has last fought, many guys have been active and they all deserve a shot to contend for the title. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to fight him again and I know we will down the line but there are also many other deserving fighters in Glory who deserve a chance as well.
Find out who wins the Glory 19 Welterweight contender tournament and steps up to challenge Joseph Valtellini when Spike airs Glory 19, live this Friday, February 6 at 9:00 p.m. ET.
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