Interview: Alistair Overeem talks ‘very bad’ move to Blackzilians, says Anthony Johnson is not versatile for Jon Jones

Alistair Overeem was in the Philippines this past week to help promote the upcoming UFC: Manila card headlined by Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber.…

By: Anton Tabuena | 8 years ago
Interview: Alistair Overeem talks ‘very bad’ move to Blackzilians, says Anthony Johnson is not versatile for Jon Jones
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Alistair Overeem was in the Philippines this past week to help promote the upcoming UFC: Manila card headlined by Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber. Prior to his media tour and public workout, ‘The Reem’ sat down with on Saturday afternoon to discuss various topics. Check out part 1 of our Q&A below.

Anton Tabuena: How excited are you to judge that ring girl search for UFC: Manila?

(Overeem then gets informed by the PR crew that he actually won’t be able to participate anymore because of his busy schedule)

Alistair Overeem: Dammit! I’m good at that stuff! It’s one of my talents!

Anton: You’ve competed a lot in Asia throughout the years; would you have wanted to be part of this upcoming UFC: Manila card in May?

Alistair: Well, my last fight was 3 rounds of 5 minutes. Even though I didn’t take that much punishment, my body was still a bit sore but also from all the months of the training. I did 3 fights in 6 months, so that’s basically no rest and just working all the time. So I felt that I needed to take some time off and heal my body.

That’s done now and we’re actually going to look for the next fight.

Anton: Speaking of the next fight, there’s been been talk about a match up against Junior Dos Santos. Has that been offered?

Alistair: Actually, my management is talking (with the UFC), and I hope to hear about it this week. About Junior, I can say it’s a great fight and it only sounds logical to me because he’s not booked for a fight, I’m not booked for a fight. Who else is there? There’s not really any option available.

Anton: So what are your thoughts on that potential match up? How do you stack up to him stylistically?

Alistair: I think it’s going to be a very interesting fight. He’s a striker and prefers to fight on the feet, as well as I do. But I do believe I am more versatile. I have submissions, I use my legs, I am more strategic now — especially now that I’m training out of Greg Jackson’s, we work a lot on game plans, strategy.

I just see myself as the better fighter, but still, Junior is still a special case. He’s a former champion, he’s very tough, and you saw that on his last fight against Stipe (Miocic). He can take a lot of punishment and even if someone is pushing the pace, he can survive that. In every way, it’s a very exciting fight and a very challenging fight personally.

Anton: When are you targeting to return?

Alistair: I’m thinking June, July, or August. Nothing too far away.

Anton: Obviously you’re under contract with the UFC, but do you ever miss kickboxing?

Alistair: I don’t. Simply because there’s no challenges. I went into K-1 in 2009, actually 2008 for the Badr (Hari) fight. After that, we competed twice in the K-1 GP and beat basically everyone there. It was always my goal to go back to MMA because my passion is there.

The move into K-1 was very big at the time. It was very special to me. I liked it. It was different. It was only striking, no ground, so it kinda changed my fight style a little bit. But I think now, I’m at an age where I have 5 or 6 years left. Now it’s all about the UFC title.

K-1 is no longer there. You have Glory, but to me, they’re not really interesting.

Anton: Speaking of K-1, you were collecting belts from everywhere just a few short years ago, then you hit a bit of a rough patch. What do you attribute that to?

Alistair: We had a 6-year win streak. We beat Werdum in there, Badr, and we had a tremendous time. But in life — if I may make the comparison — life is ups and downs. That’s what it is. I can’t make more or less from it. Sometimes you’re in a period that goes great and you’re on top of the world, as I was for 6 years. Sometimes, you have to take a couple of steps back, sometimes one step, sometimes a couple.

In my career, I’ve been training now for 21 years, and fighting for 18 years, and it has always been that way. For example, before I had that 6-year winning streak, I also came from three losses in 2007 and 2006. That was also a very bad time. What was happening then? My mother had cancer, and I became a parent. She was a lovely daughter, but she was a crybaby.

That was like 6 months with no sleep at night. And the house was not that big. It was a small house. She wakes up, everybody wakes up. But that’s life; it’s ups and downs. All you can do is give your best, maybe give 110% and just be thankful with what you have.

Anton: After that you switched camps a bit, but what would you say is the biggest adjustment since then?

Alistair: I moved to the states, and that was a big thing for me. I moved to Miami and I joined the Blackzilians. For me at the time, it seemed like the best logical solution, but sometimes surrounding yourself with new people is not good. Sometimes it’s inevitable because you may think it’s good but it turns out it’s not good. It’s highly subjective too, for other people that can be good, but for me personally it’s not. It was actually very bad, and you can see that in my results. I had two losses, and for me it was time to broaden my horizon and start making some changes.

Anton: So since moving to Greg Jackson’s what has been the biggest change there?

Alistair: When I moved to Greg, I already made several changes. I actually was planning on moving sooner, but I was fighting Frank Mir and he was training there so I couldn’t move and had to put those plans on hold. I just did my own thing, with my own coaches, and my own sparring partners. That already was a huge change, and you can see it on my Frank Mir fight, which was a very good fight I think. It was a dominant performance, but there was already a change there. Later, Greg and Wink came on board, and it continued to change.

The change already started before, but they added their mix of thought to it — game planning and strategy and high altitude thing that they have. Now it’s all better. Together with these two wins, I do believe that the title is coming into sight.

Anton: How much do you weigh right now, and how much did you lose since the Lesnar fight?

Alistair: I’m 248 now, 250. Against Lesnar I was at 257.

Anton: Was that intentional? Was it a conscious effort to work on speed or cardio?

Alistair: Yep. Brock Lesnar was a big guy, he’s at 280 when he fights. When fighting him, you can have a bit of that extra muscle because you don’t want to be thrown around like you’re nothing. But right now, if you look at the top of the heavyweight division, you see Cain, Werdum, Junior dos Santos. All these guys are 240 lbs, maybe 242 or sometimes even 239. They’re smaller so cardio is a big factor, and that’s what makes you win or lose a fight. So I put cardio on the top of that list, and it’s a priority. I have to be very fast, and very strong, not just strong for the first round. Because they may survive the first round and then the fight happens on the third or on championship rounds 4 and 5. You have to have the cardio to do that. It’s all about the cardio.

Anton: Like the Roy Nelson fight?

Alistair: Yeah, he was aiming for round number 2 and round number 3. This was his mistake. He tried to do it on round number 1 but I also damaged him a lot and stopped him in his tracks. He was just thinking ‘get to round number 2 and then I’ve got him’, but he didn’t get me. Then his mind was probably ‘okay, I’m now at round number 3′, but he didn’t and then the fight was over.

Anton: Were you surprised to see him take that punishment? He’s known as a tough guy, but you hit him with a ton of body shots, leg kicks, everything.

Alistair: You know, in hindsight, before the fight I was sure I would knock him out within the first two rounds… It was a very nice moment we had during the staredowns, when we were looking at each other and he was thinking ‘I’m going to knock you out’. I was thinking the exact same thing! It was complete silence, and Dana was looking at us, and it was very calm — but there was that energy, and that was kinda funny.

But I wasn’t that surprised. I knew he was a guy that could take a lot, but I know I mentally broke him in the third round. Now, looking back, that was a big victory. In the third round, half way, he broke. I broke his ribs, I destroyed his legs, and somewhere in the fight, he broke his hand. I rocked him several times, and he’s not going to be fighting for a while. He’s not going to be fighting for another 5 or 6 months. He’s out.

Anton: That’s interesting because Dana White gave a few criticisms about that fight, saying that he “wished” you had “more killer instinct”. What do you think about that, since you just said you basically threw the kitchen sink at him?

Alistair: Well Dana, as much as I love what he’s done with the UFC, sometimes I don’t agree with him. It’s my full right not to agree with him, as with his right to not agree with me. You know, I remember after the Travis (Browne) fight, he came to me backstage and said he was very happy with that fight. I was not happy with that fight. I was very pissed with that fight.

I counted 42 strikes, and he was screaming. It was actually over, but then it wasn’t over and I get kicked in the face once, then one punch and it was done.

Going back to Dana, he was very happy because that fight was very spectacular and it brought the fans what they came for. I believe this fight (against Nelson) also brought the fans what they came for. He wished I was a little more aggressive, but okay, maybe you’ll see that in my next fight.

Anton: I know you’ve trained with both Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson. Who do you think wins that fight?

Alistair: I think Jon Jones.

Anton: That’s not just because you’re his teammate right?

Alistair: [Laughs] No, it’s also because he is more proven. He has done it over and over and over again. Indeed I have trained with both, and Jon Jones is more versatile. Anthony Johnson is very explosive, very athletic, but he’s not versatile. Besides his hands, he has nothing else. He has his hands, and he’s very fast and explosive. Besides that, he has nothing. Jon has the submissions, has the wrestling, takedowns, and he has the mind.

He’s been proven, and he fights differently on each of his fights. He’s stopping his opponents in (their style) of fighting. His last victory against (Daniel) Cormier was amazing. He took Cormier down and dominated him. So uhh, Jon Jones! *Fist pump*

Stay tuned for the 2nd part of our interview with Alistair Overeem. Follow me on twitter — @antontabuena

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About the author
Anton Tabuena
Anton Tabuena

Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

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