Adegbuyi (19-2, 13 KO’s) has been on the ‘one to watch list’ for a while and even Verhoeven (45-10, 11 KO’s) marked him out as a future contender in an interview around two years ago. Now that Adegbuyi’s moment is here, Verhoeven is not surprised but says he does not feel threatened.
“I don’t rank him as my hardest challenge in GLORY purely because in my career and my mental state the other challenges were tougher – guys like Daniel Ghita, Peter Aerts, Gokhan Saki, Errol Zimmerman. Those guys are above him in terms of the experience they had and their overall game, plus where I was in my career at the time I fought them,” he explains.
“That doesn’t mean he isn’t a worthy challenger, just he is something different to those names. But I am really focused and I feel great. I had a good camp, starting at the Blackzilians and finishing here in Holland, and I have been enjoying myself. Can’t wait for the fight.”
Adegbuyi has shown a versatile game in his fights for GLORY and Romanian organization Superkombat, as well as frequently demonstrating that he has plenty of KO power in his strikes. Adegbuyi has said that he can stop Verhoeven but feels Verhoeven cannot stop him.
According to Verhoeven however, power isn’t the issue, fitness is. This is Adegbuyi’s first five-round fight and in Verhoeven he is facing a fitness machine.
“No matter how hard you train you cannot train for five rounds in the ring. That feeling is so different. You don’t know what’s happening. It’s like walking into the sea and at a certain point you can’t feel the ground any more. He’s going to feel that, it’s going to be his first time in such deep water,” he says.
“At a certain point he will be like, “We’re still not in the fifth round?!” If you watch his fights, by the third round he is running out of gas. But on Friday at that point there’s still potentially two rounds to go… it’s going to be tough for him.”
Verhoeven’s already-impressive fitness has further benefited from his training at The Blackzilians training center in Florida, USA. He was brought in to work with Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson ahead of his recent UFC fight with Daniel Cormier. While there, Verhoeven – an MMA enthusiast – took advantage of the opportunity to work on some new skills.
“I was out there for about three weeks and it was perfect. I was working on the guys with their stand-up and I did some MMA stuff while I was there. Well, mostly wrestling. I enjoy doing different things and in a perfect world I would box, kickbox and fight MMA but of course it would be difficult to do all three at the top level. But the MMA training was something new so it was fun for me,” he says.
“I enjoyed myself and for me it was the chance to try three weeks of intense wrestling so it was really good. The focus was on wrestling and positioning, staying on my feet and getting back to my feet, because people want to see a stand-up fight rather than a ground fight. Also some work on controlling the situation on the ground when you aren’t able to stand up.”
Is this a sign that Verhoeven is thinking of fighting with some small gloves on in the near future? Other GLORY fighters have crossed over into Bellator MMA recently, including middleweight contender Joe Schilling.
“Haha, who knows? We will see. There’s nothing to say at this point, we haven’t scheduled anything. But I like martial arts and being a martial artist, so I like to learn all these different things, it’s new and it’s interesting for me,” he says.
“I’ve been kickboxing all my life so it’s like work to me, there is nothing new for me to learn. It’s just about sharpening up. But in things like MMA and wrestling there are so many new things for me to learn every day, so it’s like being a kid again. It’s fun, it’s like a baby learning new words every day.”
Back in the Netherlands his training has been strictly kickboxing, alternating between his home gym of SuperPro in the south of the country and the Coliseum Gym in the midland. The crossover helps Verhoeven find quality heavyweight sparring partners and be subjected to the kind of pressures he wants.
“We just try to mix it up a bit. [Coliseum] They come to our gym and we go to their gym. They are right in the middle of Holland and that means they can have heavyweight guys coming from all over Holland because it’s only two hours’ drive for everyone,” he says.
“Size isn’t the problem, quality is. If I just have one guy, we can go two or three rounds and then they are finished. So we need three, four guys mixing it up so they can rest for a round or two and then come back in. Jahfarr Wilnis is at The Coliseum and he’s definitely talented, I love sparring with him, but it’s not good for me to spar only with him. Another thing we do also is get guys who are 80kgs, 90kgs, so they have that speed advantage.”
Until 2013, Verhoeven’s main heavyweight sparring partner was another Romanian heavyweight, Daniel Ghita. But when both signed with GLORY and set their sights on becoming champion, the relationship fractured and then broke. Their fight at GLORY 11 CHICAGO was a classic; the rematch at GLORY 17 LOS ANGELES was bitter but less explosive. Verhoeven won both by decision.
Does he find himself missing Ghita these days, say on those sparring days where numbers are thin or the level is lower than a top professional needs?
“No definitely not, ha! Probably we would have an actual fight if he was around. In the beginning we were OK and for me there was no problem anyway. But then he started talking shit and kept on doing it even AFTER the fight in Los Angeles,” says Verhoeven.
“Right after the bell sounded to end the final round we were talking and I was like ‘so are we cool now?’ and he said ‘yeah we are cool.’ And then the decision came in against him and he was angry and talking again so I was like ‘Fuck you guys man’.
“They are always looking for an excuse why they lost a fight or whatever. Just look in the mirror. When you lose a fight, that’s the only person you can blame for it. You lost, get over it, move on to the next one.”
GLORY 22 FRANCE takes place this Friday June 5 at the Stade Pierre Mouroy in Lille, France and airs live in the USA on Spike TV at 4pm ET.
Verhoeven and Adegbuyi are in the headline slot and the card also features a four-man Lightweight Contender Tournament with Josh Jauncey, Davit Kiria and Thai star Sitthichai plus French entrant Crice Boussoukou.
In the co-main event, power-bomb specialist Zack Mwekassa – he of the infamous Pat ‘HD’ Barry knockout – faces the karate stylist Carlos Brooks of New York in a light-heavyweight encounter.
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