GLORY 26 AMSTERDAM will also be a landmark in the career of young coach Nicky Hemmers, son of the legendary trainer Cor Hemmers (Semmy Schilt, Alistair Overeem, Stefan Leko and many more) and brother of the late icon Ramon ‘The Diamond’ Dekkers.
The 27-year-old has three fighters on the card and it will be his first major event in his home country. While it is an occasion to celebrate, it also brings some pressure. But pressure is something Hemmers has grown up with.
“In the beginning, yes. When I was younger I didn’t care but as I got older I felt the weight of [my family heritage]. When I would fight I would feel that pressure and it would lock me up sometimes,” he recalls.
“Later I was offered the chance to start training guys in the gym and I took it. Things went well, two years later my father retired as a trainer and I took over the professional team. Some guys left, some stayed, but in the end I proved myself.
“At first it was hard because everyone talked s–t about me – I earned it all from my father or my brother, stuff like that. But now six years later I am still here, I have eight guys in the top ten in their weight class, I stay humble and just do my thing. If I was a bad coach then it would show in my fighters. It would be obvious by now.”
Dekkers was a trailblazer, the first European fighter to go to Thailand and beat Thai fighters at their own game in an era when Muay Thai was only just making its presence felt outside its homeland. In the 1980s karate reigned supreme as Europe’s striking martial art of choice but exposure to Muay Thai began changing that. Thai fighters routinely smashed their Western counterparts – until they met Dekkers.
A full synopsis of his career would be impossible in the space we have here. Suffice to say that he wrought such destruction on his opponents that some Thais wondered if he was in fact possessed by a demon. He was given a name which roughly translated as “Wind-Turbine From Hell”. It isn’t the catchiest when translated to English, but if you watch his fights you instantly see how appropriate it is.
Dekkers became a megastar in Thailand, with tens of millions of people across the country tuning into watch his fights live. In martial arts circles his legend also grew, and young men and women looked up to him. Today, there are few professional kickboxers who do not cite Dekkers as an influence or as one of their favorite fighters. Hemmers Jr. idolises his brother, who passed away unexpectedly in 2013. Seeing his continued legacy gives him pride.
“If you ask many fighters who their favorite fighter is, a lot of them say my brother’s name. And if you search the internet for my brother’s name or my father’s name, you can see what they achieved in this sport. My father knows how to do everything. He is a humble guy, but he trained so many fighters, so many champions and so many guys who now have their own gyms around the world,” says the proud Nicky.
“It’s easy for me to say because they are my father and brother I am talking about, but I think a lot of people would agree with me that you can compare it to the Gracies in jiu jitsu. My father and Ramon really developed and showed a style which fighters all over the world learned and emulated. They did seminars all over the world. So many coaches and fighters today can trace their roots back to my father and brother, their style.
“I think if my brother was alive now and in his prime, he would be a champion in GLORY. Or he would have been the champion in K-1. He had that all-or-nothing style, people loved it. He came to knock your head off. But still, he made his legacy, his name lives on in the sport.”
The crunching Dekkers signature style – heavy-handed boxing combinations and ferocious low kicks to the thigh – form the basis of Hemmers’ curriculum. He learned it first-hand from his father and brother and now he teaches the house style himself. At GLORY 26 he will have three fighters on the card: Errol Zimmerman, Karapet Karapetyan and Maykol Yurk.
Zimmerman is known as ‘The Bonecrusher’, and for good reason. He has 44 knockout wins from 103 career victories. When he hits people, around half of them will go down and stay down. His power is notorious and brought him to a title shot at GLORY 19 VIRGINIA earlier this year. He faced Rico Verhoeven, defending, and in the second round suffered a terrible injury as his right patellar tendon tore.
Immediate surgery was required. Doctors wanted to preserve Zimmerman’s ability to walk and move normally; they didn’t think a return to professional competition would even be feasible. More than one operation was required, but Zimmerman has recovered faster than expected. Tonight he faces debuting Belgian giant Thomas Vanneste on the Superfight Series preliminary card.
“I would say that it is more mental with him than anything. He didn’t train all year so he has an idea that his knee is a little bit fragile but the tests and scans say otherwise, they say it is better than it ever was. He will be fine when the fight starts, he will be in the fight mindset,” says Hemmers Jr.
“We had to do a lot of training to restore his knee. We started with just boxing then we gradually introduced low kicks then middle and high kicks and knee strikes. But really I think that Errol just has to fight, you know? He has over 120 professional fights, he has all the experience he needs, so we don;t have a specific gameplan this time.
“I don’t think he is of the same calibre as Zimmerman but with Errol coming back from injury it’s a good time for Vanneste to step up and try and take a big name out. This is his biggest career fight, it’s a huge opportunity for him. I will be very surprised if this fight goes three rounds. They are both heavy hitters so I think this will end in a knockout – I hope in our favor, of course.”
Maykol Yurk is new to GLORY and comes from the same gym as Jhonata Diniz and Jonathan Oliveira. He is from the city of Curitiba, famous in the MMA world as the home of Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua among others.
“His coach Julio Borges, he used to come and train here in Holland with my brother Ramon Dekkers and he had some fights under him. So the relationship goes back quite a way. He sends guys to us who he thinks have potential and we assess them and see if they have what it takes to step up to the next level,” says Nicky.
“Maykol is a young talented guy with a nice style. He has a big challenge and a big opportunity here, taking part in a contender tournament in his first appearance for GLORY. But I think he is a good prospect and definitely a guy for the future. I think he might cause an upset. All these guys from Brazil come to fight. They are all really tough guys.
“He’s got Shane Oblonsky first. Shane is a really difficult fighter with a slightly strange style so definitely it’s a tough fight. Maykol has nothing to lose and he trains like an animal so, I think this will be a hell of a fight.”
Karapetyan has not been seen since GLORY 16 DENVER in early 2014, when he lost a decision to Marc de Bonte in a fight for the then-vacant welterweight championship. A qualified lawyer who speaks five languages, Karapetyan competes as a sideline rather than as a full-time career.
“He got married and his wife is from Armenia so there was a lot for him to do getting visas and stuff for her to come and live with him in the Netherlands. He had one fight this year but he really didn’t have a lot of time to train, between his work and everything else he had going on. He lost a decision and we said OK just take some time off, we are not going to do half-fights,” says his coach.
“So he took some time off but now he has been back in the gym for the last two months. It’s been a little bit hard for him getting back to full speed but he is going to be ready. On his day he is a very difficult fighter for anybody though.”
Karapetyan faces Yoann Kongolo on the Superfight Series card. Kongolo debuted with a decision win at GLORY 22 FRANCE and is now 1-1 in GLORY after losing a close semi-final fight with Karim Ghajii in the Welterweight Contender Tournament.
“Kongolo is a brawler who comes to fight and that makes for an interesting fight because Karapet is a very technical guy. Kongolo is new to GLORY so he is looking to make a big impression and I think he fits nice in the 77kgs division. He comes to fight. I would like to see him against our guy [Jhonata] Oliveira actually. That would be a real war, two guys coming forward to take each other’s head off.”
Tonight’s card is headlined by Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken defending the world welterweight championship against Murthel ‘The Predator’ Groenhart, winner of the tournament which Kongolo was eliminated from. The two have a long-standing rivalry – it dates back to a 2010 encounter – and there will be no quarter asked or given.
“Murthel is good with his knees but I think Nieky is on a different level with his boxing and he is on a really good streak right now. I think Nieky has the advantage with conditioning also. I like Murthel as a person and a fighter but I have to say I think Nieky wins this one,” is Hemmers Jr’s assessment.
“I love that we are back in the Amsterdam because we are the biggest show in the world and Holland has produced some of the best kickboxers in the world, so we deserve to be here and the Dutch fans deserve to see these guys do their thing live. It’s a really big thing, this show, because we didn’t have a really big show here for a long time. I’m hearing that it is almost completely sold out so it is going to be a great atmosphere.”
GLORY 26 AMSTERDAM takes place today, Friday December 4, at the RAI AMSTERDAM and airs live in the US on ESPN 3 at 4pm ET (1pm PT) with a replay Sunday night primetime, 8pm ET (5pm ET). Dutch viewers can watch the event live on SPIKE TV NL.
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