GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven is probably the most technically proficient fighter that heavyweight kickboxing has ever produced. He started training at five years old under his karate black belt father and these days supplements his grueling kickboxing regimen with regular training sessions alongside world heavyweight boxing champion, Tyson Fury. But on Friday night, he will apparently be having a street fight.
Verhoeven’s lifetime of training, plus his relentless work ethic, has made him defensively almost watertight and given him a multitude of attacking options. His boxing, distance, and footwork are light years ahead of many fighters who are, according to the rankings, supposedly his closest rivals.
It is against this backdrop that his next opponent, Anderson ‘Braddock’ Silva, has had to draw up his gameplan for their fight in the main event of this Friday’s GLORY 33 New Jersey event in Trenton. Silva is trying to achieve what Verhoeven’s last eleven GLORY opponents have failed to do and he thinks knows what to do. He’s said that attempting to out-technique Verhoeven is a futile effort and instead he intends to “make it a street fight.”
Verhoeven seems delighted when this is put to him. “Anderson wants a street fight? Great!” he beams. “I have faced so many different fighters and so many different styles, I can fight however he wants. I always manage to find a solution to whatever they are bringing. So if he wants to make it a street fight, let’s do it, and I will figure that out as well.
“The kickboxers who understand the game. I like to fight them, because then I can show how good I really am. I think I understand the game at another level. So when they think they understand the game, that makes for a strategic fight and I can show that I am kickboxing at a different level.
“But every fighter brings a different skillset, so if this is going to be a street fight then I need to bring and show different skills than I do in a technical fight. So every time, I am challenging myself – and my opponent – in a different way. So that makes it easy to stay focused and motivated.”
Silva has perennially been around the top end of the heavyweight division but has never found enough consistency to secure a title shot, although at times that has been due to bad luck with the judges rather than any particular fault of his own. But with Verhoeven having all but cleaned out the division and Silva having scored a brutal stoppage in his last outing, the stars have aligned for the Brazilian at last.
“He’s been circling the top five for a while now so he definitely also deserves his shot. I have never fought him before and people had talked about the fight for a long time, but for some reason it didn’t happen. Now it is happening, so it’s good for him and good for me,” says Verhoeven.
It might sound like just another day in the office for Verhoeven, one which could carry with it the risk of complacency. It isn’t. Aside from every heavyweight having a puncher’s chance in any fight, Silva is also on career-best form right now. But even if he wasn’t, Verhoeven doesn’t do complacency. He might well be the most driven fighter in the game today.
“I am never comfortable. There is no danger of me not taking any fight seriously. I am always 100% focused because I know that everybody is always 110% focused when they are fighting me. They prepare themselves – or, they think they prepared themselves – to face me. Everybody is always more motivated when they face me because everybody wants to be the king of the jungle. It’s easy to stay motivated because everybody wants the belt,” he says.
Verhoeven faces Silva in the headline bout of GLORY 33 New Jersey on Friday night. The card airs live on ESPN 2 from 11pm ET and also features a Featherweight Contender Tournament. It will be preceded by the GLORY 33 Superfight Series live on UFC Fight Pass from 8:30pm ET, headlined by middleweight champion Simon Marcus against Jason Wilnis.
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