Rico Verhoeven (49-10, 13 KO’s) is the GLORY heavyweight champion and holds the organization’s record for successful title defenses. He’s a popular figure with Dutch sports press and even some mainstream outlets, being a regular guest on late-night talk shows. But it was Badr Hari, whose notoriety and air of menace makes him a subject of fascination to fans and media alike, who was the center of attention for this press conference.
First questions came from Dutch mainstream news outlets and included hard-hitting enquiries as to how training was going and whether each fighter was confident that he could beat the other. Once this phase was out of the way, Hari (106-12, 93 KO’s) warmed up and turned his attention to Verhoeven’s classifying of him as an “old school” fighter.
“When Rico talks about ‘old school vs new school’… I am 31, what does he think, I’m 41 years old!? And when I was his age I completely crushed Semmy Schilt and Peter Aerts and all the guys that were highly respected,” he said.
“Sure I feel 31. I am wiser with the years. My entire body is at its peak. I feel good. He got me out of bed by challenging me. And now he’s going to get it. Rico was saying this is a “fun” fight. Fun fight don’t exist in this sport. You know what’s fun? Tennis. I’m knocking him down on December 10th.”
Hari then turned his attention to the subject of motivation.
“I have been fighting in this sport for a long time. When he spoke about the past era, back then there were a lot more competitive fighters. Nowadays, there are less…. My motivation for the sport went away when the K-1 era ended,” he said.
“At the time there were big guys around that motivated me to work hard. Every K-1 fight was a 50/50 match, so I worked really hard for those fights. I would go to the gym, work hard for it. And when K-1 went down, many fighters thought ‘You can’t perform on a bigger stage [than K-1], so now what?’
“You can do some fights here and there, but it’s not really my style to do those kind of fights. So at that point I lost all motivation,” he revealed, although ironically all his fights in recent years have been just such bouts, mostly in Chechnya and Dubai at the behest of rich patrons.
Over those same years, Hari has watched Verhoeven go from fresh-faced unknown to undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The soundtrack to Verhoeven’s ascendancy has been calls from fans for him and Hari to be matched. Hari may have been relatively inactive but his fans still consider him the best in the world and Hari does not disagree.
“Rico is the heavyweight champion, you have to respect the belt. But he’s been saying I don’t want a five-round fight [at GLORY: COLLISION] and that’s why it can’t be for the belt. I want to clear this up. It’s not that I don’t want to fight five rounds, I am just thinking in terms of other opportunities.
“He thinks this is a fun fight for honor and thinks it’s a joke. I’m a street fighter. And money is what motivates me into the ring. [GLORY matchmaker] Cor Hemmers, get ready for Rico to lose this fight, because the value of the belt will be zero when he loses. If I knock down Rico in the first round, the belt is worthless.
“So then what’s the next fight? If he loses this fight, we will have to do a title fight. For the real deal. So it’s a two-time payout for me. This one is a warm up, the next will be for the title. That’s the whole idea behind it for me. Rico thinks of 5 rounds, I think of two payment rounds. So, now it should be clear to everyone how I perceive this match.”
Verhoeven was rather muted during the course of the conference but this was largely due to Hari being the center of the attention for the attending Dutch media. When Verhoeven did speak, he confidently asserted his certainty in taking victory in December and did not seem at all fazed by proximity to his infamous opponent.
“I definitely think it will be over quick, but it will go my way. I am in top shape. You can’t prepare for a top guy like me in just four months,” he said. “I feel good. I am ready for this fight. I was ready a few months ago, I am ready now. For me the fight could be next week. He is getting ready, I was already ready.”
GLORY: Collision takes place at the Konig-Pilsner Arena in Oberhausen, Germany on Saturday, December 10. It was announced at the press conference that the Verhoeven/Hari fight will top a four-fight card airing on pay-per-view via UFC.tv in partnership with the UFC.
Also on that card is the finale of the women’s Super-Bantamweight Grand Prix, a heavyweight encounter between #1 ranked Ismael ‘Mr Pain’ Londt and the returning Jamal Ben Saddik and a world welterweight title fight with Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken defending his belt against French antagonist Cedric Doumbé.
About the author