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Interviews (76)

Iman Barlow on Enfusion Win, Her Start in Martial Arts and More

Iman Barlow is somewhat of a phenom in Women’s Muay Thai. The 21-year old from Melton Mowbray, UK, defended her 54kg Women’s Enfusion world title this past weekend with a decisive victory over challenger Iman Ghablou.

JS: So first off Miss Barlow, congratulations on another dominant victory this past weekend, how did you evaluate your own performance and what was your game plan coming into the bout?

IB: The fight went well, I thought I won every round convincingly. After the first round I felt in control and from there I just enjoyed the fight and was sampling different techniques. We (My Dad and I) knew Iman Ghablou was a good boxer so our plan was to utilize the teep a lot but apart from that was just to go out there and bring my title back home to England.

JS: It's interesting that you mention your usage of the teep as that was something I was going to ask you about. The vast majority of strikers look to utilize the teep to the body, in this bout you looked to throw it regularly to the chin of Ghablou. Is this a technique you specifically drilled for this opponent or is it a move we can expect to see from you more often?

IB: Yes, I looked to throw it but then I saw she was open a lot for straight shots, like down the middle with teeps and straight punches. I saw the gaps and went for them but also I heard my Dad in my corner and he had also seen the gaps.

JS: It was a fairly one-sided affair and was your seventh appearance with the Enfusion promotion. Are there any current fighters on the Enfusion roster or outside the organization, which you would like to fight next? 

IB: Haha it was actually my 8th bout! Not really I am happy where I am at the moment, Enfusion have given me the opportunity of a lifetime to travel around the world doing what I love. I don't really like to call fighters out but all I will say is that I will fight the best to become the best slowly but surely. -54kg is dangerous division with me in for many years to come.

JS: You've already travelled to various different locations throughout your career, are there any other countries you wish to compete in?

IB: Yes I've seen some amazing places and the best thing about the whole experience is the people you meet along the way, I have friends from this sport all around the world it's amazing! Of course I've always said I'd love to fight in America that's my number one choice. Australia would also be pretty cool. 

JS: I've read previously online that you were introduced to martial arts at the age of 2! Could you give us a brief insight on your introduction and the martial arts you have trained?

IB: Yes my Dad Mark Barlow and my Mum Maxine Adams run Assassins Muay Thai gym so when I was little I used to go and sit down while they used to teach and I started to join in when I was around 2 and a half. I used to hit the bag and the fighters used to mess around with me and take me on the pads. I had my first fight when I was 4. I've always been into Muay Thai and it's all I have ever known, I’ve struggled to get fights sometimes when I was younger so I have done a few kickboxing and K-1 rules fights to keep busy. 

JS: Have you ever trained in other disciplines or would consider making the switch over to MMA?

IB: I've trained in Boxing before and a little bit of Judo. Apart from that I once had a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lesson with a friend but I don't think it's for me I much prefer to be a stand up fighter. I can't see myself going into MMA but I'd never rule it out. 

JS: Last but not least, your hometown of Melton Mowbray is renowned for it’s pork pies and Stilton cheese. Now your fight is out the way, will you be indulging in either or do you have another post-fight snack of preference?

IB: Haha it sure is. They’re definitely not on my list of favorites to indulge in; my problem is that I love food of all kinds. I love pad thai and also a good Nandos after a fight makes me happy, I also drink a lot of tea so it's nice to drink that after a fight also. I'm not indulging too much as my next fight will be on Enfusion’s reality show victory The Vixen in September and to win you have to have four fights in the space of about 5 days so I'll have a few days off and get back into training for that; sixteen women and only one winner. It's going be one of the hardest things I’ll go through but that will make it even more rewarding when I win.

JS: Best of luck with your fights in September and thank you very much for your time Iman, is there anything else you wish to say, anyone to thank?

JB: Yes, I'd like to first thank my family for always being a great support system and for helping me follow my dreams, all of Enfusion family, Vinny Shoreman and my sponsors Gold standard nutrition, Fairtex UK, Booost oxygen, Dirty 3rd Clothing and thank you to everyone for their continued support and messages, they always means a lot.

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Talking With Al Wichgers Glory Referee

Safety, fairness and entertainment are the primary goals of Glory referee, Al Wichgers. A thirty-seven year veteran this is a man who has seen nearly everything and made the calls that people sometimes love to hate. In anticipation of Glory 17 and The Last Man Standing event, I had the pleasure of talking to Al about his career as well as about kickboxing in the United States. Currently a referee at Glory, Al has also, over the course of his career, been the man in the middle for K-1 the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator. His knowledge of combat sports is not unfounded as he also has spent time facing off against other fighters as a boxer as well as being a practitioner of martial arts. When asked what is the key to being a good referee he cites his mantra of striving to ensure safety for the fighters as well as making sure the fight is fair and at the same time entertaining. Al also cites that knowing the fighters is a critical element in determining when a fight should be stopped. It’s a much more difficult situation being the referee with fighters you don’t know. Knowing the fighter’s limits and how they react to a punch makes the difference between ending it early or letting the fight continue. When asked about his favorite fight, he cites a K-1 bout between Hong Man Choi and Sylvester Terkay as particularly amusing if for no other reason than the sheer amazement at the size of Choi (2.18m) and the possible dilemma of how he would go about stopping such a large fighter.

His response to the inevitable criticism that comes from fans and the fight community when it comes to fight stoppages, is that it’s all about perspective. Being inside the ring and understanding the figher’s body language is what often makes the difference. It is a completely different experience viewing the fight in the arena or on television. Those vantage points don’t allow an observer to pick up on many of the cues that indicate when a fighter has had enough. Thirty-seven years of experience doesn’t hurt either. On maintaining professionalism in the ring, Al states that it’s his job and that’s the way he handles it, he also emphasizes the importance of being objective. Surprisingly enough with the amount of adrenaline pump during fights Al states that his relationships with the fighters all over the world have been relatively peaceful with some fighters even thanking him afterward for stopping the fight.

Having experience with boxing, kickboxing and MMA, Al expresses a particular love for kickboxing with its fast pace and non-stop action. Finally we spoke about whether Glory will succeed in their mission to repopularize kickboxing in the United States. On this subject he reveals optimism, having been around since the heyday of K-1, but acknowledges that efforts to interest the public in anything new is often a hard sell. Al, however appears to be in it for the long haul and the combat sports community should feel grateful to have him in their ranks.  

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Melvin Manhoef Pre-GLORY Last Man Standing Interview

(C) Esther Linn/MMAFighting.com

They call him “No Mercy” and that is exactly what you will get in the ring.  Melvin Manhoef, a man whose professional career has spanned nearly two decades takes the stage at Glory’s inaugural PPV event, The Last Man Standing on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at The Forum.  Since 1995, Melvin Manhoef has delivered brutal blows in both MMA and kickboxing also showing the world that he is dangerous in nearly every weight class.  Who has he fought? A better question probably would be who hasn’t he fought?  In the kickboxing ring he has faced the likes of Spong, Bonjasky, Leko, Karaev and Slowinksi.  Although in all of these match-ups he has not been the victor, one thing is certain, a match involving Melvin promises to bring heavy hits and hardcore action.  It is well and widely known that Manhoef is a knockout artist and does it very well.  For those who know Melvin Manhoef, they are well aware that he is dangerous from all angles, having brutalized his opponents with left hooks, right hooks and knees.  He is legend.  In anticipation of his debut with Glory I had the opportunity to talk to Melvin about his past, present and his vision for the future. 

SW: Melvin, you made it here to Glory and this very exciting event.  How do you feel?

MM: I think I am ready.  I had very good training and I am prepared.

SW: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to fight?

MM: No, I’m a fighter and I will fight whoever they put in front of me.  All of the guys are dangerous in the tournament but I feel prepared to fight any of them. 

SW: You are known for having a very aggressive style and have had some brutal knockouts in kickboxing and MMA. Do you have any prediction about how your fight with Verlindin will end?

MM: I like the knock out, but we will just see, but of course I like the knockout!  My goal is to be the champion. 

SW: For your training, you were training at Mike’s Gym or somewhere else?

MM: Well I train at Mike’s Gym sometimes but I also have my own gym.

SW: Many fighters have their own gym is this your eventual plan to do as maybe you move away from fighting in the ring, spending more time as a coach?

MM: Well I do that now in my gym and I won’t be fighting until the point that I can’t see.  Right now, I feel good and don’t think it’s any problem for me to fight. No injuries right now, so I’m ready. 

SW: Kickboxing or MMA, which do you prefer?

MM: I have a lot of experience in both.  With kickboxing, it’s very fast and there’s a lot of action.  I like MMA too, it’s just a different style of fighting.

SW: Glory is doing some very exciting things, revitalizing kickboxing in America. 

MM: Yes, and I am happy to be a part of this.  I thank Glory for having me at this event, it is very big.  June 21st will be very good for the fans.

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For Joe Schilling Last Man Standing is About His Legacy

This weekend at GLORY Last Man Standing Joe Schilling has a date with a second GLORY tournament. The first one was a victory for Schilling at GLORY 10, putting him atop of the heap of GLORY’s stacked Middleweight division. At least for that night. We can easily say that GLORY 10 was a great night for Schilling, but GLORY 12 was not a great night for Schilling, although he’ll be the first one to tell you that it wasn’t his best night.

Heading into GLORY’s Last Man Standing tournament Joe is faced with three past opponents in Wayne Barrett, Artem Levin and Simon Marcus, each of which are involved in the tournament in different parts of the bracket, with there being a chance of him meeting each one on Saturday if things turn out that way. Revenge doesn’t seem to be on the mind of Schilling this time, though, nor does calling out a round for a knockout. Instead, he seems refocused.

At Last Man Standing Joe Schilling’s night starts off with not only a rematch, but a third meeting with an old adversary in Simon Marcus, but that is the furthest thing from his mind right now; “You know, everyone is asking me about rematches, they are all really excited about that. I guess there is more of an emotional connection to the previous fights than even I do. Rematch with Simon, rematch with Barrett, rematch with Levin, and I’m not thinking about that at all. It doesn’t even cross my mind, I’m a different fighter and I don’t expect them to be the same fighter. I’m really just focused on winning the tournament.

“Gotta go through Simon Marcus first, then I gotta go through Barrett, but if it’s Barrett I’ll beat Barrett, if it’s Stoica then I’ll be Stoica. Who even knows who comes through that other bracket. It’s crazy. I’m really focused I’m being the best Joe Schilling that I can be that night. I’ve made some changes in my game, in my lifestyle and the mental side of it. I feel like I’ll really be able to express what I’m capable of on the 21st. I’m really excited to show everybody what I’m capable of, but also show myself what I’m capable of. The rematches, though? They really mean nothing to me. At the end of the night, when I’m holding my belt, I’ll probably be laughing like, ‘Oh I knocked out Simon,’ but it’s not what I’m focused on right now.”

GLORY 12 was a tough night for Joe, but it wasn’t the first time that he’s had to face a loss in his career. “Yeah, when I lose a fight I really get very internal; why I lost the fight, what I was thinking, what I was doing. There are a lot of mistakes that I’ve been making for a long time in my career, stylistically, and we’ve really been focused on changing those things. The sparring has worked out really well and I’m really excited about it. After the Eddie Walker knockout I came back stronger, after I lost to Simon the second time I had to go to Thailand to fight Karapet on short notice, so I really look at my losses as big chunks of experience.

“I mean, look at the records of some of these other guys in the tournament. Sure, I have a much bigger record than Wayne Barrett, but for the most part I have less than everybody else in the tournament. Any and all experience that I can get I gotta take advantage of, but these losses are big for me, they are learning experiences. I’m humbled by my losses and it forces me to take a good look at me and it’s a good thing for my career.”

This brought about the topic of pressure and what kind of pressure that Joe feels going into this tournament. If you remember going into GLORY 10 Joe felt that he had to win the tournament to make a statement about Americans in Kickboxing, but now he sees more and more fighters from America stepping up and this is more about himself and his legacy. Joe is looking for not only a win, but a legacy like that of some of Kickboxing’s legends with back-to-back tournament wins.

“I’ve always put so much pressure on myself that I don’t really see other people’s pressure. I hold myself to a very high standard. In the past I’ve said stuff like, ‘well I’m gonna knock him out in this round’ and put even more pressure on myself, but for me there’s a ton of pressure on this fight for myself. I want to prove and really cement my legacy in Kickboxing. It means the world to me that I was the first American to win a global combat sports tournament like this and it’s really important for me to do it twice in a row. I want to go down in history with like Peter Aerts and Semmy Schilt, that’s the pressure that I feel. I don’t want to be in the back shaking my head and apologizing like I was after the Barrett fight and I have 100% myself to blame for that. I took him too lightly and I just,” Joe paused for a few seconds, searching for the right words. “I screwed up. I didn’t fight my fight, that wasn’t the best Joe Schilling.

“That won’t happen again,” he added, in regards to his frustrations in the fight with Barrett. “I was in there and I was frustrated, not even with Wayne, but I was frustrated with myself. Things picked up in the third round but even then it was sloppy, it was careless, it wasn’t me. So there is a ton of pressure for me not to do that again in this fight, but I feel like with the changes we’ve made there’s no chance of that happening again. There’s a lot less pressure knowing that I’m fighting the best fighters in the world. No one has ever watched a K-1 World Grand Prix and thought, ‘well that guy sucks.’ Everybody in there belongs in there, seven of us, the best Middleweights in the world, are gonna lose on Saturday. It’s gonna be a tough night, I’m not gonna be dancing afterwards. I have the utmost respect for all of the guys in the tournament, but it’s gonna be my night. It’s in my home city in front of my family and my friends, it’s gonna be epic.”

It’s also interesting to note that Schilling does have the homefield advantage going into this tournament, something that he had for the GLORY 10 Middleweight tournament as well. It was something that he was missing at GLORY 12 when he fought Wayne Barrett in New York, though; “Yeah, you know, I walked out and was getting booed. It’s happened twice in my career and both times it’s taken me out of my game. Actually, both times it was on the East coast, maybe I need to not fight on the East coast anymore?” He joked. “But for sure, I’m a lot more comfortable when I fight at home. No one wants to lose in front of their friends.”

So for Joe Schilling at GLORY Last Man Standing there isn’t revenge on his mind, instead it’s his legacy and taking his place as one of the greats in Kickboxing by winning consecutive tournaments. It is without a doubt a tall order considering the talent involved, but Schilling seems just as excited to watch the fights at Last Man Standing and GLORY 17 as he is to compete. He’s a kickboxing fan first and a fighter second and it’s very clear that this Joe Schilling is humbled and mentally prepared for what is before him.

Will it be his night again? Tune in on Saturday night at 10pm Eastern time on PPV for GLORY Last Man Standing, immediately following GLORY 17 on Spike TV at 8pm Eastern time. For more information, head to http://www.gloryppv.com

 

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Joseph Valtellini Talks Career Growth and Learning From Losses

Over the past few weeks I’ve been noticing a trend, this trend is that while GLORY’s fighters are popular and all have their own followings, there has been one fighter that has seemed to move a bit beyond just the Kickboxing fan bubble, that fighter is Joseph Valtellini. His last fight was in December in the GLORY 13 Welterweight Tournament where he fought an amazing fight against Nieky Holzken, a fight that was almost across the board voted as the fight of the year for last year. So it should be considered surprising that he hasn’t fought in six months now yet I’m seeing his name everywhere. 

Then again, it’s not that surprising, considering the man himself. Valtellini comes from humble beginnings, there were no high hopes of a nation pinned upon his shoulders, he wasn’t being trained by world renowned Dutch trainers and when he made his GLORY debut at GLORY 6 he was well-buried in the undercard. He was just a kid from Canada who had built up a decent following for himself in New York, then he stopped the warhorse that is Murat Direkci, which wasn’t something that many saw coming. 

It’s been two years since that happened, with the Kickboxing world taking notice of Valtellini and while he has done his best to keep his life “normal,” it’s clear that things are trending upwards. “It’s been crazy. Well, I still have my full-time job teaching, then I come home quickly, then I have 4-5 to kind of make my dinner, pack for training, head for training at 5.Tonight I actually have one of the local newspapers is coming to my training at 5, then I have a local TV network that I have to head to, I’m getting on the local news tonight at 8, then tomorrow I’ll have to do it all over again. It’s crazy, you know?”

Valtellini is at the point in his career where things are taking off for him, but he thrives on being busy sometimes and wouldn’t know what to do without it. Over the past few months he’s been getting more and more attention after his fight with Holzken, including being flown down to Miami to appear as a guest trainer on the reality television series Combates America. Joe is in demand.

With the biggest fight of his career upon him, though, Joe knows that his popularity and fanbase helps him to get to where he is; “I’m very thankful to the people on social media because when that Marc de Bonte/Karapetyan fight was going on people were tweeting that, you know, I was the one that deserved that spot and so forth. I really have to thank people for being educated on the sport and for believing that I’m worthy of that title.

“It is absolutely where I belong, though,” he is quick to add. “Whether or not Holzken is in the equation, that is a fight that we’ll see again I’m sure and I’ve learned so much since that fight and from that fight, but no matter it being Holzken or De Bonte with that title, this is where I belong right now and I’m going to win that title.”

The Holzken fight has done a lot for Joe’s career, as he can probably attest to for being so busy, even though it was a loss. “Even though it was a loss everyone saw that I was willing to put it all on the line and that my drive and will to win is number one. Also, if you put on an exciting fight, it’s a sport that I love so much that I feel that I want that sport to grow -- especially in North America -- the more GLORY grows the more that I grow. I want for people when they turn the TV on instead of seeing Mixed Martial Arts there to be Kickboxing and GLORY on TV. So yeah, I’m very motivated, this is an exciting time in my career and for Kickboxing. 

“Spike TV has been huge for us Kickboxers across the world because it’s given us the opportunity to be seen. Now there is PPV on top of Spike TV, things are growing and people are jumping on board,” he laughs. “I’m very active on my social media, I like to interact with my fans and supporters so they back me, support me and it fuels me. On June 21st that will be part of what pushes me to the title.”

His last fight may have been in December, but he’s spent the entire time between then and now building himself up and learning more; “I was in the gym the next week after the Holzken fight, doing strength and conditioning, I’ve actually started Boxing a little bit more and working with other Boxers from Canada. I’ve been adding different dimensions to my game. I’ve been looking at my career as a journey, because as a Martial Artist your journey never ends and no matter where I am I will want to learn. No matter what I want to keep improving, keep learning and always be the best. I think that people are going to see a more complete fighter that came out of that fight learning a lot.”

As for if the downtime will affect him; “Nah, it was the right amount of time. I had a very active 2013. It was nice to go to the gym when you don’t have to worry about fighting or weight cutting. That’s the time when you actually do your homework, your studying. It’s like preparing, sharpening yourself. Putting your bag work in, sparring, always learning, adapting and trying new things. I think that time off has put me in a great place and this weight cut has been the best that I’ve ever had. This time off has been great for me, letting me heal, learn, prepare smarter. I’m ready.” 

On June 21st Joe Valtellini will get his shot at greatness at GLORY Last Man Standing on PPV where he’ll fight Marc de Bonte for the GLORY Welterweight Championship. For more information on GLORY Last Man Standing check http://www.gloryppv.com

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Nine Questions with Remy Bonjasky

He is known as "The Flying Gentleman". With a career spanning nearly twenty years, this three time K-1 champion is one of the most well known fighters in the world.. Having recently retired, I caught up with Remy in Istanbul to talk about his past, present and future. In many ways, March 08, 2014, marked the end of an era as Remy announced his final fight would be at Glory 14 in Croatia against Mirko"Cro Cop" Filipovic. True to his reputation as a gentleman and a great sportsman, Remy's exit from the ring was as graceful as his entrance when he defeated the elder Overeem brother, Valentijn in 1995.

SW: Now that "The Flying Gentleman" has landed what are your plans?

RB: Well I have several projects I'm working on, including opening up my second gym. I also am working with several fighters training and there's also doing seminars and other projects. It's not really like a retirement. I will still be very busy.

SW: I know you have your own gym, Bonjasky Academy. Who are you currently working with?

RB: Well, right now, probably my most notable student is Danyo Ilunga. There are some others I am training but Danyo is probably the most well known at this time.

SW: If you weren't training or hadn't become a kickboxer, what other profession do you think you would have pursued?

RB: I probably would have continued my career in banking.

SW: I find it exciting that Glory has revitalized interest in kickboxing in the United States. What are you thoughts on the future of kickboxing, in the States and abroad?

RB: I am very pleased with the organization, its very professional, good shows. I think more interest is definitely showing. It's going to get bigger and bigger. The fights are exciting with lots of knock outs. It's growing.

SW: This is not the first time you have stepped away from kickboxing, I know at one time you were having a problem with one of your eyes. What was the nature of your injury?

RB: It was because I had a detached retina.

SW: After you defeated Mirko in Croatia, there was a weird response in the crowd, what was your take on that?

RB: I don't know. It was a very emotional event, not just for me. It's something that never happened in my career before, but I don't believe they were really booing me, it was about the result. I love the people of Zagreb and they have always shown me a lot of love. I don't know what can you say. I am still very happy that I was able to show my skill and win.

SW: I have always wondered what you were really thinking after your incident with Badr Hari at the 2008 K-1 finals.

RB: *shrugs* Badr. You know he did what he did and as a result the fight had that outcome.

SW: I'm sure you're weren't mad about the prize.

RB: Not at all.

SW: What is something about you, perhaps a little known fact, that your fans might find surprising?

RB: I'm afraid of spiders.

So, it would seem that retirement won't exactly be sipping Pina Coladas on the Riviera for Remy. He already has great plans for the future, including, but not limited to continuing to grow the sport as a trainer and mentor to today's rising stars. We wish Remy the best of luck and look forward to seeing him ringside.

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Jarrell Miller on Cro Cop: "I'm Gonna Knock His Head Off"

The biggest bummer in Kickboxing over the past few years was when Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller stopped fighting in Kickboxing after the controversial loss to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in 2013. There was no big announcement, no big farewell, Jarrell just went back to focusing on what he does best; Boxing. Jarrell is big, he’s fast and he hits hard, which is incredibly valuable in the Boxing ring, but he also has that one extra thing that will make him a star; Jarrell Miller can talk.

So when I saw a message earlier today from Jarrell asking if I could talk for a bit, I knew what I was in for. We ran a series of interviews with Jarrell leading up to his K-1 debut in 2012 and ran a few more around the time of his fight with Cro Cop and there is one thing that we know for certain; Jarrell is a firecracker. Much in the way that Joe Schilling always talks and people listen, Jarrell has the same gift. When we were talking I found myself smiling or laughing more often than not. Why? Because everything that comes out of Jarrell’s mouth is honest, it’s real and it’s all gold.

In fact, I’ve bugged Jarrell a few times over the past year to feel him out if he’d think about returning to Kickboxing. It was always the same thing; if the timing and the money are right. So when he was heading into his last fight on May 15th against Joshua Harris there was already an offer on the table for Jarrell to return to Kickboxing to fight Cro Cop. “The motivation just hasn’t been there to fight Kickboxing again,” he explained. The Cro Cop fight was his biggest fight to date and for many they believed that he won, only for the Croatian judges to come out and talk about them enforcing their own rules about “holding” while ignoring Cro Cop’s headbutts.

Nobody can blame Jarrell for not being excited about Kickboxing anymore, not with his Boxing career taking off. We can’t tell you what kind of stuff that he’s been working on in Boxing, but it’s potentially huge for him. If you’ve heard him talk and seen him fight you know that this guy could be a star, what’s worse for those holding the money is that he knows it. So when Jarrell found himself sitting in the club after his round two TKO win over Harriss, it dawned on him, “Man, I gotta fight Cro Cop. This has to happen.”

That’s when the talks got serious and when Jarrell realized that this was going to happen again. “If there was going to be one thing to motivate me to come back to Kickboxing, it was going to be Cro Cop,” he stated. “Now I’ve got the chance to do that, and you know what? Main event on Spike TV. The timing is right, the money is right, the deal was right. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. I’m at 89% right now already, after a few more weeks of training? Ha!” 

The motivation to Kickbox might not have been there for him over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been watching. In fact, he’s acutely aware of what to expect from Mirko Cro Cop on June 21st. “Are you kidding? He’s throwing what, like 40 punches a round and like five kicks? C’mon, man. I’m over here in training throwing 200 strikes a round and kicks? Forget about it, I’m going to kick him and he’s not going to know what hit him! I’m going to knock his head off! He’s slow.”

Although, he is willing to give Cro Cop his due. “You know, I thought that he beat Bonjasky. With Bonjasky, I saw that fight with Braddock Silva and he was getting beaten up, so then GLORY gives him a big sendoff, but they did it in the wrong place against the wrong guy. I thought that Cro Cop won that fight, you know? That’s why I can’t let it go to the judges again.”

For now Jarrell is just committed to this one fight with GLORY, but he seems open to the idea of more if the timing and money are right. One would have to think that it all depends on how this fight with Mirko goes, but it’s clear that GLORY sees him as a valuable name to bring in on short notice like this. 

 

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The Humanity Behind the Gods of War

He sat alone, inconspicuous to the fans around him and to the action inside of the ring, just off to the side of the stage. It was the first seat in the first row right behind the barrier next to the stage. Those were the seats that intentionally weren’t filled and had played host to a revolving-door of fighters and entourages throughout the night. This was the place where the winners and losers found themselves after their night had ended just to watch the show, this was where Ben Edwards found himself moments after Errol Zimmerman had put him down and out in the first round of their fight.

Edwards was sporting a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, looking calm, collected, not tired at all or like he had just been involved in a fight of any kind. He may have been knocked out, but his face lacked the markings of someone who had just taken a series of punches to it. A fan or two in the crowd might have yelled out his name, but he was incognito, almost removed from the event entirely. I watched as he shook his head at the sight of Pat Barry going down for a second time, getting his brains scrambled. Edwards distinctly understood the disappointment that Barry was going through at that moment.

Sometimes it is difficult to humanize the guys that train their hearts out for our entertainment, difficult to understand their sacrifices that they make and how after the bell has rung, they are just as human as you or I are. Today I rolled out of bed facing a ten-year old car that decided not to start, just one month shy now of a wedding that is costing a lot more than we had initially projected. It’s just another cost and another inconvenience among many of late for me. Yesterday was also a day where a job that owes me seven months of pay sent me one month and asked if I’d start working again. I hate saying no, in just about any situation, but I barely have time to collect my thoughts right now, never mind work for a promise while the bills stack up.

It’s safe to say that some days I understand what Ben Edwards was thinking about as he sat there at GLORY 16 in Broomfield, Colorado quite well. I introduced myself to him as he sat there, alone, taking in the atmosphere. He looked relaxed, calm, a bit embarrassed to be found out in his seat. We stood about the same height, similar build, but one of us was just a God of War who was now adjusting to life as a mortal again. That guy was having a rough night. Ben was quick to apologize, to say that he made a mistake, that he got sloppy, but I assured him that it was no big deal and that he’s come so far in the past few years. He knows that I’ve been following his career and knows that I’m quick to talk up his technical evolution over the past few years. We talked about his technical breakdown of Catalin Morosanu from a few months prior before I left him to stew in his thoughts, knowing that having a rough night means that conversation can be laborious -- especially moments after being humanized.

Raymond Daniels, who fought on the undercard, was walking around the floor of the arena where fans were shouting out his name and stopping to take photos with him while Ben Edwards sat watching Errol Zimmerman walking to the ring again. I won’t even pretend to understand his thought process at the moment, although I could make some educated guesses. I myself found the surreal in seeing Edwards sitting there, watching Zimmerman walk to the ring, Daniels being mobbed, while Josh Jauncey and his brother Jay walked by with Andy Souwer in tow and everyone seemed completely unaware of the gravity and sheer madness of the situation.

All I could think is that Edwards was seconds away from being that guy walking to the ring. Edwards was raining down punishment on Zimmerman, but got caught, so here he is, in the stands, watching the world turn without him, a mortal like the rest of us. On that night he was far from home and all of the countries that he’d been to, all of the big shows that he’s fought on, all of the accolades that he had gained throughout his career didn’t matter, he was just another guy who had a rough night on the job. He was just another observer. There was a strong disconnect from victory and defeat.

We talk about these fighters from a distance, we weigh their perceived value and potential matchups. We place them in numbered lists and assign them value based on the last time that we saw them, but sometimes forget to humanize them and relate them to our own day-to-day struggles. Today I woke up thinking about all of the work that I had waiting for me, quickly dismissing messages on my phone asking when I’d have an article up or if I saw their last message. Sometimes I consider changing professions, pulling away from the sliver of the public eye that I have and the abuse that I open myself to daily. I know that I’m not alone in thinking that, either.

The other day Ben Edwards posted on his Facebook that he was available to dog-sit for anyone in his town that needed it. There was a hint of playfulness in it, just like changing his occupation to “Dog Sitter,” but Ben is already back at work training for an upcoming fight. Just like I continue on, Ben Edwards continues on, re-assimilating himself into the image that the world knows him in. The world keeps turning and Ben Edwards is making sure that he’s not just along for the ride, but for one night he was a human being whose hopes and dreams were as fragile and elusive as our own all are. That night I saw Ben Edwards be larger-than-life in the ring, fighting as one of the best Heavyweight in the world against one of the best Heavyweights in the world, then saw him as a vulnerable guy who was much more than the public’s image of him, the promotion’s image of him, my image of him or his own image of himself.

He’s the amalgamation of those images and he’s not them at all, just like we all are.

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Nicky Hemmers On Dynasty and Pressures

Nicky Hemmers

In Shakespeare's Henry IV part II, the king muses, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." In saying this, the king is referencing how he himself or any other person who is a leader can be consumed with worries due to a sometimes overwhelming amount of responsibility and tough decisions. A crown, however, is not always tangible, it can be analogous to something such as one's surname. One's name in this life can come with certain expectations for achievement.

Within the kickboxing community, the name Hemmers rings loudly and proudly as one of the most prestigious families to be associated with the sport. Beginning with the patriarch, Cor Hemmers, this legacy for greatness in the sport has been passed down now to his son Nick, who is now creating a legacy of his own .

Beginning his own training at age eleven, Nicky has lived on both sides of the combat sports coin as both as fighter and a trainer. Having fought professionally from age 16 until 2 years ago, now he has now found his niche as a trainer in Breda at Hemmers Gym where he helps to shape and mold the careers of many of the best and brightest of today's kickboxing community. If you want to know who, think Errol Zimmerman, Jamal Ben Saddik, Filip Verlinden, Robin van Roosmalen, Marc de Bonte and countless others who are making their way up the ranks in Glory and other organizations.

Coming from such a prestigious and well known family one would think the pressure to perform and/or make a mark in this world would be immense, and perhaps it is, but Nicky plays his role with style, grace as well as with a touch of humor. In our talk prior to Glory 16 in Denver, he touched upon that very issue, stating that he does feel pressure to perform but also, that he feels he has a down to earth style that allows him to not only explore innovative ways of training fighters but also to seek and accept constructive criticism about performance. He names his father as a key figure and stated that he frequently asks for feedback on his performance.

With a maturity that exceeds his actual years of experience, Nicky also seems to have developed rather keen insight on the multi-dimensional role he plays in the life of a fighter. Having been there himself, Nicky is not afraid to counsel his trainees on the importance of having a back up plan to sustain them once their days in the ring have come to an end. Nicky also expresses a clear understanding of his role in letting a fighter know when enough is enough, stating, "Sure, he can do what he wants, just not under my name."

With many impressive wins at Glory 14, 15 and 16, 2014 promises to be a very big year for Nicky and his team. Admittedly, he has faced adversity and change during the last 18 months but still he smiles, remarking that it has been these changes that continue to help him to grow and make him a better person. As Glory 17 approaches, we can only wish him the best of luck as he and the men from Hemmers Gym continue to make their mark in this often unpredictable world of combat sports.

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GLORY 16's Zack Mwekassa on Redemption and New Beginnings

GLORY

"Nothing beats faith and hope in life", Zack Mwekassa said.

Powerful words from a man who has obviously had to live at times on the strength of the meaning of those very words. In a bout that is sure to be explosive, the Glory family welcomes Zack Mwekassa, who is set to face kickboxing's returning son, Pat Barry, at Glory 16 in Denver.

Entering the Glory ring, with a 10-1-9, record, this Congolese fighter is ready to show the world what he's all about. Born the youngest of eight children, Mwekassa's life began as somewhat of a miacle. His mother, he stated, had years previously been told that she would bear no more children, only years later to have become pregnant with Zack and to have had his name revealed to her in a dream.

The son of a chemist, Mwekassa describes a life of happiness with his family but also of conflict between he and one of his older brothers. Conflict that set him on the path to a career in combat sports. The relationship which he characterizes as antagonistic, one day led his father to ask "Why don't you two behave normally? Why don't you get involved in sports, football, basketball, boxing, something!" Ah yes, boxing, through the power of that single suggestion, Mwekassa was on his way.

Although he admits that he initially wanted to be a pilot, Mwekassa began training at age 13. After a while he mused that he was no longer bullied by his brother, he had begun to develop skills that would physically give him the upper hand. From that time Mwekassa embarked on a road to success in the boxing ring that saw him doing whatever honest job, no matter how big or small, to support himself. By this time, Mwekassa states, he was living in South Africa following an arrest in 2004. In this early part of his career, Mwekassa, describes a period of intense struggle before he began to experience success in the ring. He recalls working as a sort of valet, guarding people's cars and at times not being paid for hours of work. Still he perservered, continuing to hone his skills as a fighter and eventually success did come with Mwekassa eventually earning UBC and WBF titles. There, however, often a dark side to success.

It's an often told story in the history of professional sports, many athletes experience a shift in the balance between training and enjoying the fruits of their labour. Id versus ego. He readily admits that for a time partying became more important than training. But as with us all, life has a way of delivering us a smack down that ultimately reorients us to reality, if we are smart. Mwekassa too, had such a rude awakening that caused him to reevaluate his priorities and return to his roots as a God a fearing, disciplined and focused man with his eyes on the prize. Today that prize is success in the ring with Glory and it begins Saturday, May 3rd with the match up against former kickboxing champ and UFC veteran, Pat Barry. Although he admits that prior to the bout being scheduled he had not heard of Barry.

Today Mwekassa presents feeling that he has done his homework and is prepared for the final exam. While he is excited and contemplates a long and bright future with Glory, he is today fully focused on Saturday's event. "No I don't want to call anyone out", he smiled and stated when asked if there were other opponents he would be interested in fighting. Win or lose Saturday night Mwekassa presents as a man is here to go the distance and if his past is in any way predictive of his future he will.

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