Now’s The Time For Rico Verhoeven vs. Alistair Overeem

(Daniel Herbertson)

If you follow MMA, this past weekend was one marked by a somewhat unremarkable UFC 218, but most importantly, it featured former K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 champion Alistair Overeem against up-and-coming heavyweight crusher Francis Ngannou. Here we are, just days out, and Alistair Overeem, head cocked back by the force of Ngannou’s uppercut, has become a meme all while Ngannou is set to become the next dominant heavyweight in the UFC that looks unstoppable.

If you are asking why this is pertinent to GLORY, the answer is simple: it’s been clear for the past few months that GLORY has been angling for Alistair Overeem to fight Rico Verhoeven in GLORY. While that might seem like a logistical nightmare with Overeem in the UFC with what is most likely a very exclusive contract, GLORY’s partnership with UFC Fight Pass makes things a bit muddier. When speaking to GLORY’s Scott Rudmann prior to GLORY 46, his take on Overeem was far from vague: “Do you think this Overeem and Rico stuff came out of nowhere? That we’re going to give something airtime if we can’t make it happen in the future?”

When prompted about a possible GLORY fight recently, Overeem seemed dismissive, instead claiming that Rico should come to him, echoing his thoughts from earlier this year.

Yet we’ve seen Rico’s name come up in more and more Overeem interviews and Overeem’s name come up in more and more Rico Verhoeven interviews this year. This coming weekend Rico Verhoeven is set to headline GLORY’s annual December event, much in the vein of last year’s Badr Hari fight, but this time it’s not a Badr rematch, it’s a rematch with Jamal Ben Saddik. That fight is a rematch from a 2011 fight in It’s Showtime, when both men were much younger and Rico was an entirely different fighter.

While Ben Saddik is no pushover, he’s also no star, either. His story about battling cancer remains something only kickboxing die-hards ever talk about and the only time he’s really snatched headlines have been for the kind of stuff that nobody wants to be getting press for: like stomping Hesdy Gerges and being suspended for a year, or when he spat on Rico Verhoeven during a face-off leading into GLORY: Redemption.

To say that Rico is predicted to win is an understatement. Jamal Ben Saddik is very dangerous, but Rico Verhoeven is the face of the company and in the prime of his career. It’s questionable that anyone within GLORY’s division could really defeat Verhoeven right now. A Badr rematch was logical, but Badr’s legal issues have made him unreliable at best. Ben Saddik was the next logical step, which perhaps speaks to how shallow of a division heavyweight can be, but all of the while GLORY has been mentioning Overeem in passing.

If UFC would be willing to let him fight on a Fight Pass PPV, something which seemed far-fetched a year ago, but in the wake of Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather seems more likely, GLORY would have their biggest show to date. While Badr Hari was able to excite a handful of European and Moroccan fans, Alistair Overeem’s profile internationally is much, much higher, never mind his clout in America thanks to his UFC run. When his UFC contract was up and there were purported talks with GLORY, the one thing that kept Overeem in the UFC was his desire to make a run for the heavyweight title. In September of last year he got his shot at Stipe Miocic, but was unable to get it done. This year he was able to knock out Mark Hunt and defeat Fabricio Werdum yet again, but when he ran into Francis Ngannou’s right uppercut everything was reset yet again.

For GLORY, now is the time to push as hard as possible to bring Overeem into the fold for this fight. Coming off of a devastating loss to Ngannou, Overeem’s dreams of world titles have, at least for now, been extinguished, leaving him drifting in UFC’s heavyweight pool for the time being. Chances are that GLORY: Redemption won’t be the same level of success that GLORY: Collision was, just by the sheer fact that Badr Hari’s aura alone was enough to churn interest in the event. A year-end fight in 2018 with Overeem would make sense, but realistically, it should be as soon as possible.

Overeem is, quite simply, the biggest crossover star that they could aim for right now, still in his prime and he has a track record in kickboxing that most fighters could only dream of.