MANILA, Philippines – As the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its expansion throughout Asia, heavyweight fighter Alistair Overeem believes it would benefit the local mixed martial arts (MMA) scene in the region.
The world’s premier MMA organization was aggressive in enlarging its reach in 2014, staging six events in Europe, 13 fight cards in Brazil and an Ultimate Fighter television series in China.
In addition, the UFC launched its online network “Fight Pass” and opened offices in London, Toronto, Singapore, Beijing and Sao Paulo.
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, the company has been eyeing to visit countries like Russia, South Korea and Scotland in 2015.
“They are doing a great job in establishing themselves as a global brand,” Overeem told Rappler. “They did a tremendous job and they opened so much possibilities. All options are on the table.”
Even though it was not originally mentioned as a definite location for an overseas show, the UFC surprisingly turned its steering wheel to the Philippines and announced its maiden venture in the archipelago on May 16 at the 20,000-seater SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
Overeem, who was part of the Asian combat circuit from 2002 to 2009 and competed in MMA leagues such as DREAM, PRIDE and K-1, expressed his delight over the promotion’s decision to finally host a UFC event in the country after 4 years of anticipation.
“I always love coming to Asia. I fought many times in Japan, where I became a two-time world champion for DREAM and K-1. I even organize training camps in Thailand, which is not too far from here,” he said.
Along with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Overeem (39-14, 1 NC) is one of the two prizefighters in the world to capture world titles in both MMA and kickboxing at the same time.
In the sport of MMA, Overeem held the inaugural Strikeforce heavyweight championship by forcing Paul Buentello to submit with knees to the body before claiming his second world title in December 2010 by knocking out Todd Duffee in 19 seconds to bag the DREAM heavyweight belt.
Meanwhile, Overeem has a kickboxing record of 10-4 with seven knockouts and spent most of his time in K-1, where he won the 2010 World Grand Prix with a first-round stoppage of Peter Aerts in the finals.
Although he is spearheading a meet-and-greet session and public workout at SM Megamall’s Event Center in Mandaluyong City on Sunday, April 19, the 34-year-old Dutch is not slated for UFC’ first Philippine affair numbered as “Fight Night 66” that is headlined by a featherweight super-fight between Urijah Faber and Frankie Edgar.
When asked if he is willing to make the trip to the fight capital of Southeast Asia for an opportunity to showcase his skills in front of Filipino MMA fans, Overeem responded, “Of course!”
Moving back to UFC title picture
The 6-foot-5 striker was at the cusp of vying for the UFC heavyweight championship after having a successful promotional debut in December 2011 by thwarting Brock Lesnar in round one.
With the aforementioned victory over Lesnar, Overeem earned the right to challenge then-champion Junior dos Santos, but he failed a pre-fight drug test for elevated levels of testosterone that sidelined him for 9 months.
Upon his return to action in 2013, he immediately dropped back-to-back bouts in the hands Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Travis Browne.
To compound his misery, the disappointing setbacks pushed Overeem aside in the heavyweight title picture.
Currently ranked at No.8 in the UFC heavyweight standing, Overeem is riding high on a two-fight winning streak, scoring a first-round knockout victory over Stefan Struve this past December before dominantly outpointing Roy Nelson three months later.
According to Overeem, his sights are still set on getting another opportunity for the heavyweight strap.
“When I look at my personal goals, I want to become the UFC heavyweight champion. It’s the only belt I don’t have. It’s the goal from day one. I think I am very close,” he mentioned.
Following his impressive performance against Nelson, Overeem stressed he still wants a piece of Dos Santos and added that a win over the Brazilian power puncher could lure him back into the title mix.
“To be honest, I only think about one name and that is Junior dos Santos. We’re supposed to fight a couple of times. The other one was my fault, and then the other one was his fault. He is not booked in any fight as of now,” he stated.
Dos Santos, who occupies the No. 2-spot in the heavyweight rankings, was last seen inside the Octagon when he had a grueling 5-round battle against Stipe Miocic last December.
“It just makes sense. We should go for a dance,” Overeem warned. – Rappler.com