Muay Thai legends Yodslanki and Buakaw will be fighting on Enfusion Live in 2017 (against opponents yet to be announced) as was confirmed by Enfusion earlier today to the Striking Corner; and it should be noted that Enfusion have made these agreements alone and not in partnership with any other promotion(s).
The breaking news follows on from Fabio Pinca joining the 67kg Enfusion League in the new year. 2017 is looking to be a an even busier year for Pinca who, had also confirmed after defeating Liam Harrison at Yokkao 19, that he’ll also be making his return to GLORY Kickboxing on what has since been confirmed against, Mosab Amrani on December 10 at GLORY 36 – the same night and preceding, GLORY Collision: Rico vs Badr in Oberhausen, Germany.
Earlier this year at Enfusion Live 37, the 72.5kg Enfusion League commenced consisting of: Mohammed Jaraya, Nordin Ben Moh, Jonay Risco, Serginio Kanters (who will now be replaced due to weight cutting issues at Enfusion Live 43), Crice Boussoulou and Tayfun Ozcan.
The 72.5kg Enfusion League returns in February 2017 and will include a mouthwatering rematch: Mohammed Jaraya vs Nordin Ben Moh – both of whom fought one another at Enfusion Live 37 in undoubtedly was one of the most spectacular fights of the year.
It isn’t only Kunlun Fight who have deep pockets to pay the big fees that attract the likes of Buakaw to fight for them. Enfusion have made a statement to the big boys i.e. GLORY and Bellator Kickboxing with this announcement, having organically developed their brand of kickboxing since 2008. The promotion started their journey with Enfusion Reality which, was a reality TV kickboxing show and featured: Eddie Walker, Cyrus Washington, Warren Thompson, Julie Kitchen and Andrew Tate as contestants.
The Striking Corner will bring you more news on both the 67kg Enfsuon League featuring Fabio Pinca and further updates on who and when both, Yodslanki and Buakaw will be fighting in the in the new year too for Enfusion.
Rico Verhoeven collides with arch rival, Badr Hari in Oberhausen, Germany on December 10 in what is undoubtedly the one super fight that has single handily reignited worldwide interest in kickboxing since the “Golden era” of the sport. Verhoeven has reigned as the undisputed GLORY champion since 2014 when he defeated Daniel Ghita via unanimous decision at GLORY 17: Los Angeles.
However, the heavyweight division has been going through a transition period during Verhoeven’s dominance so far and Hari who, is widely acknowledged as the greatest heavyweight kickboxer of his generation, had been semi-dormant due to his well reported issues away from the sport.
Speaking last night about his technical kickboxing ability and the run of form he’s been on, Verhoeven gave a good insight into his overall approach to the sport and his mindset which, quite clearly sets him apart, from any other champion before him.
“I’m on a different level of fighting, I’m using all the tools in the box.”
“Sometimes some tools you can’t use for all the jobs. So, there’s no point in using the tools then. Of course you’re looking at a fight and a certain fighter and how he moves and what he does and stuff like that but in the end it just has to show in the fight. In the fight you feel the distance and you feel the things that could work and that might work and you just try them.”
There is a stereotype that exist about the ‘Dutch style’ of kickboxing especially when it comes to kickboxers who don’t possess the kind of skill set that the likes of Verhoeven (and his former foe, Ghita) have displayed in years gone by.
What is that stereotype? Two fighters standing toe-to-toe, throwing basic combinations starting with a few powerful punches and finishing with a low kick; not too much head movement, or, ring craft either; basically, just a war of attrition and not technically advanced.
“In every fight I go into, my opponent is like a book and I want to read that book in like a minute or a minute and a half, in a round max. After that I want to know everything that’s coming.”
Rico Verhoeven teeps Daniel Ghita – Image: GLORY Sports Intl
“You can see the way things are coming by, the way that someone moves and that’s just a totally a different approach of going towards fight than a lot of people do. They only think about ‘he’s going to throw this and I’m going to throw that back’ but I’m thinking about step five.”
Listening to Verhoeven explain his championship mindset in more detail was even more fascinating, seriously. Due to his politeness and overall conduct, Rico has become a role model for world kickboxing, something that Badr Hari is the complete opposite of in the eyes of most fans. Why? His bad boy image, getting into fights at past press conferences and not forgetting all the reported street violence over the years too which, was probably worse than Mike Tyson in his heyday (and that’s saying something!).
However, Badr’s antics in the buildup to GLORY Collision have not gone down too well with Verhoeven. Hari had mockingly predicted at the Collision press conference that Rico would get knocked out in one round when they collide in Oberhausen:
“He talks so much sh-t. He just talks a lot and I just laugh at it. I hope you trained that hard as you ran your mouth because that’s crazy.”
Bellator Kickboxing returns to action on December 10 via Bellator 168, in the historic city of Florence, Italy. Kevin Ross will be taking on Alessio Arduino in what “The Soul Assassin” hopes will be a more technical fight compared to his previous visit to Italy when he defeated, Matteo Taccini via unanimous decision at Bellator 152. Also featuring on the Florence kickboxing card will be: Joe Schilling vs. Victorio Germano and Giorgio Petrosyan vs. Jordan Watson.
2016 has been a resurgent year for both kickboxing and Muay Thai with various global promotions such as: GLORY, Enfusion Live, Bellator Kickboxing, Kunlun Fight, Muay Thai Grand Prix, Yokkao, Thai Fight and Lion Fight, accumulating more mainstream media exposure (in the western world) than ever before for both rule sets of the striking arts.
Kevin Ross had recently guested on the Joe Rogan Experience with Gaston Bolaños following Lion Fight 31, in an excellent podcast that educated a much wider and different audience than both CSA Gym fighters normally have, about the difference in not only Muay Thai and kickboxing but also, the level of real world class striking compared to MMA. Most importantly, such media exposure (and more) is exactly what both sports need, in order to enhance the profile to the same level that pro boxing and MMA benefit from.
“Looking back to the majority of my career I never thought I’d still be fighting while kickboxing and muay thai was getting this kind of exposure. I never thought I’d be fighting on TV, ever! So for it to be happening and for it to be happening while I’m still active and a high level is amazing to me. You know I think back to not that long ago there was like, I don’t know if this was ever gonna happen.”
Ross was also optimistic about the long term direction in which Bellator Kickboxing were headed in and credited the promotion for not rushing too soon without first developing their brand of kickboxing and most importantly, their own kickboxing superstars that will generate a bigger fanbase into the future and safeguard the promotion’s viability too.
“This show is going to be amazing you know like I was saying before, its a little frustrating how slow it seems to be going but thats the way you have to do things correctly in order to build them up.”
“Thats the mistake a lot of promoters make and have made is that they try to go too big too early. They didn’t take the time to build up their talent, local talent, their exposure and then they do this giant show and then nobody shows up and they lose all their money and they’re gone forever. So, Bellator’s been really doing it smart, taking their time, you know, pulling in the big stars when they can and kinda slowly building their resume, its great to be a part of.”
Bellator 168 – Bellator Kickboxing, Florence:
Lightweight: Giorgio Petrosyan (82-2-2, 1 NC) vs. Jordan Watson (48-11-2)
Flyweight: Denise Kielholtz (45-3) vs. Gloria Peritore (11-1-1)
Lightweight: Kevin Ross (31-9) vs. Alessio Arduini (26-14-2)
Middleweight: Joe Schilling (19-9) vs. Victorio Lermano (30-7)
Welterweight: Karim Ghajji (96-13-1) vs. Luca Novello (22-4-2)
Ognjen Topic recently fought Muay Thai legend, Saenchai, last month at Yokkao 22 in Honk Kong and unfortunately, lost by decision. There aren’t many Farangs that are given much of a chance in the minds of Thai boxing fans when matched-up against the +400 fight veteran but then again, Topic is regarded as ‘one of the best technically gifted Thai fighters’ of the current crop (by none other than Damien Trainor who, was coaching at CSA Gym during November).
However, Topic himself was the first to admit that the fight didn’t unfold anywhere as what he would’ve liked or had planned:
“I’m not happy at all about the fight but we’re talking about a guy that’s been doing it for a very long time and he has quite a bit more experience than I do so, I’m trying to stay positive. It’s difficult especially when you’re competitive individual.”
“Before the fight and during the fight I felt great mentally, physically you know. I didn’t look at him as some, some god of Muay Thai. I just looked at him as an opponent and I prepared myself as I always do. I went into the fight with the mentality of winning and even when I was in the fight, you know it was difficult, I still wanted to beat him so, that’s that.”
It’s interesting that Topic mentioned the ‘mentality of fighting’ because not only is it fair to say that fighting is 99% in the mind but so is having the self-belief and aptitude in achieving our life goals and dreams too. Self doubt can really cripple fighters mentality; a good example of this would be the way how pro boxer, Nicholas Walters surrendered after six rounds against Vasyl Lomachenko, over the weekend in Las Vegas. Topic explained what he does away from the gym in his spare time to help him mentally with moving forward in his fighting career.
“Another thing I like to do is sometime if I have some downtime is I go on YouTube and look up documentaries on any businessman. You know I like I’m into cars so I’ll go look up the guy that started the company Koenigsegg, you know an exotic car company or Pagani. So, you kinda just listen to how they talk and how they began these things, their story and their dreams and how everything came to fruition. Then it kinda you know puts things into perspective you can follow this steps as well from other people and then you can learn from them.”
“So it really doesn’t matter what profession it is, you can always take something away from any I guess, elite person, on that high level that has that mentality to be persistent and dedicated to their craft.”
Simon Marcus vs Joe Schilling
Muay Thai is one of the oldest forms of fighting and as a professional sport, doesn’t gain the high levels of mainstream media coverage compared to pro boxing. The likes of Joe Schilling and Kevin Ross have both previously voiced the difficulties that they’ve faced in their careers before the emergence of GLORY,LionFight, Bellator Kickboxing and Muay Thai Grand Prix in recent years. Even kickboxing has struggled especially since the “Golden era” of the ‘old skool’ K-1 days in Japan.
However the tide would seem to be turning for both Muay Thai and kickboxing especially now that the UFC have, for the first time ever, partnered with another sporting promotion i.e. GLORY Kickboxing to be their PPV online media partner via UFC Fight Pass for streaming, GLORY Collision: Rico Verhoeven vs Badr Hari.
Even UFC colour commentator, Joe Rogan has been voicing his support and love for K1/Thai rules and recently had Kevin Ross, Gaston Bolanos and their coach (CSA Gym owner), Kieran Fitzpatrick on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast which, Topic was delighted about for the long term benefit of the sport.
“It was great. I really hope that a lot of people tuned in. Kevin Ross really gave a really good explanation on you know, Muay Thai and the difference between the striking between Muay Thai and MMA and it pretty much how all of us Muay Thai fighters feel you know but we never really have a stage to say that; and I think he kinda opened up Joe Rogan’s eyes as well, you know with clinch and things like that because it doesn’t seem like a lot of those guys understand and know the difference between the two, the two sports. So its great that they were on the show and they were able to kind of give that differentiation.”
Rico Verhoeven vs Badr Hari is set to make kickboxing history on December 10 in Oberhausen, Germany where GLORY Collision takes centre stage at the, König Pilsener Arena. World kickboxing will excitedly tune in for what will certainly be a violent night of, ‘old skool vs. new school’ beef between, the “prince of kickboxing” and the “Golden Boy”; and the level of hostility between them has been on the ante since the infamous press conference at the, Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Despite his inactivity over the last couple of years, Badr Hari has been involved in some (if not most) of the biggest blockbuster fights in kickboxing so far, in a professional fighting career that is currently four years shy of two decades.
Two of the most explosive collisions from the past that instantly come to mind involving the Dutch born Moroccon are: his bitter feud with former K-1 World Grand Prix, Strikeforce and DREAM champion (now UFC heavyweight contender), Alistair Overeem; and more impressively, his emphatic first round KO of Semmy Schilt who, is a four time K-1 World GP champion and former King of Pancrase open weight champion (now retired) at It’s Showtime in 2009.
Standing at almost seven feet tall, Schilt is widely regarded as the greatest super heavyweight kickboxer of all time with an impressive list of success, titles and honours that no other has yet come close to competing with. He even managed to win the K-1 World GP three times in a row which, reinforces his dominance, during the peak of what was then the “Golden era”, or, as Rico Verhoeven puts it, ‘old skool’ kickboxing in Japan.
Rico Verhoeven has also fought Semmy Schilt back in 2012 in what was the GLORY Heavyweight Grand Slam a one-off event event of its type for the promotion (and a throwback to the 8-man tournaments of the K-1 days) at GLORY 4 in Tokyo, Japan. However, Schilt was too good on the night for Rico who, lost via unanimous decision at the quarter final stage. The “Hightower” would go on to secure his final trophy before later retiring from the sport as a legend.
Badr Hari was 24 years of age and had a fight record at the time of 101 fights (93 wins and eight defeats) when he shocked the world and knocked out Schilt in 2009. Whereas Verhoeven was 22 when he lost to the Dutch kickboxing legend and had a fight record then of 47 wins, nine loses and one draw. However, over the last five years a lot has happened in the lives and careers of both men especially for Hari who, has been subject to, a variety of alleged and or reported criminal cases; and has reportedly been held on remand too.
Whilst Badr Hari had more than his fair share of reported personal issues over the last half-a-decade, Rico Verhoeven has grown as both a man and as a professional fighter since his defeat to Schilt and carries himself as a role model of the sport. Ever since that defeat, he has been on a great run of form with 11 wins (since 2012) and only one decision loss to, Andrey Gerasimchuk at Kunlun Fight 15 in 2015. Rico also won his MMA debut which, prompted even stronger rumours, that he would be making the transition from kickboxing to MMA in 2017; and that the UFC were allegedly monitoring the situation.
Many including Rico Verhoeven, have cast serious doubt over Badr Hari being physically sharp enough come December 10, compared to how he use to be in years gone by i.e. before all the reported troubles and Badr’s overlapping period of inactivity. However, Hari last fought in August 2015 and won by third round TKO against GLORY heavyweight, Ismael Londt in a right rollercoaster of a fight at, Akhmat Fight Show in Grozny, Russia.
Legendary kickboxing coach, Mike Passenier coaches Badr Hari and is confident that the “Golden Boy” will be in the best shape possible for Rico Verhoeven; especially with sufficient time and efficient preparation being implemented since ‘Collision’ was confirmed during the summer. Without a shadow of a doubt, both heavyweights will have the ‘bit between their teeth’ to give their all in the ring (and in their respective fight camps) to be the victor in Oberhausen in kickboxing’s very own, ‘good guy vs. bad guy’.
Andrew Tate will defend his 90kg Enfusion Live world championship in The Hague, Netherlands on December 3, against Enfusion’s current 85kg world champion, Ibrahim El Boustati who, is undefeated in all 44 career fights he has had to-date. Known as “The Beast”, for his aggressive and pressure fighting style, El Boustati has torn through the 85kg division including, a recent decision win (under controversial circumstances) over GLORY kickboxer, Filip Verlinden.
For those who may or may not be aware, Andrew Tate is a four time world champion and initially from a full contact kickboxing background who, made the smooth transition to K1 rules. He was also born in America but emigrated to the UK as a teenager with, his mother and younger brother when their parents’ marriage broke down. It was in England where he began his kickboxing career from scratch under the guidance of his coach, Amir Subasic, developing into a world class fighter.
However, “Cobra Tate” is returning from a lay-off of two years but insists that the lengthy time away from the sport has done him wonders in allowing his body to repair itself from numerous past injuries.
“I’ve had a couple of years off. Im not just a fighter, I have some money to make outside of fighting. I’ve enjoyed the break. It’s good to let all the injuries after 10 years. I’m not coming back to do anything other than defend this belt. I’ve had a lot of time off and I feel like a new man. I’m really looking forward to fighting again.”
Andrew Tate v Ibrahim El Boustati – Image: Enfusion Live, Fightsense
Tate is well known for being able to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ with some of his past and current rivalries in and out of the ring. He is a kickboxing promotion’s dream of a champion who, isn’t shy of expressing his strong opinions and backing up his promises of knocking out opponents in the ring too.
So, why haven’t GLORY Kickboxing signed him up to fight for them in recent years especially in the USA when taking into account he is an American who, proudly wears the stars and stripes on his fight shorts too?
“I was supposed to fight for GLORY many times. I signed contracts but fights never materialised many times.
That wasn’t all that Tate had to say on the subject of both GLORY and their former middleweight champion who, prior to signing for Bellator Kickboxing, was the public face of GLORY in the US, Joe Schilling; next fighting at Bellator 167 in a kickboxing bout on, December 10 in Italy.
“Joe Schilling’s been avoiding me since forever. I don’t even want to talk about him, he’s just afraid to fight me and he keeps getting knocked out anyway. I would’ve spanked him.”
“So he knows I would’ve spanked him. He knew he was gonna get sparked that’s why he wouldn’t fight me. Before GLORY existed we were supposed to fight.”
Enfusion was set-up and still run by, Edwin Van Os after he sold his previous promotion, It’s Showtime which, has since been rebranded and relaunched as GLORY Sport International. Enfusion are a Dutch based promotion with a wealth of exciting and very talented young fighters that are not tied into exclusive contracts either, allowing them to fight in other promotions such as Kunlun Fight in Chinaand K-1 in Japan.
“I think that Enfusion have done a really good job in growing organically you know. Getting as big as they can without spunking loads of money. Another thing Enfusion have done really well is they have built their own superstars. You can name some of the big names for Enfusion; they done a really good job with promoting people like [Mohammed] Jaraya and Ibrahim [El Boustati].
After defeating Verlinden at Enfusion Live 41 earlier this year, El Boustati’s next major challenge is to step-up in weight class and take on Tate in what will be a clash of two champions. The match-up will certainly be fascinating to witness since Tate has a fighting style that has caused countless problems for past opponents; with his mastering of distance and countering with powerfully fast and long limbs, from a more bladed stance than you’d expect from kickboxers nowadays.
“He’s done really, really well. He’s never lost. I can’t say anything about the guy. He’s had a very, very successful career; and, I’m very much looking forward to fighting Ibrahim – let’s see why he never loses.”