Badr Hari

Episode 42 – Anoop Hothi aka K1Anoop

In this episode of the podcast Vinny & Eric are joined by Kickboxing journalist Anoop Hothi, also known as K1Anoop. A blogger, writer, journalist, and avid Twitter user, K1Anoop has been covering the Muay Thai and Kickboxing scene in the UK and in Europe for quite some time. A huge fan of K1/Glory rules Kickboxing, we talk to Anoop about the recent Glory Collision card, Enfusion, how promotions can better broadcast their product, and so much more! We also talk a bit about how screwdrivers seem to be the weapon of choice in street fights in the UK, how Eric has never been to a strip club, and other such nonsense. We had fun with this one and lost track of time a bit! Enjoy!

GLORY Collision: The great hype that stumbled on a night of great expectations

The most anticipated event in the modern era of kickboxing didn’t quite live up to everyone’s great expectations. After half a year of buildup to Rico vs Badr, come fight night, not only did we have an overly drawn out online viewing experience split into two or three different online streams (depending where in the world you were); Tiffany van Soest made history winning the the inaugural women’s straw-weight championship in a borefest of a tournament; Badr Hari’s arm got broken just as his ‘Collision’ with Rico Verhoeven got exciting; and Sittichai vs. Marat Grigorian and Pinca vs Amrani were overshadowed by the sheer volume of fights from having three overall fight cards.

Cedric Doumbe

Cedric Doumbe – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

However, Nieky Holzken was finally dethroned as GLORY welterweight champion by Cedric Doumbe, in what was a damn good fight to watch and witness how to unlock the four year puzzle that is the “The Natural”. Ismael Londt lost a thrilling decision to Moroccan-Dutch juggernaut, Jamal Ben Saddik and Michael Duut returned in spectacular fashion to GLORY Kickboxing with an enthralling decision win over Danyo Ilunga. Both Duut’s and Ben Saddik’s victories were crowd pleasers and will undoubtedly be YouTube favourites for the next couple of weeks or longer; and attract more casual fight fans to kickboxing.

GLORY Collision – Summary: 

  • Rico breaks Badr’s arm up against the rope with powerful clinch knees before the referee could pull them apart.
  • Doumbe dethrones Holzken with an excellent performance showcasing: speed, confidence and a highly efficient game plan being executed.
  • Ben Saddik pulled off an amazing result against Ismael Londt and had “Mr Pain” in all sorts of problems.
  • Tiffany van Soest won the inaugural women’s straw-weight tournament (but the Iman Barlow question will continue to linger).
Tiffany van Soest

Tiffany van Soest – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

Unfortunately, GLORY seem to have a habit of learning things the hard way since they have existed. We all remember the consequences of airing a free undercard event (GLORY 17, headlined by Mirko Cro Cop vs. Jarrell Miller) immediately before the PPV for GLORY Last Man Standing which is, probably, their best event to-date. The promotion were well reported to have had their own recession after the PPV figures in 2014 were a failure, leading to the likes of Tyrone Spong and Gökhan Saki not returning to GLORY due to big name fighters allegedly having to take major pay cuts; As well as other contract negotiations and issues.

Schilling

Schilling KOs Marcus, GLORY Last Man Standing – Image: Glory Sports Int’l

The UFC Fight Pass deal announced earlier this year was always good news for both GLORY and kickboxing. Although, it would seem that GLORY still need to smarten up their approach to broadcasting their events to the widest possible audience and fixing the overall structure of the fight cards; Hopefully, they will in the new year. Otherwise, they are going to risk losing out on attracting, potentially, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of new fight fans to the GLORY brand of technical violence and exciting KOs.

Why? Online (or ideally TV) access to watch such grand events needs to be made much easier i.e. on one channel / portal with the fights altogether and not on a multitude of different platforms). Listen to episode 42 of The Striking Corner podcast this week because this is one of the many interesting talking points we dig into.

Overall verdict on GLORY Collision (plus, GLORY 36 and the SuperFight Series)?

Badr Hari

Badr and Rico after their Collision – Photo credit: James Law, GLORY Sports Int’l

Disappointing. However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

There’s very promising and achievable room for improvement that could, ‘blow all the fish out of the water’ (i.e. their promotional rivals) in 2017. Most importantly, GLORY are on the verge of elevating mainstream media coverage to a whole new level for kickboxing on a long term basis, which the sport has been struggling with for decades. The knock-on effect of GLORY’s potential to boost the profile of the sport on a global scale will enhance the potential revenue streams for everyone involved in kickboxing, making the sport more of a commercially viable profession and industry too.

GLORY Collision – Results:

Rico Verhoeven def. Badr Hari via Rd2 TKO (injury)

Cedric Doumbe def. Nieky Holzken by split decision (SD) – new welterweight champion

Jamal Ben Saddik def. Ismael Londt via UD

Tiffany van Soest def. Amel Dehby via UD – Women’s straw-weight tournament final

Glory 36 – Results:

Sittichai Sitsongpeenong def. Marat Grigorian by SD, retains lightweight title

Dylan Salvador def. Hysni Beqiri, UD – Lightweight tournament final

Fabio Pinca def. Mosab Amrani, SD

Hysni Beqiri def. Antonio Gomez, UD – Lightweight semi-final

Dylan Salvador def. Anatoly Moiseev, MD – Lightweight semi-final

SuperFight Series – Results:

Michael Duut def. Danyo Ilunga via UD (extra round)

Harut Grigorian def. Danijel Solaja by Rd1 KO

Amel Dehby def. Isis Verbeek, UD – Women’s straw-weight semi-final

Tiffany van Soest def. Jessica Gladstone, UD – Women’s straw-weight semi-final

Tyjani Beztati def. Andrej Bruhl, UD

Rico Verhoeven: ‘I’m on a different level of fighting’ and thinking five steps ahead

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

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.”

Ognjen Topic reflects on Saenchai and the ‘mentality of fighting’ for success

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

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, Lion Fight, 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.

tsc-ep-39-gaston-bolanos“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.”

 

GLORY Collision: Rico Verhoeven vs. Badr Hari preview – ‘Old skool vs. new school’

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’.

 

 

Yokkao 19 & 20 – Post event review: ‘Pinca The Conqueror’ humbles Harrison and Watson ‘sherlocks’ Hodge

Fabio Pinca returned to the UK on, October 8 and secured a unanimous decision win over home favourite, Liam Harrison at Yokkao 19. These two legends of western Muay Thai were supposed to fight one another in France over the last 11 years, with Pinca suggesting in his post weigh-in interview that Harrison wasn’t too keen on taking the fight outside of the UK in the past.

The opening round was cagey with both fighters feeling each other out to begin with but from the second round onwards the tempo accelerated and both would increasingly engage one another. Pinca managed to cut Harrison on his left cheek (below the eye) in the third but the ring-craft, speed and tenacity displayed by both men was sensational. However, range control, switch hitting and that left kick of Pinca’s were decisive factors for the decision going against Harrison who, was always threatening with his explosiveness, fast hands and deadly low kicks.

Fabio Pinca vs Liam Harrison

Having previously defeated Reece McAllister at the Tanko Main Event in May (by decision), plus, Charlie Peters on Lion Fight 27 in the USA (at the start of the year) and now Harrison at Yokkao 19, ‘Pinca The Conqueror’ is clearly at the height of his powers. At 65 kg, it isn’t too easy to think of who else could even ask more challenging questions of him.

In his post-fight interview with K1ANOOP, Pinca confirmed he’d signed a multiple fight deal with GLORY Kickboxing and will next fight on the GLORY Collision event headlined by, Badr Hari vs Rico Verhoeven in Germany on, December 10.

Jordan Watson didn’t hesitate to show what his hands could do against Ben Hodge with some lovely body hooks landing throughout the fight. Hodge was under more pressure than Watson but the fight was by no means a one sided affair. Hodge was coming off a recent win over Saiyok Pumphanmuang at Thai Fight London in September, where he demonstrated his technical proficiency and good counterattacking skills on the back step. Something that would have given Watson more problems on the night (had Hodge found his range sooner) in-preparation for Giorgio Petrosyan who, he faces next at the Bellator Kickboxing event on December 10 in Italy.

Jordan Watson v Ben Hodge Yokkao 20

Jordan Watson v Ben Hodge

However, Hodge admitted in his post-fight interview that his emotions got the better of him in the ring – triggered off by the weigh-in drama the day before which, resulted in the fight no longer being a title defence for, Watson’s 70kg Yokkao world championship. Hodge summed up perfectly that both himself and Watson are intelligent fighters with intelligent coaches, so, the fight was always going to be determined by who, was more successful, in applying their tactical approach on the night at Yokkao 20.

Manachai surprisingly bulldozed his way through Panicos Yusuf for five rounds which, certainly came as a shock considering that Panicos is no pushover and can certainly stand his ground. Most of what Panicos tried to pull off on the night didn’t have any real impact on Manachai and it was as if the Thai was at times playfully throwing Panicos around – something I wouldn’t have fought would happen so easily. However, whenever the Thais come to fight in the UK, they always seem extra determined to give the Brits a damn good hiding.

Panicos Yusuf Yokkao 20

Panicos Yusuf vs Manachai

Maybe it wasn’t Panicos’s night and anything that could go wrong for him unfortunately did which, can happen. Or, is Manachai actually a hell of a lot better than the matchmakers had thought he was? Also, Panicos has become a lot more involved in the commercial world of combat sports as one of three directors of Tanko Management – has his commercial ambition taken away some of his hunger to fight like he use to?

Jack Kennedy continues to build even more momentum with his unanimous decision win over the powerfully talented Nathan Bendon. These two top quality fighters fought like a pair of tigers in the ring and the fight was full of entertaining yet technical violence. The bout was even dubbed as ‘fight of the night’ by colour commentator, Vinny Shoreman which, certainly sums ups how stacked the overall fight card was, especially when considering the likes of, Harrison and Pinca were one of two main events.

Bendon started well in the first couple of rounds but as the fight eventually went the distance, Kennedy was more efficient with his overall Thai boxing and seemed to frustrate Bendon. The future is very bright for both fighters, especially for Kennedy who, had recently won a 4-man Super Muay Thai tournament in Thailand prior to Yokkao 19 & 20.

Steven Long tremendously turned around his fight against Daniel Jedrzejezski after being cut in the outer corner of his right eye, in a terrible opening round for Long. However from the second round onwards it was all bout Long’s effective clinch-knee entry to pressure and eventually dominate Jedrzejezski.

By the end of the third round, Long’s clinching was proving too difficult for Jedrzejezski to deal with who, found himself on the end of another knee to the body that dropped him to the canvas. After surviving the count, he would find himself on the end of yet another knee but was fortunately saved by the bell as he buckled in discomfort. However, when the fourth round started it didn’t take long for Long to land another knee to Jedrzejezski’s body and the fight was over.

Overall, Yokkao 19 & 20 was without a doubt the best Muay Thai event of the year so far to be hosted in the UK, with exceptionally talented fighters showcasing their skill on both fight cards. Also, Harrison is reportedly set to return to action next month with further details to follow in due course.

As for the UK, if it hasn’t already established itself as a very strong nation for both Muay Thai (and K1 rules) yet to the rest of the world then apart from mainstream media coverage for the casual fans to take note, Thai boxing purists and global promotions can no longer ignore the UK scene; fast emerging as a global leader in the sport.

Yokkao 19 – Results:

Fabio Pinca def. Liam Harrison via UD, -65kg

Chris Shaw def. Jersey Pinto via UD, fight set at 73kg

Charles Sikwa def, Darren Howieson by UD, -86kg

Adi Woods def. Owen Trykowski via UD, -72.5kg

Steven Long def. Daniel Jedrzejewski by KO, Rd4, -69kg

Yokkao 20 – Results:

Jordan Watson def. Ben Hodge via UD, -70kg

Manachai def. Panicos Yusuf via UD, -63kg

Jake Purdy def. Brad Stanton via MD, fight set at 69kg

Amy Pirnie def. Ludivine Lesnier via TKO, Rd2, -50kg

Jack Kennedy def Nathan Bendon via UD, -65kg

Myk Estlick def. Carlos Campos via UD, -61.5kg