Alistair Overeem is a fighter who has fought, and beat, a number of the top fighters to have ever competed in mixed martial arts. He has also competed in the whose who of promotions, from the defunct Pride and Strikeforce, to his current employers the UFC. With notable wins over the likes of Brock Lesnar, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt and Vitor Belfort, Overeem has one of the most impressive resumés in the sport.
As a former K-1, Strikeforce and Dream champion, Overeem has pretty much done it all, except the infamous UFC gold. Currently ranked #7 in the UFC heavyweight division, the Demolition Man recently defeated Frank Mir at UFC 169 after suffering two losses in a row. Now 2-2 inside the Octagon, Overeem looked better conditioned, more focused and got a dominant decision win, announcing himself once again as a contender for the title.
After a torrid 2013, Overeem looks on track to do big things this year and he hopes to refine the form that originally got him a title shot against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146. Though he ultimately had to pull out of the fight, ‘The Demolition Man’ is in a solid position to get another booking to challenge for UFC gold.
Though ‘Reem’ called out Brock Lesnar in his post-fight interview of UFC 169 – the man he defeated in his UFC debut – it looks unlikely that this will be his next opponent. I spoke with the Dutch heavyweight about future opponents, his thoughts of Dana’s comments after the fight and regarding Junior Dos Santos, and his plans for 2014.
JC: Thank you Mr. Overeem for your time, it’s a pleasure talking with such a high profile fighter such as yourself. First, I’d like to talk about your fight with Frank Mir at UFC 169. What was your game plan for that fight, and are you happy with your performance?
AO: I’m very happy with my performance. I fought smart, that was also my game plan. I’ve trained very hard and that paid off.
JC: How does it feel to put in such a dominant performance, yet have the UFC president publically criticise it?
AO: I respect anyone’s opinion. As I said before, he is a promoter and he wants to offer the fans the best fights. I can only respect that.
JC: Now I would like to turn to the Junior Dos Santos saga. You were scheduled to face JDS for the heavyweight title at UFC 146, and Dana revealed that you turned down two fights recently. Can you expand on that?
AO: I truly understand Dana’s point of view and his position as a promoter. If I was him, I would also always look for the most interesting fights. Of course I would like to fight JDS but before I can decide about such a fight, I need to be fully recovered because I see JDS as a very strong opponent and I want to be 100% fit before I take a fight like that.
JC: Does a rematch with either Travis Browne or Antonio Silva interest you, or would you like to move on to different opponents such as Josh Barnett?
AO: I’ll fight anyone, it doesn’t matter who it is. Basically any fight with top 10 heavyweights interest me, so yes, also Josh Barnett.
JC: You trained in Thailand for your fight with Mir, how different was it from training in America with the Blackzilians?
AO: I chose Thailand because I was invited to train there. I had an appearance on a Japanese TV show at the end of December, so I could easily combine that, plus, and that’s maybe the most important reason, everything is very close by. So you don’t spend hours driving from one spot to another. My schedule was therefore very efficient so I didn’t waste any energy.
JC: Have you ever considered doing a similar thing to Tyrone Spong and fight in K-1 as well as in MMA, or does your UFC contract not allow this to happen?
AO: The UFC does not allow me to fight outside of the UFC.
JC: And speaking of K-1, there is footage of you training with Gokhan Saki ahead of the fight with Mir. You had to fight him back in 2010, what is it like to fight a teammate? Are there any noticeable differences?
AO: No, there is not much of a difference. If you train together, you know about each others weaknesses and strengths, but eventually you always have to make sure your qualities are better then your opponents of course. And also, what happens during training is so much different than what happens in the ring or cage.
JC: You showed a much improved gas tank and must have worked on your cardio a lot ahead of the fight with Mir, is this something you think you were missing in the fights with Silva and Browne? And do you think you can beat them in rematches?
AO: In the fights against them I chose a different game plan which didn’t work out as I hoped and this cost me a lot of energy. In Thailand I’ve worked on my cardio and different game plans and strategies. I know for sure I can beat them, I’m the better fighter.
JC: You’ve had a few run-ins with Mark Hunt in the past, would that fight interest you next?
AO: I know him very well, he is a great guy, I did a few shows in Japan together with him. He is a very likable guy! But, every fight will interest me! It’s part of the job. So, yes, also a fight against Mark would interest me.
JC: How far do you see yourself away from a shot at the heavyweight title? You have wins over two of the UFC’s top 10 in the division.
AO: Of course that is my ultimate goal. But, the UFC title is not on my mind at the moment. First I would like to focus on my full recovery and then take a next fight. Whenever the belt is ready for me, I’ll be there.
JC: You have fought in the best MMA promotions in the world, which one do you consider your favorite?
AO: In my opinion the Pride shows were the best shows in that period. I really love the Japanese fans and they are very supportive and loyal fans as well. But, of course UFC shows are very professional and I love the atmosphere in the Octagon too. Fighting in a cage excites me more than a ring.
JC: Are there any retired fighters you wish you had faced in your career – Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Bas Rutten etc?
AO: I would have loved to fight Fedor in my Pride time, not because I didn’t like him, but because I consider him as one as the best fighter of that time.
JC: I was watching an old Pride fight of yours the other day, what ever happened to your walkout with the massive hammer?
AO: It was part of a particular phase in my career. I lost it along the way *laughs*
JC: What do you think 2014 holds for Alistair Overeem? Do you have any goals for this year?
AO: Stay healthy, train hard, work hard and enjoy every minute of life.
I would like to thank Alistair Overeem for his time, and Iris, part of Overeem’s management team, for scheduling the interview. You can follow the Demolition Man on Twitter: @alistairovereem.