At last Thursday’s official GLORY Collision 2 Press Conference, reigning GLORY World Heavyweight Champion Rico Verhoeven and Badr Hari fielded questions from the Dutch media about their upcoming 21 December rematch in Arnhem, Netherlands. The two fighters first met in December 2016, a bout won by Verhoeven on a second-round TKO when Hari couldn’t continue because of an arm injury.
With the first bout ending under disappointing circumstances, a rematch between two of the Netherlands’ biggest kickboxing stars was almost inevitable. On 21 December, a little over three years after their first match, Verhoeven and Hari will once again do battle before 25,000 plus fans.
While the title won’t be on the line in the scheduled five-rounder, the stakes are still high for Verhoeven. A loss would end the champion’s 11-fight winning streak spanning almost five years. A defeat would also bring into question how good Rico really is. While’s he’s been unbeatable in Glory over the past few years, some like to point out the current crop of heavyweight contenders is not as talented as in the past.
During the press conference, Verhoeven was asked about the differences heading into the rematch compared to the first Hari fight, his focus on kickboxing while he pursues an acting career, and why he wanted to face Hari again, among other subjects.
Here are some of the questions and responses from the champion.
Verhoeven photo courtesy of James Law/Glory Sports International
Q: What has been the biggest difference since then (Rico-Badr 1 in December 2016)?
Rico: I think the biggest difference is yeah, we evolve. We get more mature. We get stronger, physically. We get more experience, ring experience. Been under the highest pressure every time, every fight since then. We keep doing what we’re doing. Performing at the highest level and winning. So, I think that’s the best thing.
Q: You’ve obviously had a lot of other things in your life. You went to a lot of Instagram followers. Your ambition is to be a Hollywood star. Is it a different focus now from the time three years ago when you were fighting Badr?
Rico: No, definitely not a different focus, because from the basics I always understand where I’m coming from and where the rest of the business is coming from. And It comes from Rico being the athlete, and being the family man. After that, all the other businesses come.
So, Rico’s always the athlete. I’m training every day. With a fight, without a fight, I’m there. I’m putting in the work. So for me, I’m always hanging around 70 percent if I’m not fighting. So to get to 100 percent is not that tough of a job.
Q: If you’d have to choose between playing a big role as a movie star in Oceans 15 or winning this fight?
A: Oh, definitely winning this fight.
Q: The fight is in two months but this is like the first round. Can you tell how important this press conference is for you and how you approach press conference like this?
Rico: This press conference I think is very important. The arena’s already sold out, so that’s amazing. I think this is just a little bit of extra spark for everybody to get even more hyped. Hey, this fight is coming. Everybody knows it’s coming. Now all the media’s here, and everybody’s gonna have to wait til the 21st. But it’s getting there. 9 weeks to go.
Q: Isn’t it a chance to get the first mental blow on your opponent or don’t you approach it like that?
Rico: Yeah, maybe. I think the mental warfare already started. It happens on social media, throwing out posts on whatever. In the end, you have to be mentally and physically strong on the 21st. Whatever happens before that? I’m not really bothered with that.
Q: When you look around, it’s becoming a media circus more and more over the years. Rico, do you enjoy it?
Rico: Yeah, of course. I enjoy it and I embrace it, because for me it’s always been a goal to put this sport and bring this sport to a high level. And to let everybody enjoy it. What happens outside the ring, happens outside the ring. But in the ring, we’re athletes and we want to perform on the highest level and show we’re sports and entertainment. And it’s a tough game, it’s a hard game. But in the end we respect each other, and that’s what it is. Because the next day, after the fight, we go home back to our families and enjoy life.
Q: Last fight was a bit like a anticlimax because of the injury of Badr. Do you think that will influence this fight? Do you think back about it and have a good win now or doesn’t matter?
Rico: That’s totally out of my hands. I’m gonna be in the ring. I’m gonna perform at the best I can. Either way, he’s gonna quit anyway or he’s gonna get knocked out. So, that’s whats gonna happen the 21st December.
Badr: I was waiting for this moment in this conversation. He can go fuck himself. I’m gonna knock him out 21st December.
Rico: You need a Badr army. I’m a one-man army, baby. Let’s go. I can do this all by myself. I don’t need nobody. You just make sure you’re there the 21st of December and don’t quit this time.
Q: How many rounds do you need to finish the game?
Rico: Last time, I only needed two. So I hope for the fans, we’re going at least for four.
Q: Rico, a couple of months ago you went on the Joe Rogan Podcast, one of the biggest podcasts in the world and you expressed some doubts about Badr’s record. The 100+ wins, the 90+ KOs. You said you couldn’t find all the fights. So I’m wondering did you find the fights in the meantime, and do you still have doubts about Badr’s record?
Rico: Exactly. I think you added everything up. So I still couldn’t find it so…
Q: Rico was asked in Dutch whether his recent ring activity (hasn’t fought since Glory 59 in September 2018) will affect the fight?
Rico: No, I don’t think so. What we have created in sparring is many different types of fighters. The ring situations we created during the fight, we’re trying to recreate in the gym. It’s different, but we have many good people back to spar with.
Q: Rico, in the first round last time, how did that feel?
Rico: That first round was just testing what his reach and speed were. But after one and a half minutes, I found his reach. He jabbed me a few times, but no stress. In the second round, I wanted to increase the pressure. Then he gave up.
Q: Does that feel like unfinished business?
Rico: Yes, we want to finish it now.
Q: Did you carry that feeling for 3 years?
Rico: Not really. I always hoped this fight would come back. Not just for the fans but for us. Both of us weren’t satisfied. I hope for a great end.
Q: Rico, is your preparation different compared to the last time?
Rico: No, not really actually. I think throughout the years we created a way of training and a way of getting fit that works for me. That gets me ready to fight. And gets me on a certain fit level. But the only thing that changes every time is the opponent, so the game plan/strategy changes every fight. Because depends on what type of opponent you’re fighting.
So last time we were fighting a Big Badr, now we’re fighting a small Badr. Things will change.
I think that’s the difference.
Q: Is there going to be a title match (if Badr wins on 21 December)?
Rico: Either way, I’m not going to lose. Even though it’s not a title fight, every fight feels like a title fight for me. So even if I’m defending the title or not, if I lose I don’t really feel like I probably still have the belt. I don’t feel like I’m the champion then. If I would lose, with a crazy miracle would happen for Badr, he can start praying already. Yeah, I don’t feel like the champion so I can even give him the belt. Because when you lose, you’re not the champion anymore. So, that’s how I feel about that. But it’s not gonna happen. I’m still gonna be champion because I’ve been champion for the last six years.
Q: Rico asked why he wanted to fight Badr again?
Rico: Because I think this is what everybody was waiting for. Everybody wanted to see this fight.