“Never get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.”
That little bit of wisdom got tossed around the Kyte household pretty frequently when I was growing up, handed out as free advice from my mother to friends that were standing at the top of the mountain, down in the dumps or residing at any point in between.
While I’m quite confident that my mother has never crossed paths with Alistair Overeem, it appears that the UFC heavyweight ascribes to the same philosophy as Carol Anne Kyte.
Following his loss to Ben Rothwell back in September, the 34-year-old basically shrugged his shoulders and said he got caught, opting instead to focus on the work he put in during training camp and how optimistic he was about his future as a member of Team Jackson-Winkeljohn. The preparation was right, even if the results weren’t.
Three months later, Overeem stepped into the cage with fellow Dutch heavyweight Stefan Struve as part of the main card of 2014’s final UFC on FOX event in Phoenix, Arizona. That fight ended in the first round as well, but this time it was the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion that was victorious, as he took Struve down and ended the bout with a blistering right hand that landed flush.
Now Overeem is once again preparing to stride into the Octagon, matched with former Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson as part of the star-studded main card at UFC 185 this weekend in Dallas. After getting back into the win column the last time out and poised to potentially make a run at the heavyweight crown, “The Reem” is still keeping his emotions level.
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“The result will come out after this fight,” he answers when asked how his most recent triumph factors into his preparation and mindset heading into Saturday’s showdown with “Big Country” inside the American Airlines Center. “We’re continuing on the same recipe. We’ve added some elements for success, so we’ll see what this fight brings. I can tell you I’m very excited – I feel very ready and I’m very excited to fight Roy Nelson and show my skill. I feel very confident about it and very good about it.”
The two combatants enter on opposite footing.
Where Overeem is coming off a first-round knockout win that put him back into the conversation in the heavyweight ranks, “Big Country” has lost three of his last four and hits the Octagon hoping to rebound from a second-round knockout loss to Mark Hunt last September in Japan.
The setback was just the second time in his 30-fight career that the Las Vegas native had been finished, but while Overeem sees opportunities for success from having studied the fight footage, he’s also realistic about what transpired inside Saitama Super Arena as well.
“Mark Hunt is the strongest heavyweight there is, so that he went out from a punch from Mark doesn’t surprise me because Mark punches damn hard,” he offers in regards to Nelson’s recent loss. “It also underlines the fact that everyone can get knocked out. I know Roy was a heavyweight that had never got knocked out, but it’s going to be everybody’s turn sometime.
“If the knockout is there, it’s going to be there. I’m a fighter that naturally wants to knock my opponent out – the will is there, but it takes two to tango. You watch tape, you study, you see where the holes are, where the opportunities are at and sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.”
Though Overeem is very much even-tempered and realistic about the ebbs and flows of the fight game, don’t mistake that levelheaded approach for a lack of ambition.
Now six fights into his UFC career, the amiable Dutch knockout artist boasts a 3-3 record and currently resides at No. 9 in the heavyweight rankings. To this point, he’s fallen short of the lofty expectations that followed him from Strikeforce, but Overeem is as focused on reaching the top of the heavyweight division now as he was when he first arrived in the UFC.
> See the Ultimate Alistair Overeem collection on UFC FIGHT PASS
As far as he’s concerned, getting the chance to stay active and keep building on his December success while growing more comfortable as a member of Team Jackson-Winkeljohn means it’s only a matter of time before he reaches that goal.
“In the beginning, it’s always like testing the waters,” he says of starting in with the all-star cast of fighters and coaches that work out of the Acoma Street fight sanctuary in Albuquerque. “Now I feel like part of the team. I get along with everybody; it’s very relaxed. I bring in my own guys, everybody is getting along and vibing and you go from there. I definitely feel I’m improving – definitely.
“And for me, I like to stay active,” he continues. “I still have a couple more years to go and I definitely see the UFC title in range, but that means I’ve got to stay focused and I’ve got to stay active. That UFC title is the biggest accomplishment and will be the crown of my career, so I’ve set my goals and sacrifice comes with that. I’m here, I’m ready to go and after this fight, I’ll hit the gym again and request to fight again soon.”
Everything he says is balanced and thought out.
He’s clearly not just saying what he thinks you want to hear, but there is none of the usual “I’m really happy to be here” joy that you get with UFC newcomers or the “I’m all fired up, brother” pro wrestling speak that veterans hoping to make a run use to ensure their passion and focus comes across.
It’s not that Overeem isn’t fired up and ready to fight, it’s just that he knows that at the end of the day, all that matters is what happens once the cage door closes and, even then, he’s not going to define himself by a positive or negative result in the Octagon.
“I’m very excited,” he says about Saturday’s bout.
Even if his tone doesn’t match his words, I know this to be true. His approach was drilled into my head growing up and even if it didn’t stick, I can still recognize it whenever I see it.
Never get too high with the highs or too low with the lows.
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