"I’m in a good spot right now. I’m very optimistic, and I’m very positive it’s going to show in this fight." - Alistair Overeem
After 51 professional mixed martial arts fights, not to mention a successful run in pro kickboxing, you have to wonder what gets Alistair Overeem up in the morning to train in a sport where part of the gig includes people throwing punches and kicks at your head. For him, it’s simple.
“Well, usually I’m throwing punches at people (Laughs), and that’s where it starts, and the other thing is I’m just very hungry still,” he said. “I think it’s either in you or it isn’t. In that sense I’m stubborn, and I just want to win and I want to be the best. A good way to say it is I’m ambitious and a bad way to say it is I’m greedy, and I think you need both.”
He’s a hundred percent on target with that assessment, and it’s what separates the haves and the have nots in this or any other business. You have to want more, and while wanting too much could push you in the wrong direction, having the ability to walk the line between ambitious and greedy keeps fighters like Overeem at the top of the game.
It’s been that way for a while for the 34-year-old Netherlands heavyweight, who was a good 205-pound fighter back in the PRIDE days in Japan, but who didn’t have that special quality he’s shown as a heavyweight. Once moving up to tangle with the big boys though, Overeem brought an athleticism to the table that, coupled with his technique and power, made him one of the best in the division; something he couldn’t always claim at light heavyweight.
So when he made his way to the UFC in 2011, expectations were high for him to tear through the division and make a run at the title, with Superfights against the likes of Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos getting fight fans riled up like never before.
A knockout of Brock Lesnar in his Octagon debut only built the momentum, but losses to Antonio Silva and Travis Browne (both of which he was winning before getting stopped), along with a long layoff after he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels, put him in rough waters.
A split with the Blackzilians team also threw a wrench in the works, but after a February win over Frank Mir, which was followed by a move to Albuquerque to train with the Jackson’s MMA camp, Overeem appears to be back on track and at peace heading into tonight’s UFC Fight Night co-main event against Ben Rothwell.
“Already in the Mir fight I changed things up, and you can see that in my result – I dominated the fight, it was very clean, and for me it was a victory, not only Frank but also over myself, and I kept on building on that,” Overeem said. “I do have to say that of course they (the Jackson’s MMA team) are not going to teach me how to fight, but I am very impressed with the facilities and the knowledge they have about the fight game. They have a lot of experience and it shows in everything, including how they deal with people. It’s very Zen, I like it a lot, and I’m in a good spot right now. I’m very optimistic, and I’m very positive it’s going to show in this fight.”
With that Zen atmosphere, would it be safe to assume that “The Reem” isn’t paying too much attention to any negative comments coming from former associates and teammates?
“That’s one of the things about me which I love personally and I’m sure that other people hate,” he laughs. “To be honest, I don’t really give a damn what other people think of me because I don’t have a relationship with them and they mean nothing to me. I fight for myself, my motivation is me. And to be honest, I feel honored that so many people are talking smack about me. That means that I’m doing something good and I’m in their mind. But they are certainly not in my mind.”
What is on Overeem’s mind is the idea of turning the corner, of taking the past and leaving it there. He’s done it before, and he hopes that this tumultuous year of change is going to be the last one he’ll have to deal with.
“I’m happy and I’m very proud of the progress that I’ve made because I’ve really changed a lot of things,” he said. “My career has had certain phases where it went downhill, and I stepped up and took charge of the situation and I changed, if not everything, a lot of things, and great results came after. It’s been a long road, it’s been a lot of work, but I’m proud of it and I feel great.”
He also feels a little greedy…for gold.
“I definitely see myself as a future champion,” Overeem said. “I’m in a good spot right now. I just need to keep my head in the right place, I need to keep the right people around me, and it’s going to be a very exciting final couple years of my career. Let the good times begin.”