"I have to start over and I have a great test against Travis Browne, so that's my priority right now. Nothing else." - Alistair Overeem
When you’ve won for as long as UFC Fight Night co-main event fighter Alistair Overeem has, a loss often becomes bigger news than any of the victories. He’s found that out the hard way, as the time following his February defeat at the hands of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva has been filled with queries about what went wrong that night in Las Vegas.
“Well, talking afterwards is always easy and I don't like to make excuses, but I think I underestimated him a little, which looking back was not the best thing to do,” he said.
Overeem wasn’t the only one underestimating the Brazilian, who was two fights removed from getting mauled and stopped in a single round by Cain Velasquez. Sure, “Bigfoot” bounced back with a knockout of Travis Browne, but even that was a win in which Browne’s torn left hamstring put a slight asterisk on the victory. So if Overeem, unbeaten in 12 fights since 2007, seemed to think it would be an easy night at the office, it was almost understandable.
“I respect every opponent,” he said. “If you are in the UFC that means you can fight and that was the same with Bigfoot. Looking back, I wasn't very nervous and was very confident, and you might argue I was too confident.”
Ahead in the fight entering the final round, Overeem got caught, hurt, and finished by Silva 25 seconds into the third. Just like that, there would be no title shot for “The Reem,” only a trip back to the drawing board to regroup. > Watch: Alistair Overeem vs Brock Lesner at UFC 141
“It's part of the game,” he said. “I have lost numerous times in my career and most of the times I became a better fighter after that, so what doesn't kill you makes you strong, right?”
“I don't want to go back all the time and talk about the fight with Bigfoot,” said Overeem. “It's over, he was the better man and got his title shot. I have to start over and I have a great test against Travis Browne, so that's my priority right now. Nothing else.”
It’s the right attitude to have if he is going to get back in the title picture, and in Browne, he’s facing the type of fighter that will find out the truth when it comes to the Netherlands product’s worthiness to challenge the winner of October’s Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos rubber match in Houston.
“He's a very dangerous fighter with a big record so I know he's good in the standup but also decent on the ground,” said Overeem of his foe. “So it's safe to say he's an all-round fighter, so I know I have to bring my A game if I want to defeat him.”
All reports out of Overeem’s Blackzilians’ camp in Florida point to the 33-year-old being fired up and on his A game heading into the fight, a good sign for the fans that have followed him not just in the UFC, but in Strikeforce, PRIDE, and K-1. It’s been quite a ride for them and him, but heading into this weekend’s bout, he’s feeling as if he’s still on track for big things.
“Every fight it's different and every fight has new challenges,” he said. “Obviously I lost my last fight, so that's changes a little. You learn more from a fight you lose then from a winning fight, so in that sense it gave me time to think and make adjustments in my training and that's exactly what I have been doing.”
So with a big statement-making win, does Overeem see himself jumping back to the front of the contenders’ line?
“We both are top ranked fighters, and in our sport anything can happen,” he said. “The heavyweight division is not very deep, so it's up to the UFC to decide what they want to do, but the outcome of JDS vs Cain would also determine what will happen in the heavyweight division.”
Scouting the Opponent
Overeem would be an interesting match for either fighter, with the bad blood between him and dos Santos (who he was originally scheduled to face at UFC 146) well documented, and the stylistic clash between him and Velasquez very intriguing. So does the former K-1 Grand Prix, Strikeforce, and Dream champion have a preference in who he would like to face?
“No, it doesn't matter. I expect that the fans want to see me more against JDS than Cain, so that would be a great match for sure. But I’d rather fight the one that holds that UFC belt around his waist.”
Does that mean he’s picking Velasquez in the rubber match?
“It’s very hard to make a prediction for the fight, as dos Santos now knows he can lose to Velasquez, so he will be prepared. He knows what Cain is going to do to him now so that might work in favor of dos Santos, but if I have to put my money on someone, I’ll still go for Cain Velasquez. But it's a close fight.”
“My career has been a rollercoaster with ups and downs, but my fans always supported me and I'm so grateful for that,” he said. “That's one of my biggest reasons to train hard, so I can show my fans what I bring to the game. They can expect a good and entertaining fight from us both, as we both like to go in for the kill.”
And few do it better than Overeem.