In order for MMA fans to understand the magnitude of the Dec. 10 GLORY: COLLISION main event which pits kickboxers Rico Verhoeven against rival Badr Hari, they have to use a little imagination.
Imagine that Chuck Liddell was born a few years later, and Jon Jones was born a few years earlier, and the two UFC light heavyweight icons fought when each was in his prime. Now imagine if boxing greats Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had fought in their primes, rather than in their late and mid-30s.
Getting it now? Verhoeven vs. Hari is as big, as exciting and as historic as any kickboxing showdown has ever been. It is the best vs. the best. The pair are both top-tier fighters in their physical primes who both have a legitimate claim to being not only the best in the world, but the best, period.
And fans can see it live on UFC.tv – click here for details. The special event takes place in Oberhausen, Germany and begins at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Dec. 10. The super card also features a GLORY welterweight title fight and the tournament finale to crown the first ever GLORY women’s champion. GLORY: COLLISION will conclude before the UFC 206 FIGHT PASS Prelims begin.
Rico Verhoeven, 49-10 (13 KOs), has risen from fresh-faced youngster to reigning GLORY world heavyweight champion and has cleaned out the division along the way. In his early years he earned the nickname "The Prince," a reference to his chiseled good looks and winning personality. The 27-year-old Dutch-born family man is a life-long martial artist, a dedicated athlete in the mold of an Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre.
His level of dominance as champion and his skill set as a fighter are so sophisticated, it was fans who began to campaign for “The Prince” to be recognized as “The King.”
Watching this from a distance was kickboxing’s bad boy Badr Hari, the incredibly decorated 31-year-old with the impossible 106-12 (93 KOs) record and enough firepower to knock down the walls of a Medieval city. The former K-1 heavyweight champion is probably the most famous name in the sport: not only has he defeated a who’s who of kickboxing – including Rey Sefo , Alistair Overeem, Semmy Schilt and Ruslan Karaev – but his record with law enforcement authorities is almost as long.
Verhoeven is a family man whose chief pleasure in life is, when not training, to spend time with his two young daughters.
Born in Amsterdam but also a Moroccan citizen, Hari cuts a dark, brooding figure with his open connections the Amsterdam underworld. He is almost the opposite of the mild-mannered, clean-cut, sportsmanlike Verhoeven. Hari has been arrested many times for “nightlife” - related brawls and has lost two high-profile kickboxing fights via disqualification for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Asked to explain these incidents, he offered: "I am able to explode at any moment. When my brakes are off, it's just one big clump of explosion, chaos and noise, and I become blind to it all. A storm, a hurricane, a disaster. There just is a certain aggression inside of me, of which I don't know what to do with and neither where it comes from.”
The combination of that kind of infamy and his Mike Tyson-like power has made Hari the highest-paid free agent in the sport. And ever since Verhoeven rose to prominence, fans has been clamoring for them to fight.
GLORY got the deal done, and the clash will headline the special GLORY: Collision Pay-Per-View on Dec. 10.
Hollywood could not script a better pair of opposing characters, such is the contrast between them both in personality and in in-ring performance.
Verhoeven is one of the finest athletes in the sport's history. At 6-feet, 5-inches and 251 pounds, he is an incredible physical specimen with his towering frame packed with muscle. He lives to train and is incredibly strict with himself when it comes to diet and fitness. He once said he doesn't know what the inside of a nightclub looks like.
Hari is built for power. At 6-6 and 265 pounds, his strikes have overcome the likes of Overeem, Schilt and Peter Aerts. And, with 88 percent of opponents stopped, he is universally considered the most dangerous puncher in the sport.
Where Hari looks for a stoppage from the opening bell, Verhoeven coolly picks his opponents apart over several rounds and makes them look unworthy of being in there with him.
Hari is fire; Verhoeven is ice. Verhoeven is the master of strategy; Hari is the master of the knockout blow. Hari is power; Verhoeven is intellect.
The fight will be a three-rounder, not five as the GLORY title is not on the line. Hari’s supporters think a sprint favors their man over the more methodical Verhoeven.
However, at Tuesday’s press conference, Verhoeven warned Hari: “You can’t prepare for me in just four months. I am ready for this fight. I was ready a few months ago, I am ready now. For me the fight could be next week. He is getting ready, I was already ready. I was born ready.”
In turn, Hari – who refused to speak English at the press conference - mocked the younger fighter, saying, “I was knocking out legends in K-1 in Japan while you were still fighting wearing shin guards. I don’t know what he’s talking about, I am 31, not 41. I am going to knock him out in one round.”
Hari refused to pose for photographs, and stormed out of the room, leaving his opponent to say: “That’s his character, that’s him, right there.”
If you only watch one kickboxing fight this year, make sure it is this one. The stage is set for an epic encounter and, in this instance, the fight itself will definitely live up to the hype.
GLORY: COLLISION takes place Saturday, Dec. 10 at the König Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany. The event is available live Dec. 10 on UFC.tv beginning at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT and will be conclude before the UFC 206 FIGHT PASS Prelims begin.