Alistair Overeem is a former Dream heavyweight champion and K-1 World Grand Prix winner. The Dutchman would go on to have a successful career with Strikeforce and the UFC.
The 39-year-old heads into his 60th professional MMA fight this weekend. He is set to take on #9 ranked heavyweight Walt Harris in the main event of UFC Jacksonville.
The Pride veteran has probably seen it all in his extensive combat sport career. After all there can’t be many fighters who have won titles with elite promotions in kickboxing and MMA.
But fighting behind closed doors will be a new experience for Overeem. He is used to competing in Japan where audiences aren’t traditionally as loud as they are in the west.
But Overeem says this is not the same as fighting in an empty arena,
“Well it’s not a similar environment because the crowds in Japan are respectful but they’re not quiet. If the fight heats up, they’re going to make noise. They’re going to be there. And I don’t think you can compare the two. When you’re fighting in front of an audience of 50,000 that is just a little bit quieter but more respectful you cannot compare it to no audience. You’ll hear all the punches, hear all the noise, even the commentators. It will be different.”
Overeem’s point of view contrasts to Dominick Cruz’s. The former bantamweight champion was one of the first to make the Japanese comparison ahead of his loss to Henry Cejudo last weekend,
‘The reason why I created that relation is that it’s been done before. I used to watch Pride all the time and it would be silent. From my experience of the Japanese community is that they’re very educated in the sport and they want to know every single move and they respect every single move so that’s why they’re quiet and they listen. I don’t know, I’ve never actually fought in Japan but that’s what it looks like to me. So, I’m looking at it as that. If it’s been done before where they’re fighting in pure silence and they can only hear each other’s corners, then I can do that. So, I’m kind of visualising it’s going to be like if I fought in Japan. If it’s been done before I can do it.”
Overeem will certainly be hoping that his fight goes better than Cruz’s did. The Dutchman is looking to return to winning ways after suffering a fifth-round knockout against Jairzinho Rozenstruik in December.
Another Pride veteran, Fabricio Werdum, was in action last week and faced an unhappy return to the Octagon following a two year suspension. He suffered a split decision loss to Aleksei Oleinik and Overeem was not too impressed with his former opponent’s performance.
“It didn’t look good at all. I don’t know what his reasons are. It could be age, it could be the lay-off, I don’t know. Difficult to say. But nevertheless, he lost, and I think he didn’t look too good,” Overeem said.
Meanwhile Overeem came out in support of another old adversary, Stipe Miocic after UFC president Dana White suggested that the champion could be stripped of his title,
“Maybe an interim belt is a better solution. I think stripping is very hard. And also he’s worthy champion, I don’t really think he’s afraid of anything. It’s a timing thing for him, he’s got other obligations. So they need to get that interim belt in there,” Overeem said.
A win this weekend is essential for Overeem’s own title ambitions. Harris comes into this on the back of two first-round finishes but the Dutchman is confident of coming out on top,
“I’m not too worried. I’m very well prepared. I feel good. I’m loose, I’m relaxed, I’m flowing and I’m going to be working to finish this fight.”
Overeem has seen it all in a combat sport career that has encompassed successful stints with Pride, Dream, K-1, Strikeforce and the UFC. He’s never fought in front of an empty arena before but sees it as an exciting new challenge,
“The fact that there’s no audience, to me that’s a new impulse, that’s a new experience. I live for that stuff.”