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 itâs not a similar environment because the crowds in Japan are respectful but theyâre not quiet. If the fight heats up, theyâre going to make noise. Theyâre going to be there. And I donât think you can compare the two. When youâre 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. Youâll hear all the punches, hear all the noise, even the commentators. It will be different.”
Overeemâs point of view contrasts to Dominick Cruzâs. The former bantamweight champion was one of the first to make the Japanese comparison ahead of his loss to Henry Cejudo last weekend,
âThe reason why I created that relation is that itâs 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 theyâre very educated in the sport and they want to know every single move and they respect every single move so thatâs why theyâre quiet and they listen. I donât know, Iâve never actually fought in Japan but thatâs what it looks like to me. So, Iâm looking at it as that. If itâs been done before where theyâre fighting in pure silence and they can only hear each otherâs corners, then I can do that. So, Iâm kind of visualising itâs going to be like if I fought in Japan. If itâs been done before I can do it.”
Overeem will certainly be hoping that his fight goes better than Cruzâs 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 opponentâs performance.
“It didnât look good at all. I donât know what his reasons are. It could be age, it could be the lay-off, I donât know. Difficult to say. But nevertheless, he lost, and I think he didnât 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 heâs worthy champion, I donât really think heâs afraid of anything. Itâs a timing thing for him, heâs got other obligations. So they need to get that interim belt in there,” Overeem said.
A win this weekend is essential for Overeemâs 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,
“Iâm not too worried. Iâm very well prepared. I feel good. Iâm loose, Iâm relaxed, Iâm flowing and Iâm 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 thereâs no audience, to me thatâs a new impulse, thatâs a new experience. I live for that stuff.”