This weekend, Alistair Overeem will make his Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament debut, fighting the man who already defeated him back in PRIDE, "Vai Cavalo" Fabricio Werdum. Overeem will step inside the Strikeforce cage as the K-1 2010 WGP Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion and of course Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion. One of the people standing behind the success of Alistair Overeem and other Team Golden Glory fighters is the coach Martijn "The Specialist" De Jong.
De Jong is a 2nd degree Black Belt in traditional Jiu-Jitsu, 1st degree Black Belt Kyokushin Budokai and a 1st degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. "The Specialist" is also a president of Shooto Europe, ADCC Europe and the CEO of the successful United Glory MMA promotion.
We had an opportunity to speak to the legendary coach about his expectations from Alistair Overeem this weekend, Team Golden Glory and the state of Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing in The Netherlands.
Big fight is coming up this weekend with Alistair fighting Fabricio Werdum. How are his preparations going, and what's the current stage of his training camp?
Alistair is very focused. He's a professional fighter and is fully prepared for this fight. We had a very long training camp of around three months. He's looking forward to this fight also because he lost to Werdum back in Pride, so yeah, it's a special one for him. He's very relaxed and confident in his abilities, so everything is going pretty well so far.
To which aspect of fighting you gave most of the attention during this training camp?
It doesn't really matter. MMA is a combination of things; standing up, takedowns and submissions. So we worked on each and every one of these areas. Of course there are certain things we trained especially for Werdum, but it's a part of the gameplan. As a coach, I think that if you give too much attention to one area you forget about another. That's why our goal was to give Alistair the tools to beat Werdum in every aspect of MMA.
But obviously Fabricio Werdum's main strength is his ground game. How good is Alistair's Jiu-Jitsu?
We had notable Black Belts coming to help Alistair with Jiu-Jitsu, and he has been beating them all on the ground. So his Jiu-Jitsu is actually very very good. Of course during this camp he did a lot of training with Jon Olav Einemo. He's one of the few men to defeat Roger Gracie so you can really say his Jiu-Jitsu is world class. Alistair's Jiu-Jitsu is good just like his overall MMA game.
Do you think Alistair Overeem's BJJ game is underrated? After all, he won the ADCC Euro Championship back in the day.
I think it's very underrated. Alistair is a K-1 World Champion and he's well known for knocking people out, so he doesn't really needs to use his Jiu-Jitsu to win a fight. His ground game is amazing. It's not like a typical Jiu-Jitsu we all know, but more of MMA-type Jiu-Jitsu grappling thing. It's very effective.
What in your opinion is the X factor coming to this fight?
The X factor is definitely Alistair's focus and his training. He's so focused, so professional and training like a Champion. And when you're training like a Champion, you'll be a Champion.
Last weekend Junior Dos Santos impressively defeated Shane Carwin. What do you think about dos Santos' striking, and how do you compare it to the one of Alistair Overeem?
Junior has very good striking skills. His boxing is amazing. He's fast and has a good eye, so to say, he knows where and when to hit his opponent. As a fighter, I like his fighting style, although I think Alistair is a more complete fighter. Dos Santos is just a boxer, but Alistair is a kickboxer, so I think he's slightly above dos Santos when it comes to striking.
Werdum will be representing Kings MMA Gym, and his coach Rafael Cordeiro. Is there any competitive spirit from your side, also to prove yourself as a coach against Cordeiro?
Well, not really. Me and Rafael Cordeiro are good friends. I met him at the UFC, and he's a very good guy. He's doing a great job with all the athletes he's coaching right now, but so do I. I have the Strikeforce Women's Champion Marloes Coenen, Three-times Shooto Champion Siyar Bahadurzada, Alistair, Valentijn… and so on. I'm not really competitive; I just do my own thing and do my best to help Golden Glory fighters. I would like to also mention Cor Hemmers and Roberto Flamingo who have a big part in our success. We try to bring our athletes to the highest level, and that's about it.
In light of the success Team Golden Glory had last year, what are your goals for 2011?
We want to go with the same flow we did in 2010. We're looking for more titles. Valentijn and Kharitonov won at Strikeforce, Marloes Coenen defended her title, and we also have Dino Staring who became a Champion in WFCA, which is a European MMA fighting union, then of course Siyar won the Glory World Series, Jason Jones who won his fight, Denis Stojnic… I mean, we're doing well and want to keep on going. We have Strikeforce titles now and have our eyes on the UFC belts in the future. So in short, our goal is to keep on collecting titles.
Do you think that Team Golden Glory is currently the #1 camp in Mixed Martial Arts? I mean, there's A.K.A, American Top Team, and of course Greg Jackson's who are considered by many to be the best.
I think we're catching up right now. We have our Champions in Strikeforce and a lot of other guys coming up. Greg Jackson is doing a great job, but we're coming at him (laughing). You know, I think we already on the top with the guys we have right now.
What's the current situation with MMA in Netherlands, and particularly in Amsterdam?
The mayor of Amsterdam got informed by certain people that there's some criminality involved with MMA and Kickboxing. So he decided that you will be "screened" before making an event. We think it's actually a good thing, and we have a great relationship with the mayor of Amsterdam. We have another appointment with him in July, so we're going to discuss how we are going to make the environment better for MMA and Kickboxing in the Netherlands. Because, I think it's more of a misunderstanding and not knowing what's going on. He was surprised to know that Holland is right now the top Kickboxing country, especially after what happened in Japan. If MMA and Kickboxing get banned here, it will be not only bad for fighters but also for the kids who are living on the streets and need that platform. That's what we are trying to explain him, he understands it and together we're looking for solution. It's not an easy job, and it will take time but I'm still very positive about it.
Alright, Martijn. Thanks a lot for your time, and I wish you, Alistair and Team Golden Glory all the best of luck this Saturday!
Thanks a lot. I would like to thank all the fans who are supporting us as a team and support the United Glory World Series. It's very important for us, and helps us to keep on going. We have a big announcement coming up, so stay tuned!