Middleweight fighter Bastien Huveneers maybe isn't "The Muscles from Brussels" himself Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he certainly is no slouch inside the cage. The Belgian fighter, now living in Canada, is 10-3-1 in professional mixed martial arts and wants to continue to make a name for himself in the mixed martial arts scene.
"He [Jean-Claude Van Damme] is only a big name everyone knows. I watched all the action movies like everybody else. When I was young I didn't even know he was Belgian, I didn't even know the difference between American and Belgian, everybody was speaking French on my TV," Huveneers told Bleacherreport.com. "I wouldn't say I'm a fan or looked up to him, but yeah I enjoyed his movies and looking at him kicking ass, it's funny to see how ridiculous those movies are sometimes when you watch them again [laughingly]."
Like most people, Huveneers has seen Van Damme's movies but doesn't care much more than that for his fellow Belgian.
Maybe it's because Huveneers is accustomed to professional fighting and can see through the smoke and mirrors of the old-school Hollywood action films. With 14 pro fights under his belt, Huveneers is looking to make his return in the cage after being out of action for the last year and a half.
Huveneers is making his comeback in a catch weight bout against welterweight fighter Nick Hinchliffe at BFL 15 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. The two have met before in what was a hotly contested battle that saw Huveneers come out on the right side of a split decision.
"Last fight with him [Hinchliffe] was really cool last time, it was a war, I mean it was beautiful, it was a lot of fun. He's a great fighter too so I promised I wanted to get a rematch with him," Huveneers said. "I had a rough year last year so I couldn't fight because of a couple of issues. Now having him as my first fight after my time off is kind of cool, it's a great opportunity to do it again."
According to Huveneers, the fight with Hinchliffe was close last time and very back and forth. In the second go round, he hopes he can do better, but is prepared for war at the same time.
"I go forward, I hate going backward, I'm not the most technical kind of guy. I don't mind getting punched and getting hit if it means getting closer and utilizing my offense. But, with him he was basically waiting for me to make a mistake and dodging my punch and hitting me in the right spot, I ate a couple of bad punches, I remember," said Huveneers. "The whole training has been that I have to be a lot more careful, I know I will probably regret trying to go straight at him and just try to hurt him as much as I can."
The Hinchliffe fight is where Huveneers' focus is, and he's looking forward to getting back in the cage. In terms of what comes next for him, he really doesn't like to look too far ahead.
"If I win the fight, I'll get a title fight for BFL," Huveneers said. "The way I usually do it, I don't try to think too far ahead, I just like to live in the present for that. I'll do my best to win that fight and whatever happens will happen and then we will see then. I'm sure he's got big plans too, we both want to win, if he wins it's going to suck for me I'm going to have to re-think things and if it goes my way, I'm probably going to get a title fight for BFL or get more money for the next fight which is always good."
The UFC recently announced that they will be putting on three events in Canada this year, but Vancouver, British Columbia didn't make the list after two previous visits in 2010 and 2011.
Putting on shows in Vancouver was difficult for the UFC, certainly more difficult than other cities in Canada like Montreal and Toronto. Part of it has to do with the way the city deals with mixed martial arts. Unlike Montreal and Toronto, it isn't provincially regulated in British Columbia. The cities manage the sport, and that seems to be part of the problem.
Huveneers, a resident of Vancouver and having fought many of his fights in the province of British Columbia talks about the issues facing professional MMA in Vancouver.
"We don't really understand why Vancouver is so reluctant about having pro MMA around here," Huveneers said. "The rules for amateur and pro are pretty much the same, the sport is the same, there are a lot of amateur shows everywhere, why there are no pro ones, it just doesn't make any sense. Personally I never understand why there is such a huge deal about the pro fights [...] There's fights all the time everywhere in Vancouver, but they are just amateur because we can't do pro. It makes no sense whatsoever and everyone knows it."
One of the main differences between amateur fighting and professional fighting is the pay cheque. Amateurs aren't getting paid to fight despite doing the same things fighters would do in a professional fight.
“It makes all the sense in the world, first and foremost mixed martial arts is a combination of most of the sports that are already Olympic sports. But I don’t believe in amateur mixed martial arts. There’s no such thing, it’s BS. What it is, is a way for a promoter to not pay a fighter. That’s what amateur means. It means I don’t have to pay you because I consider you an amateur and I believe there is no real amateur mixed martial arts in this sport, until the Olympic committee gets behind it like they did with USA boxing and boxing in other countries. I would love for that to happen.”
Huveneers shares much the same opinion as White.
"Absolutely I agree [with White], it's bull [expletive]," Huveneers said. "It makes no sense, same sport, same rules, same cage, why the [expletive] don't they get paid?" He continued. "It's kind of stupid, but that's the way it works."
Huveneers has been fighting pro for a while and will be fighting pro at the BFL 15 event in Nanaimo, but it doesn't change his critical opinion on the amateur fight scene in the province.
Amateur fighting aside, he's ready for his fight tonight and looking forward to a rematch with a former foe.
"I'll be happy to see everybody over there. I'm excited about this fight and I am really happy to fight Nick Hinchliffe again. He's a great guy and a great fighter," Huveneers said. "It's going to be a great show!"
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the B/R MMA team, Follow @Leon_Horne