The day Alistair Overeem signed with the UFC was supposed to signify a change of times, as the former Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 Grand Prix champion was expected to bolt to the top of the division and immediately contend for the title.
Overeem's career accolades are pretty gaudy on paper, having won championships in virtually every promotion he's ever competed in since moving to the heavyweight division, and the UFC belt was going to be the crown jewel on his resume.
Even when the UFC offered him a title shot on Day 1, Overeem passed so he could stay busy and not sit out for a long time. So, instead of battling for the belt, Overeem battered former champion Brock Lesnar in a one-sided affair that officially served notice to the heavyweight division that there was a new threat in town.
Quickly, Overeem was matched up with then-heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at a mega-card slated for May 2012, and that's when the wheels fell off the cart for the Dutch native.
A pre-fight drug screen executed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission found that Overeem had elevated levels of testosterone in his system, and he was yanked from the fight immediately. Not only that, but Overeem then had to sit out for nine months in an agreement with the commission following the positive drug test.
When Overeem returned, he was still regarded as one of the best heavyweights in the UFC, and his scheduled fight against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva was seen as a formality as he charged back toward a No. 1 contender's spot.
The fight was anything but a grand homecoming for Overeem.
Silva knocked him out in emphatic fashion in the third round as the former K-1 champion watched his title shot hopes dissipate like a cloud of vapor.
It certainly wasn't the path Overeem hoped to walk when he signed with the UFC almost two years ago, but as he approaches his next fight against Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night 26 on Fox Sports 1, he's looking at this as a new beginning of sorts as he climbs back up the ladder.
"Yes absolutely (this is a fresh start)," Overeem told Bleacher Report. "I believe that both Browne and myself are top ranked fighters and the winner of this fight will be one step closer in getting a title shot, so in that sense I know this fight can put me right on track as I still have one goal in life and that's becoming the UFC heavyweight champion.
"I know there are more fighters going after that number one spot but with the nature of the sport anything can happen. So my main focus is my next fight and afterwards we will see who or when I will be fighting next."
The scrutiny surrounding Overeem since coming to the UFC has multiplied exponentially from his days fighting in Japan. He didn't make it easy on himself with the positive drug test in 2012, but after his last fight, more personal information about Overeem was released as part of the commission's testing process.
It was revealed after the fight with Silva that Overeem had dangerously low levels of testosterone in his body for the bout. Overeem was tested consistently by the Nevada Commission after his original test produced high results in 2012, and in the subsequent tests he came back with extremely low levels of testosterone, which can cause a myriad of health problems—many related to MMA.
As these issues hit the headlines, Overeem's athletic career intersected with his personal life. Overeem took it all in stride, however, saying that he signed up for this by deciding to become a professional fighter and that once that line is crossed, privacy is a thing of the past.
"I don't pay real attention to it all and it comes with the job anyway, being in the spotlight and fighting for so many fans over the world you become subject for personal things," Overeem said. "It's not always nice but at the end it's something you signed for when you wanted to be a professional fighter so it comes with the territory."
While Overeem's name in the headlines over the last couple of years has been as much about his out-of-competition life as what he's done in the cage, he's happy to turn the focus back on fighting.
Facing a very tough heavyweight in Travis Browne, Overeem knew this was a good way to get back into the title picture and erase the harsh memories of his last trip to the Octagon.
"Travis is a good fighter who has a pretty all-round game so he will be dangerous, I'm not going to underestimate him," Overeem said. "I just wanted to fight as quick as possible and Travis made the most sense to put together. A lot of other ranked fighters had their fight or got a fight scheduled so it was the most logical choice for the UFC to make as I told them that I didn't want to wait for a certain opponent."
Overeem isn't shy about his long-term goals of finally earning a shot at the UFC gold, but he's not going out against Browne to really prove anything to anybody. His purpose is to put on the best performance possible, get a win and make sure the fans are happy when he leaves the Octagon.
If that happens, Overeem knows the rest will work out without him doing much of anything else.
"I don't do predictions and I don't want to make a statement to the rest of the fighters, I want to make a statement for the fans who bought the tickets and are watching the fight," Overeem said. "It's them I want to please."
Overeem and Browne will serve as the co-main event for the inaugural card on Fox Sports 1, so whether he's trying or not, he will certainly have a large platform to announce to the rest of the heavyweight division that he's back.
A knockout victory over a competitor like Browne would certainly speak volumes.
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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