One could forgive most folks if they forget Gokhan Saki is not, in fact, Tyrone Spong's scheduled opponent for Glory 15.
Saki is the goal, of course. Saki has been the goal ever since he knocked Spong out back in Yokohoma in 2009. Those where the days before Glory, back when kickboxing was the sole domain of those who would stay up late to watch a stream from Japan. It was before Spike TV came along and introduced Glory and kickboxing to the masses.
And it was before Spong began earning his reputation as one of the world's scariest men. He is a great kickboxer with a nine-fight winning streak. This seems impressive on the surface, and I tell him so.
"That is nothing, though, because I once had a 60-fight winning streak," Spong tells Bleacher Report.
Before we get to see Spong vs. Saki 2, we'll see "The King of the Ring" face Saulo Cavalari in the Glory light heavyweight tournament semi-finals. Many will brush Cavalari off as easy fodder for Spong to dispose of in order to set up the Saki rematch.
But there are two issues with this line of thinking. Anyone who has seen a Glory tournament knows they never play out as planned. Oh, and Cavalari is also quite good at kickboxing.
"He hits very hard," Spong says. "But I want to win the whole tournament."
The event takes place in Istanbul, another checked box on Glory's grand international agenda. At a time when UFC president Dana White says he has figured international exposure out, it seems Glory has taken things one step further.
They were in Croatia last month. They're in Turkey this month. Next month, they return back to the United States for the Glory debut of popular former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry.
Saki will be the live crowd's heavy favorite to win it all. He was born and raised in the Netherlands but is of Turkish descent. For the better part of a decade, he has been one of the world's most popular kickboxers.
A Saki/Spong rematch is tailor-made for television. Those who know their history will revel in the chance to see them compete again. Those who don't should be treated to a thrilling striking competition.
How cool would to be to avenge the loss to Saki? "All I care about is winning," Spong says. And it feels as though he is telling the truth, because Spong has seen the dangers of overlooking opponents. His former teammate, the once-champion kickboxer Alistair Overeem, didn't take fellow UFC heavyweight Travis Browne seriously last year.
Overeem ended up unconscious.
Spong and Overeem are no longer teammates. They have not trained together in quite some time. Overeem was a member of the Blackzilian camp, but he ran things on his own. He came to the gym after everyone else left. He brought his own coaches. On the days he'd train when other Blackzilians were there, he would do so behind a tarp.
Overeem's departure meant one less world-class striker for Spong to train with. But that's okay, because he already has the striking thing down pretty well. "I still have great coaches and training partners," Spong says.
The hope is that Spong will beat Cavalari and then face Saki in the finals. After he avenges his loss, Spong plans a return to mixed martial arts in July for World Series of Fighting. He is often discussed as one of the best MMA prospects in the world, but it is early in his career, and he understands he has a long way to go. "My ground game should be better," he says.
He signed with WSOF because of the freedom they gave him to continue fighting for Glory. He loves kickboxing, and for now he is not willing to give it up to pursue mixed martial arts. When he is tired of boxing and kickboxing, he will make a serious run at mixed martial arts.
And when he does so, he will make a serious run at UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
"When I fully do MMA, I will pursue him," he says. "I want to be the best. He is the best. I can tell by watching him that he enjoys finishing people. I like finishing people, too."
How would a Jones vs. Spong bout play out?
"It would not go to a decision."
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