For over a decade, Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem has been both a dominant mixed martial artist and a world-class kickboxer.
Since making his professional debut in both sports in 1999, Overeem has become one of the most dominant combat-sport athletes of all-time.
With his overwhelming size, razor-sharp striking and underrated submission game, Overeem has amassed a resume of wins that could easily double as a “who’s who” of combat sports.
Recently, the current Strikeforce heavyweight king sat down for an exclusive interview.
He discussed everything from the ridiculousness of world-rankings, to the possibility of fighting his brother, to the never-ending performance-enhancing drug allegations that seem to dog the Dutch stand-up specialist everywhere he goes.
What was it that made you decide to try your hand at mixed martial arts in the first place?
My brother took me to the gym to defend myself at an early age. He trained in Amsterdam with Chris Dolman and there they trained what was called “free-fight” back in the day.
That was the first time I got involved in mixed martial arts. I was around 16 years old at the time.
Currently, you are ranked by USA Today as the No. 8 heavyweight in the world. Do you feel that this ranking is accurate? If not, where would you rank yourself in the world today?
Rankings don’t mean much to me, to be honest. It’s based on which organization you fight for and the personal opinion of the writer that writes the ranking.
For example, before my fight against Brett Rogers, I was ranked lower than him on several websites, but if you wanted to bet on the fight, I was the favourite to win the fight, so it didn’t make sense.
If I would rank myself, it has to be the No. 1 spot of course [laughs]. No seriously, it all depends on the form of the day, everybody in the top-10 make interesting fights and can be beat at any given time.
Reports surfaced a few months ago that indicated that your brother, and fellow heavyweight contender Valentijn Overeem, has signed with Strikeforce.
If Valentijn works his way towards a shot at your title, could we see an Overeem vs. Overeem heavyweight championship bout in Strikeforce?
That’s a simple answer; no.
I don’t have any problem fighting teammates because we are all professionals, but fighting against my own brother is crazy.
How do I have to tell my mother that one of us is going to be getting knocked out? She wouldn’t let us fight each other (laughs).
I know there was some discussion about teammates fighting each other and I do feel that if both fighters are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, they should fight. But you have to draw the line. No family.
Recently, Fedor Emelianenko was upset by Fabricio Werdum in a stunning first-round stoppage. Were you hoping to be the one who would dethrone “The Last Emperor?”
Yes, I was clearly hyping the fight as you can see in my online documentary (www.alistairovereem.com). One reason was because I was hoping to be the one would dethrone him.
The other two reasons were that being the champion, I wanted to fight the best and that was obviously Fedor. The other reason was that his management declined to fight me and chose Werdum, and therefore I was calling him out.
There is a lot of speculation that Emelianenko is “ducking” you to fight lesser competition in an attempt to maintain his nearly spotless record.
Do you feel this is the case? If Fedor was willing to fight you, would you give him a shot at your heavyweight belt?
It’s not Fedor that is “ducking” people to fight lesser competition. It’s all his management. What M-1 is doing is ridiculous; they are making demands and are using Fedor leverage for every organization.
They can’t even organize good shows. If you look at the shows they produce, you would be crazy to do a co-promotion with those guys. It’s amateur level; leave the promoting business to the Americans and the Japanese.
They are also lying. I heard that they made a statement that all of the polls (indicate fans would rather see) Fedor fight Werdum again than a fight with me. I don’t know which websites they are looking at, but all of the polls I have seen said the opposite.
Now that Fedor has lost, I hope they can’t “use” Fedor anymore. I honestly think that Fedor isn’t aware of what M-1 is doing to him. Fedor doesn’t care, he has enough money to support his family and he doesn’t care who he fights.
If Fedor wants to fight me, I’m more than willing; the only thing is that Werdum should fight me first. I flew all the way to America to call out the winner. Werdum won, so my next fight should be against Werdum.
I don’t want to fight against someone who’s coming off a loss, again.
There are a lot of young, dangerous heavyweights currently competing in the UFC. Would you be interested in stepping into the Octagon to prove yourself against other top-ranked mixed martial artists like Shane Carwin, Brock Lesnar or Cain Velasquez?
At the moment, I have other priorities because I’m not fighting in the UFC right now. If there comes a time that I will fight in the UFC, I would love to fight the best they have, and if those guys you mentioned are still the best the UFC has to offer, then yes, I would like to face them.
For now, there are still some interesting fights left for me in the U.S.A. and Japan. Werdum, Fedor, Barnett, “Big Foot” Silva, and Arlovski are all great match-ups.
You are one of Japanese mixed martial arts’ biggest heavyweight attractions. Do you have plans to further compete for the Dream FC organization or do you plan on once again defending your Strikeforce championship?
I still have two goals in Japan. One is fighting for the Dream FC heavyweight title, and two is becoming the K-1 Grand Prix champion. Being Strikeforce champion, I will defend my belt. It depends if Werdum is available to fight. If not, I will think of entering the K-1 Grand Prix.
Even though you are a world-class kick-boxer, the majority of your victories have come by way of submission.
It seems that fans of yours often focus on your stand-up skills rather than your strong grappling game. Do you feel that your grappling skills are underrated?
I like to finish fights by (knock-out or technical knock-out) and I think that shows in my fights, so people expect that, but if there is an opportunity for a submission I won’t hesitate to do so.
The fight always starts in a standing position, so I’d rather want to keep the fight standing, but I have no problem if the fight goes to the ground.
As both a professional mixed martial artist and a professional kick-boxer you have beaten some of the best in the world.
Have you ever considered just competing in one sport, rather than two? If so, would you be more inclined to be solely a mixed martial artist or solely a kick-boxer?
Why should I choose only one sport if I know that I can compete in both? They bring another level of excitement to the table.
K-1, for example, is huge in my country, so it’s an honour to win that title. Now I still have the chance to compete in both because my contract allows it. I’m very happy with that part of my contract.
If I would go to an organization like the UFC, I’d have to choose one sport, so at the moment I’d rather decide it myself instead of someone else telling me to do so.
Between your mixed martial arts and kick-boxing careers, you are one of the most active combat sport athletes in the world. Do you have any plans to slow-down in the future?
To be honest, last year was exceptional, but my body allowed me to compete that much. It also helps if you finish fights quickly and you are injury free. For the future, I’m aiming to fight a maximum of three to four fights a year.
Prior to becoming one of the premier heavyweights in the world, you fought at both middleweight and light-heavyweight.
Because of your transformation over the years, some have speculated that you have used performance enhancing drugs, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support their claims. How do you feel about these allegations?
First of all, I’ve never fought at middleweight. The (PRIDE 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix) was contested at light-heavyweight. To be honest, I was hoping that the (clean test done prior to the Brett Rogers bout) would silence the critics, but still I’m getting these questions.
I don’t want to be rude, so I will answer them, but also the media is responsible for keeping the claims alive by asking me these questions over and over.
My body-type is perfect as a heavyweight, but getting older and doing strength training changes your body.
When I fought at light-heavyweight, I weighed around 225 pounds without doing any weightlifting. Now weightlifting is part of my training and you automatically get bigger.
A lot of high profile entities in the world of mixed martial arts have gone on record saying that you have used performance enhancing drugs (without any evidence, at all), only to later rescind their allegations. Why do you feel people are trying to discredit the work you’ve done honestly and naturally?
It’s easy to claim things without knowing the facts. There are always people that will find a way to discredit you, one way or the other.
According to your website, you own and operate your own gym, could you please tell us a little bit about that?
The gym in my hometown isn’t technically owned by me, but I support the gym by training there, conducting seminars and getting my training partners there, so it’s a situation where both parties benefit.
I’m trying to open gyms in different parts of the world, for example, in the States so I can train there for a couple of weeks or months.
If you weren’t one of the most dangerous heavyweight mixed martial artists in the world, what do you think would be your occupation?
That’s a hard question. I have been fighting since I was 15 years old, so my focus was always on being a professional fighter. I have to say that I’m not a person that would work under a boss, so I think that I would self-employed.
During my fight career I was also the owner of a magazine, but I had to sell it because it took away too much of time and was too much of a distraction from fighting, and being a fighter, you need 100 percent attention if you want to compete at a high level.
You’re still a young man, but have you thought about what you might like to do when you are finished competing?
Like I mentioned before, I would love to have some gyms where I can teach people the “fight game” and use my experience. So I hope I can be of some help after my professional career and be a trainer or a manager.
Speaking of retirement, how would you like to be remembered as an athlete after you are done competing professionally?
To be honest, I don’t really care [laughs]. As long as people respect my career and enjoyed my fights, I’m more than happy.
I love the fans and I hope they will tell people at a birthday party, “that Alistair guy was one hell of a fighter back in the days when I watched mixed martial arts.”
Is there anything that you would like to tell your fans while you have this opportunity?
Keep supporting me, and I promise to give you more good fights to come! Check out my new website (www.alistairovereem.com), where you can find my online documentary, so you can see a little bit of my life as a professional fighter.