Many may not know this, but Alistair Overeem isn’t the only Overeem fighting in the heavyweight division of mixed martial arts. In fact, Valentijn Overeem has more fights to his name than his younger brother Alistair with 53. Valentijn is the one that introduced Alistair to combat sports, without him who knows where Alistair would have ended up.
Valentijn hasn’t had the same success as his brother. With a record of 28 wins and 25 losses it’s safe to say that Valentijn has seen some highs and lows as a fighter. Two things he definitely does share with his younger brother are his drive to put on exciting fights and to be well rounded. Of Valentijn's 28 wins, 11 are by way of knockout, 16 by way of submission and through his 53 fights, only two have gone to the judge's decision.
I had the chance recently to ask Valentijn a few questions and get his take on certain aspects of the sport, his career and his brother among other things.
Valentijn was supposed to have fought Antonio “Big Foot” Silva back in December, but had to pull out due to injury. He has gotten back to training since the injury.
“I have been training hard at Golden Glory Breda and Amersfoort, my injury healed and I will be ready!” he went on to explain what was injured “It was a shoulder injury, but I am fine now”
Valentijn is a veteran of the sport with some highs and a lot of lows in his career. When asked about what he has left to prove and why he still wants to fight he had the following to say;
“I am fighting because I want to prove that I still can bang with the best. Like my brother Alistair I had a lot of personal problems, my last three victories prove I still have it in me.”
It’s interesting, because Alistair Overeem has talked about his problems towards the end of his light heavyweight career, cutting too much weight, running a magazine and his mother having cancer. Alistair has bounced back nicely, but things for Valentijn have been tougher, it will be exciting to see whether or not he can turn his current streak into something good and go out on a high.
Having been scheduled to fight Antonio Silva in December, one has to wonder what would have happened had Valentijn not been injured and pulled out a victory. Antonio won against Mike Kyle, Valentijn’s replacement. If Valentijn had fought and beat Antonio, would he have been fighting Fedor Emelianenko, Andrei Arlovski or Sergei Kharitonov in the Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament?
When asked about possibly missing the chance to compete in the tournament, Valentijn remained upbeat and focused on the task at hand.
“Who knows I still might take part anything can happen in tournaments. Let’s first win this fight and see how things go.”
Ray Sefo is an interesting character and he is Valentijn’s next opponent in the cage at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva this February 12th in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Sefo is actually a K1 level kick boxer, who has also competed in boxing and mixed martial arts. He is another fighter that has had an up and down career, but continues competing for the love of the sport.
What makes the fight with Sefo interesting is the fact that Sefo had an altercation with Alistair Overeem a little over a year ago. Alistair was upset that Sefo was cheering after Alistair lost one of his fights in K1 and he confronted Sefo about it.
Alistair has told the media that he has buried the hatchet, but something tells me he wouldn’t mind mixing it up in the cage or ring at some point with Ray. When asked about what he thinks about Sefo as an opponent and what the altercation between Sefo and his brother means, Valetijn doesn’t really care.
“He is a K-1 veteran and is a good striker, his ground skills I do not know about them. He is just the fourth opponent who I will defeat in the first round.”
Valentijn doesn’t really care about anything else but adding another name to his win column. Hopefully this is the kind of attitude that will keep Valentijn on the winning path.
I asked Valentijn what he thinks about the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament and it is no surprise as to who he thinks will be in the finals.
“…I think it’s [the tournament] great for the fans as they get to see fights they have been waiting on for a long time.”
“[My] Golden Glory teammate [Sergei] Kharitonov of course, he has been training hard in an MMA training camp in Thailand, I expect him and my brother [to be] in the finals.”
Many fans expect Alistair to make it to the finals, but there are just as many fans expecting Werdum or Fedor to make it there as well. The other side of the bracket could be Kharitonov’s to win. He should be able to get by Andrei Arlovski, but Josh Barnett would really be a tough test to pass to get to the finals, but Valentijn doesn’t seem to think so. In any case, should the tournament finalise the way Valentijn sees it, we will see a rematch between Alistair and the last man to beat him, Sergei Kharitonov.
Scott Coker recently told journalist Ariel Helwani that Valentijn’s upcoming fight with Sefo will be the third line reserve match for the heavyweight tournament. Coker raised concerns about the fact that he doesn’t think Valentijn would want to fight his brother and vice-versa, that is why it is the third reserve match.
With all the talk in North America about certain camps not wanting to fight friends, teammates or family, it is interesting to get Valentijn’s take on fighting people that are close to him.
“At Golden Glory in Breda Holland we have a day called woensdag gehakt dag (meat day) we spar for ten rounds to knock each other’s heads off, including me and my brother. Saki fought Alistair with one hand and still almost won surprisingly with a spinning high kick. Anything can happen GG [Golden Glory] stands for quality. We will see when the time comes.”
Obviously Velentijn isn’t against fighting teammates and it appears that he would be willing to fight his brother Alistair if he had to. Golden Glory sounds like the type of camp Dana White and company would love to be working with.
One just has to look at White’s attitude towards American Kickboxing Acadmeny, a camp that had at the time three welterweights in the top five who refused to fight, White wasn’t too pleased and made it clear to the media.
When Valentijn mentions Saki, he is actually talking about teammate Gokhan Saki. Alistair and Saki met in the K1 semi-finals and didn't have any problems mixing it up despite being teammates.
In keeping with the subject of Valentijn’s brother, Alistair has been on quite the tear he holds three belts for three different organizations. What is most impressive is the fact that he didn’t just win titles in mixed martial arts he also won the K1 kickboxing title, ultimately making him a successful two sport athlete.
A lot of people know Valentijn as Alistair’s older brother, let’s hear what he has to say about how he feels about his brother’s success and the fact that he played a role in his introduction to combat sport.
“I am happy for him, I think there are too much politics also in the [combat] sports, my victory against Couture is a good example or the loss of Chuck Liddell in Pride, after that UFC fighters have not been allowed to fight outside of the UFC. The fact that we [Alistair and I] fight in multiple organisations makes it more global and prestigious.
Winning the K-1 Grand Prix is the king of stand up [competitions] with big prizes attached to it, why do some Americans who claim to be the best in the world not participate in this [competition]?”
One gets the impression that Valentijn is genuinely happy for his brother. Valentijn is obviously taking a shot at the American fighters, particularly the ones in the UFC who are signed to exclusive contracts. He feels that his victory over Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell’s losses in pride led to the implementation of exclusivity in the UFC.
It’s pretty clear that Valentijn holds K1 and international combat sport to a high level and it looks like he doesn’t appreciate the flack Alistair has been getting with critics saying he is always fighting “easier competition.
My father is Dutch and spent his youth in Holland before coming to Canada. I am proud of my Dutch heritage and I am always excited to see Holland do well in competition of any kind. I took this opportunity to ask Valentijn to touch on the reasons why he thinks Holland excels so much in kickboxing and mixed martial arts.
“I think we have a small country and there is a lot of competition, we have great trainers and we just like to fight. We are tall and strong and have a long history when it comes to [great] performances.”
It sounds kind of funny to hear Valentijn say “…We are tall and strong…”, but it is actually the truth. The average height of Dutch males is actually over six feet tall, which is very tall considering males living in the United States average just over five feet and nine inches. I just look at my family, my father who is Dutch is six feet and two inches, I am six feet and five inches and all my brothers stand over six feet tall.
The advantages of being tall in combat sport are pretty clear, with height usually comes reach and everyone knows its importance in boxing, kickboxing and even mixed martial arts.
Everyone knows about Alistair Overeem’s horse meat diet and Valentijn doesn’t mind it as well.
“Yeah, we just love [horse] meat!”
Without getting too far ahead of the game, I asked Valentijn where he expects to go should he beat Ray Sefo. Particularly I wanted to know if he sees himself only taking fights that interest him or if he is actually planning on trying to get to the top. Valentijn has a pretty clear vision and obviously wants to get back to the form he was in when he beat Randy Couture and Renato Sobral. Valentijn had the following to tell the fans.
“I am going to get back into this fight game again, mark my words!” Valentijn went on to say “Anybody who steps in a ring or cage has balls, fans should understand we are all human beings and we can have personal problems, family issues, injuries and other problems which could cause the biggest talents in the world to fail.
We are all human and from flesh and blood, I love [the] fans who stayed fans of me [even through the] bad times, those are the real fans. I love everybody who supports the fight game.”
In closing, Valentijn re-iterated throughout the interview that he has dealt with his own personal problems and one gets the impression that he is adamant that it affected his career. In any case, the man seems driven right now and despite the fact that a rise to the top this late in his career is going to take a lot of work, one never knows.
Two things are for certain, after interviewing Valentijn one realises that this man truly has the warrior spirit and that despite his record, he comes to finish or be finished and any fan of combat sports can appreciate that attitude.