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EDGAR's Nathan Irvine caught up with UFC star Alistair Overeem during his whistle-stop tour of Dubai to find out what the future holds for the combat sports legend.
When you crunch the numbers, it’s fair to say that Alistair Overeem is arguably one of the biggest combat sports stars on the planet. No other decorated fighter has stayed at the top of their game for so long and still remained competitive.
Since his first professional fight in 1999, ‘The Demolition Man’ has competed in more than 80 bouts across kickboxing and MMA, of which his hand has been raised an astonishing 58 times.
At 40 years old, it’d be perfectly reasonable to expect Overeem to hang up his mits, but the Dutch hitman has other ideas. Following a purple patch of form, he’s set for another tilt at the heavyweight belt.
In a sit down with the man mountain, we find an incredibly relaxed fighter who’s gearing up for one last shot at UFC gold. Overeem also talks about retirement plans, cross-sport super fights and much more.
Following a controversial loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik via doctor stoppage, you've been on a roll and there's talk of a title shot. How do you see the remainder of your UFC contract playing out?
Well, I want a rematch with Rozenstruik. He is my preference for the next fight as there's a score to settle there.
Who is next on the list if the matchmakers can't make the rematch happen?
I don't know. But listen, I'm a fighter. Whoever they're going to give me I will destroy them. And then slowly, I will get there [to the title shot], right? Because I'm kind of close. I think I need one or two wins.
It's a stacked division now, who do you think you'll end up fighting for the title?
I'm not sure. It could be Jon (Jones). It could be Francis (Ngannou). Or the champ right now Stipe (Miocic). The margin for error is very thin at the top - one blink of an eye and the off switch is punched. But I don't care who it is as I've never really cared about an opponent before.
And what does the future hold if you win the UFC Heavyweight Championship?
Stop immediately. Seriously.
There will be so many people calling you out though...
Yeah, I know, but I have to be realistic. I'm 40 years old - sorry, 40 years young. I've had an amazing journey. By the time this contract is up I will have fought for 24, possibly 25 years and I think I have to realise how fortunate I have been in my career. It's a dangerous sport, and if I win the title, it will be mission complete.
Alistair Overeem: “It's a dangerous sport, and if I win the title, it will be mission complete.”
If it wasn't for being skilled at fighting, what do you think you'd be doing now?
I honestly don't know. When I injured my lower back in 2012, it was supposed to be career ending. So at that point I never thought I'd fight again and I had to look for something to do next, but didn't find anything.
Did it feel like a second chance when you managed to recover from the injury?
Second? More like third or fourth. I've had moments in my career when I've had to re-evaluate what I was doing. But then I managed to find the motivation that ignites a fire to keep going.
You have three daughters - how would you feel if they wanted to get into combat sports?
I don't know. My eldest is such a sweetheart and doesn't have it because she's too sweet. My middle one? Again, can't see it. But my youngest? Yeah, I think she'd be the one to do it. I'd support them, of course. If they wanted to do it, then it would be my honour to coach them. I'd love that.
What would you say has been your key driver throughout out your career?
I love the training. I love the improvement aspects too. I really dislike the idea of a 9-to-5 job and I couldn't ever do it. Never. I think I'd rather die than do that. So I always keep this in the back of my mind going into every fight. There have been difficult moments - especially with injuries. You know, when you have such a long career everything happens. You have the ups and the downs, like when a manager tries to steal money from you. But I always found the motivation to keep going.
With Conor McGregor potentially lining up another boxing super fight with Manny Pacquiao, is a cross-sport fight something you'd be interested in?
Well, I already did that. I went into a kickboxing bout, so I was actually the first and became a champion too. Would I do it again? Sure, but they've got to hurry because I'm getting too old. I think boxing could be interesting though - let's see what happens.
What does retirement look like for you?
I love being in the gym so I'll most likely become a coach, only for a couple of hours per day to stay active, but it'd be great to share some of my experiences with the up and coming fighters. It'll definitely be my own gym, that's for sure.
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END OF INTERVIEW