Plus: Harut Grigorian defends world title against No. 1 contender Alim Nabiyev
The wait is over. Five years after first landing in London, GLORY finally returns to the United Kingdom later this spring.
The world's premier stand-up combat league today announced details for GLORY 54 Birmingham and GLORY 54 SuperFight Series, taking place at Genting Arena on Saturday, June 2.
One of combat sports' most dominant champions, Rico "The King of Kickboxing" Verhoeven (53-10, 16 KO, fighting out of the Netherlands), sets his crown aside at GLORY 54 Birmingham, taking on No. 7-ranked heavyweight Mladen "The Scorpion Sting" Brestovac (56-12-1, 35 KO, fighting out of Croatia) in a three-round, non-title affair.
Verhoeven has won 15 straight fights inside the GLORY ring, highlighted by six title defenses and recent victories over long-time rival Jamal Ben Saddik, mixed martial arts veteran Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and kickboxing legend Badr Hari. Trading leather on English soil will feel familiar for "The King," as Verhoeven has trained extensively under renowned boxing coach Peter Fury in Manchester.
Brestovac faced Verhoeven for the GLORY heavyweight championship in 2016, losing via unanimous decision. Since then, he has had his hand raised five times in six fights, including a head-kick knockout that stopped Hesdy Gerges inside one minute.
GLORY welterweight champion Harut Grigorian (47-11, 33 KO, fighting out of the Netherlands) makes the first defense of his world title, squaring off against No. 1 contender Alim "Professor" Nabiyev (49-6, 21 KO, fighting out of Russia) in the GLORY 54 Birmingham co-headline bout.
Following contender tournament wins over Karim Benmansour and Antoine Pinto, Grigorian set his sights on then-champion Murthel Groenhart, settling the score and defeating his rival to capture gold at GLORY 50 Chicago in February.
Nabiyev impressed in his GLORY debut against up-and-comer Jimmy Vienot, followed by consecutive wins over former welterweight champions Nieky Holzken and Cédric Doumbé.
Undefeated lightweight “Super” Elvis Gashi (20-0, 10 KO, fighting out of the United States) welcomes Blackpool's William Goldie-Galloway (fighting out of England) to the promotion.
At just 20 years old, Newark's Bailey “Bad Boy” Sugden (11-2, 2 KO, fighting out of England) has quickly risen the GLORY featherweight ranks. Now positioned at No. 10, he meets his toughest test to date in former featherweight title contender Anvar Boynazarov (91-24-2, 53 KO, fighting out of the United States), ranked No. 6 and hailing from Uzbekistan.
Plus, Adrian Maxim (28-9, 17 KO, fighting out of Romania) faces fellow featherweight Chenglong Zhang (45-6, 11 KO, fighting out of China), the 19-year-old prospect with a one-night tournament victory already to his name.
The five-fight card for GLORY 54 Birmingham can be found below:
GLORY 54 Birmingham
Heavyweight Headline Bout: Rico Verhoeven vs. Mladen Brestovac
Welterweight Title Co-Headline Bout: Harut Grigorian vs. Alim Nabiyev
Lightweight Bout: Elvis Gashi vs. William Goldie-Galloway
Featherweight Bout: Bailey Sugden vs. Anvar Boynazarov
Featherweight Bout: Adrian Maxim vs. Chenglong Zhang
Earlier in the evening, GLORY 54 SuperFight Series showcases a bevy of the United Kingdom's top talent.
In the headline slot, Congolese light heavyweight Danyo "Dibuba" Ilunga (58-13, 45 KO, fighting out of Germany) puts his No. 5 ranking on the line against GLORY newcomer Fraser Weightman (21-1, 15 KO, fighting out of England).
In a battle of lightweight marvels, Josh Jauncey (28-8, 15 KO, fighting out of Canada) seeks revenge against Christian “Bad News” Baya (60-6-1, 35 KO, fighting out of the Netherlands), who upset Jauncey on five days' notice at GLORY 35 Nice.
Since their first encounter, Baya went on to vie for the GLORY lightweight title against Sitthichai. After falling short in an admirable effort, his lone loss since joining GLORY, the No. 2-ranked Baya looks to rebound against a familiar opponent. Jauncey, born in London and now living in Vancouver, Canada, is coming off a Fight of the Night performance against top contender Stoyan Koprivlenski at GLORY 52 Los Angeles in March.
American welterweight Richard "Maximus" Abraham (13-5, 4 KO, fighting out of the United States) crosses the pond to pick a fight with Barnsley-born Adam Hadfield (18-3-1, 10 KO, fighting out of England).
Recovered from a neck injury that sidelined the Armenian-Belgian star, No. 1-ranked Marat Grigorian (51-10-2, 32 KO, fighting out of the Netherlands) returns against Liu Xu (17-3, 6 KO, fighting out of China), who makes his official debut after fighting on the prelims of GLORY 46 China.
GLORY 54 SuperFight will feature two semifinal bouts of a four-man welterweight qualifying tournament, with the tournament's final round to be contested later this year.
In the first tournament semifinal bout, Road to GLORY UK winner Jamie Bates (24-7, 3 KO, fighting out of England) fights locally for the first time under the GLORY banner, throwing down against ISKA British champion and BAMMA fighter Tommy "K.O." King(24-6, 12 KO, fighting out of England).
Then, Leicestershire's Mark Timms (23-9-2, 10 KO, fighting out of England) comes home to Great Britain, where he'll face one of Ireland's top kickboxers Dawid Blaszke (17-4, 11 KO, fighting out of Ireland) in the other semifinal match-up.
The six-fight card for GLORY 54 SuperFight Series can be found below:
GLORY 54 SuperFight Series
Light Heavyweight Headline Bout: Danyo Ilunga vs. Fraser Weightman
Lightweight Co-Headline Bout: Christian Baya vs. Josh Jauncey
Welterweight Bout: Richard Abraham vs. Adam Hadfield
Lightweight Bout: Marat Grigorian vs. Liu Xu
Welterweight Tournament Semifinal Bout 2: Mark Timms vs. Dawid Blaszke
Welterweight Tournament Semifinal Bout 1: Jamie Bates vs. Tommie King
Tickets for GLORY 54 Birmingham and GLORY 54 SuperFight Series go on sale tomorrow, April 18 at 9 a.m. GMT and will be available for online purchase at theticketfactory.com or by telephone at 0844 338 0338.