It didn’t take long for tempers to flare when heavyweight rivals Rico ‘The King of Kickboxing’ Verhoeven and Badr Hari shared the stage at today’s official GLORY: COLLISION 2 Pre-Fight Press Conference in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The pair took to the stage in front of nearly one hundred members of the press to discuss their upcoming rematch at GLORY: COLLISION 2 at the Gelredome football stadium in Arnhem, Netherlands on Saturday, December 21.
Their first fight, in December 2016, ended in the second round when Hari sustained an arm injury and was unable to continue. Fans clamored for a rematch ever since and now, nearly three years on, it’s finally about to happen.
Asked for a prediction on how the rematch will play out, Verhoeven didn’t see any prospect of it going the allotted five round distance.
“I am gonna be in the ring and I’m gonna perform the best I can,” he said. Either way, he is going to quit or he’s going to get knocked out. That’s what’s going to happen 21st December.”
The comment drew an immediate response from Hari. Addressing the audience he said, “I was waiting for that… he can go f—k himself, I’m going to knock him out!”
Both fighters were united though when it came to the importance of the fight.
“It’s maybe one of the biggest fights in my career because I am really looking for legacy, I am looking for eternal glory, not for just this win. So as a fight, It’s maybe the biggest of my career. It was very hard for me to accept [the loss]… I am happy for him but three years later, its gonna end, because I am going to show people his real level,” said Hari.
Verhoeven remarked: “Everything is on the line - your legacy, everything you trained for every day. Your blood sweat and tears are in this sport. When you lose, it doesn't only hurt physically but mentally.”
Opening the press conference, GLORY CEO Marshall Zelaznik revealed that the previously-sold out Gelredome had now been reconfigured to allow extra seating sections to be opened up.
Several thousand new seats across all price points have now been made available, giving a second chance to fans who had failed to secure one of the 22,000 tickets initially sold for the year-end event.
“We worked very hard with the municipality, the arena and our team to make that happen. We are hoping that everyone who wants to come is able to come and there are tickets now available in multiple price categories so there should be something for everybody,” he said.
With GLORY: COLLISION 2 already set to smash national and European records for gate and attendance at a kickboxing event, the newly-released tickets are the last chance to join fans who are flying in from as far afield as New Zealand, Japan and the USA to be part of a landmark event in combat sports history.
Zelaznik also announced the signing of three new partnerships for GLORY: COLLISION 2 - Ubisoft video game franchise Rainbow Siege Six, Netherland’s gaming chain Jack’s Casino and muscle recovery specialists PowerDot - before welcoming the two main event fighters to the stage.
As the two fighters came on stage, the contrast between Hari’s laid-back leisurewear and Verhoeven’s tailored suit jacket served as a visual metaphor for the differences between them. The two then fielded questions on how those differences will be settled on December 21.
FLASH QUOTES FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE:
ON THE MEANING OF THIS REMATCH:
Badr Hari: “This is a fight that I have wanted for three years because the last fight my arm was injured and my arm stopped. This is a hard way to lose a fight. Especially a fight as big as this one. It’s maybe one of the biggest fights in my career because I am really looking for legacy, I am looking for eternal glory, not for just this win. So as a fight, it’s maybe the biggest of my career.
“It was very hard for me to accept [the loss] and it took me three years to see him again. Before that fight like we all know there were not a lot of people who know Rico and then the badr hari wave came along and he jumped on, he became famous, did a lot of shows, made some money.
“I am happy for him but three years later, its gonna end, because 21 December I am going to show people his real level of fighting and it’s not that great. We can see the last opponent that he fought - come on man, it was a joke.”
Rico Verhoeven: “Every fight, Everything is on the line - your legacy, everything you trained for every day. Your blood sweat and tears are in this sport. When you lose, it doesn’t only hurt physically but mentally.”
ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THIS FIGHT AND THEIR FIRST ENCOUNTER:
Rico Verhoeven: “I think the biggest difference since then is we evolved. We got more mature. We got stronger physically, more ring experience. I’ve been under the highest pressure every time, every fight since then and so we keep doing what we’re doing and performing on the highest level and winning.”
Badr Hari: “I am more fit, more prepared, I’m stronger and I have a different mindset. This time I can focus 100% on this fight, I didn’t have any other things I was battling. In the last fight I had some other battles going on [outside the ring] so I think that’s the biggest difference for this fight.
“It doesn’t matter how the first fight went because I am not focused on that. Everything in this fight is going to be different so the first fight is not important. Everything is different on the 21st of December so it doesn’t matter.
“I think the most important thing that’s different is my mindset. A lot pf people know that three years ago I was battling a lot of judges. I saw a lot of courtrooms, I’ve seen some jail time, so I had too many fights at that moment.
“Everyone knows if you are a pro athlete you need to be focused 100% especially if you have fights this big, you cannot be 90% or 95%, you have to be 100. Was that the reason [the loss] happened? I don’t know. It happened and I forgot about it. So I think what’s most important is the mindset. I am training for one year, I go to the gym every day, I run in the Moroccan mountains… I’m ready.”
ON THE ATTENTION SURROUNDING THIS FIGHT:
Rico Verhoeven: “I always understand where I am coming from and where the rest of the business comes from. It comes from Rico being the athlete and being the family man. After that, all the other business comes.
“So Rico is always the athlete, I am training every day - even without a fight coming up, I am I am putting in the work. I am always around 70% so to get to 100% is not that big of a job.”
“Of course I enjoy it and I embrace it, because for me it’s always been a goal to bring this sport to a higher level and to let everybody enjoy it. Whatever happens outside the ring happens outside the ring. But in the ring we are athletes and we want to perform on the highest level and show that we are sports and entertainment.”
Badr Hari: “Of course I am enjoying the attention. This is what you live for, you live for these kind of fights. You live for the attention because the more the attention it means you are doing something right.
“Nobody can tell me they do this for [themselves] or because they like fighting, it’s bullshit. They do this because they like cameras flashing. I like it, I enjoy it and the more the better.”
ON WHETHER VERHOEVEN'S CLEAN-CUT IMAGE MAKES BADR HARI 'THE BAD GUY'
Badr Hari: “I don’t see myself as a bad guy, this is [something] the media creates. Well… I helped them a little bit. (laughs)
“But I think this is what sells in life - look at Batman, you need a Joker. There is always a good thing - bad thing going on. If he is ‘good’ and I am ‘bad’ and it sells out the arena, let him be good and me be bad!”
ON VERHOEVEN QUESTION THE NUMBER OF KO'S ON BADR HARI'S RECORD:
Badr Hari: “I have knocked more people out in the fights he can find that he has fought all together. Forget the knockouts you didn’t see, just look at the ones you can see and they are more than all [his] fights together. Facts are facts.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY:
Badr Hari: “In this business of fighting I think that family is a very important thing for a lot of fighters. They make the punishment the hard work the tears the sweat..they soften it up. You go home to your wife, your children, this is what keeps you sharp and hungry.
“For me my children are one of my biggest motivations and my wife, she’s amazing. They all helped me a lot to get here - and especially, to stay here.”
Rico Verhoeven: “It’s a tough game and its a hard game but in the end we respect each other because after the fight we go back to your families and enjoy life.”
ON THE 'BADR ARMY' SUPPORT GROUP:
Rico Verhoeven: “I don’t know what it is with you but you need your ‘Badr Army’. You know what the best part of this is? You need a Badr Army, I’m a one-man army. I can do this all by myself. Just make sure you are there December 21st - and don’t quit this time.”