"I would probably say Alistair Overeem. He's a guy who, at one point, lost something like 5 of his last 7 fights, was getting knocked out and all that. He moved up a weight class and sort of re-dedicated himself as a heavyweight, and he became a champion in Kickboxing and MMA, and his next fight is going to be for the UFC title. He's a guy that overcame a really hard time in his career and is now one of the best in the world, and I think that says a lot."
A rough recollection of my response when asked by the NY Times' Douglas Quenqua who my favorite fighter was. It and most of the other things I said didn't end up getting used in the article, but that doesn't really matter.
I first heard about Alistair Overeem in late 2009. He was the champion of Strikeforce, the promotion that Fedor signed to instead of the UFC. Everyone seemed to think Fedor should fight him. Around New Years day of 2010, I heard that Overeem had fought very recently(the night before I believe), my brother showed me the video without telling me the result. I saw him 'uberknee' Kazuyuki Fujita into a mini-coma and all I could say was 'damn.'
The next video I saw of his was when he fought Dzeved Poturak in April of 2010, another vicious knee knockout. The next month, he obliterated Brett Rogers...the guy who had actually done a pretty damn good job against Fedor, THE FEDOR. I began following Overeem's online series 'The Reem' pretty much as soon as it began and became hooked.
I couldn't wait to see him fight Fedor, and always thought it'd be cool if he came to the UFC one day to fight Lesnar. Fedor lost, and Overeem entered into the K-1 2010 Grand Prix. A member of BE talked about Ben Edwards potentially sending him home early...I thought that was a little fishy, but it got me nervous. I was happy to see him wreck Edwards in the first round. I stayed up all night watching the GP, rooting for him every step of the way. Seeing him win was fantastic. To see him return to MMA and take out Todd '7 seconds of pain' Duffee in 19 seconds was also rewarding. This guy was good at violence, and I loved it.
All along the way, there were those who said he was on something, roids, this, that, or the other. I never like to rule anything out, but until a guy pisses hot...it seemed a little cynical to not give him the benefit of the doubt. There were doubters...but he avenged his loss to Werdum in the summer of 2011, it wasn't pretty, but still, he got the job done.
Then he was released from Strikeforce...I was pulling for him to get to the UFC every step of the way. Him vs Lesnar was announced, finally a chance to prove his worth against against a former UFC champ. He tore through Lesnar in one of my personally most anticipated fights. This was a fight I was hoping for in the summer of the previous year.
Next he was up for the title, he'd have a chance to prove himself as the undisputed king of Heavyweight combat sports...A lot of people were calling JDS to starch him...but I had hope, I always had hope, I mean, this guy was so awesome, intelligent, and so lethal in the cage...he could do it, because he was my favorite, he could pull it off.
But it would appear that he certainly isn't as 'Drug Free' as the shirts he wears would imply. For all I know everyone in MMA is juicing or illegally enhanced in some way or another...but only a few ever get caught. Outside of that, I can at least hold the belief that they are who they are because of perhaps good genetics, because they work harder, dedicate more than everyone else and have a great mindset. I believed that when you hit a rough patch and it looked over, that if you changed things up, re-assessed the situation, and gave it another try that you could come back and be better than ever.
I believed in Alistair Overeem.