What fan of organized violence can say they don't enjoy some good K-1 action? Particularly if it's being delivered by top heavyweight kickboxers. The consensus seems to be that Romanian fighter Daniel Ghita is a pretty big deal in the world of kickboxing, and the fight world in general. He's the current It's Showtime Heavyweight Champion and has a good claim at winning this year's K-1 World GP crown.
Most people seem to agree that Ghita is a monster in the ring. He's got the size (6'5"/1.95m, 253.5 lbs/115kg), but size along means nothing without heart and technique, and it doesn't seem like he's in short supply of either. Riding a 5 fight win streak (all of them KOs), into his match in K-1's returning show in Madrid on May 27, he was a heavy favorite against a late-replacement in Wendell Roche, so fans expected him to entertain. They wanted a show, a dominant performance, which is exactly what happened. Roche's legendary iron chin was battered by "The Savage Samurai" hard enough to make the Curaçao native's corner throw in the towel in Round 2.
Ghita's performance, especially coupled with Badr Hari's own underwhelming work that night (not taking anything away from Anderson "Braddok" Silva, of course) have raised a lot of questions. Will the two be fighting in the near future? A year ago Hari was a huge favorite in this hypothetical match-up, but people have begun to question whether "The Golden Boy"''s heart and mind are still in it. Regardless, aside for Semmy Schilt (who will probably still be in fight shape 30 years from now), Ghita and Hari are the only two legitimate heavyweight kickboxing superstars still in their prime, and time is not lost for a match between them, especially if it happens in the K-1 World GP. But let's not get carried away.
Shortly after winning against Roche, Ghita gave Romanian website Puterea an interview, offering his thoughts on a variety of topics.Since the original interview is in Romanian, and the one posted on LiverKick is rather poorly translated (I'm being kind), I've taken the liberty to re-translate it myself. As you're about to see, in case you're not familiar with Ghita's personality, he's definitely the confident type, to say the least. Enjoy.
Interviewer: How do you feel, and do you think you're in the best shape of your career so far?
Daniel Ghita: I am definitely in top shape, and my previous matches, in which I've KO'd all my opponents, fully prove this. I've had some very good physical and tactical preparation.
I: Did you know that Wendell Roche (Ghita's previous adversary) had never been knocked out before?
D.G.: I was aware. This motivated me even more, especially because he's fought (Gokhan) Saki and (Dzevad) Poturak (fighters that have also crossed paths with Ghita), who haven't been able to KO him. I'm friends with Roche from training together, but I'm nobody's friend in the ring.
I: Before Roche, your opponents were supposed to be either Paul Slowinski or Damian Garcia. Do you think they were afraid of you?
D.G.: Definitely. Initially, Slowinski had accepted the match, but later on he wouldn't answer his phone. Same thing with Garcia. At any rate, it wasn't good for me to have my opponent changed tree times in just a few days. Before a bout you get a gameplan together, for a specific adversary.
I: On June 30 you're fighting Frederic Sinistra, on his turf, in Belgium. How do you see this match?
D.G.: Sinistra is a star in Belgium, he's even fought Badr Hari. I hope I won't have any problems, and I hope to end the fight before the final bell.
I: Have you made it a goal to KO all your adversaries?
D.G.: Yes, because I know what I'm currently capable of. This year I want to KO them all.
I: I know you offered Gokhan Saki a bout set for June 30, but he did not accept.
D.G.: That's right. But Saki asked for three times more money to fight me, so the bout got scrapped. If you've got the heart of a lion, you fight the best. He was definitely afraid of me.
I: Is there any chance of seeing you also fight in SuperKombat?
D.G.: Not this year, I think, because I've got plenty of fights in K-1. After that, of course I'm open to discussion. Let's see what offer Eduard Irimia has. There's no problem on my part. I would like to fight in SuperKombat as well.
I: So you miss Romania?
D.G.: Of course I do, I'm Romanian and I miss the folks back home. I've been mostly abroad these past four years. I've been like a sailor. I want to come and fight in front of the home crowd. There were lots of Romanians here in Madrid (at the K-1 event). I felt their support and I thank them for that.
I: You were supposed to fight Badr Hari last year but the fight got cancelled. Are you looking forward to fighting him?
D.G.: I will be facing him soon enough. I really want this a lot. We're at the same level. If you're a champion you fight champions. I'm not afraid of him. If I was, I wouldn't be in this sport.
I: What's your objective this year, what's your main goal in K-1?
D.G.: I want to win the K-1 belt in 2012. I want it to be a Romanian year this time in this circuit. I want to come back home with the belt.
I.: Lastly, did you see what happened to Bute(Lucian Bute, former IBF Super Middleweight Champion, also Romanian, who recently lost his title to Carl Froch by 5th round KO)?
D.G.: I didn't see the match, but I saw some bits of it afterwards. I'm certain he really wants a rematch, I would, too, in his place. He's a great fighter, he'll be even more motivated now. I've got faith in him coming back even stronger. He'll prove this fight was just a mishap.
So there you have it. Ghita almost sounds like what you'd imagine Rocky's Ivan Drago if he'd actually had lines in the movie. Of course you can accuse him of being cocky, but, to use a "Dana White"-ism, it is what it is. His image has been built on KO power, not modesty. His recent training stint with the last man to wear K-1 gold, Alistair Overeem at Imperial Athletics in California has lead to some very hopeful rumors about the Romanian's potential MMA debut. While the rumors were shut down pretty quickly, there's always a chance in terms of athletes crossing over from one sport to another if they find the right motivation, so let's not count anything out just yet.
And why shouldn't we want Ghita in the cage? He's strong, technical, has granite chin, ridiculous power and years upon years of stand up experience. Furthermore, "The Savage Samurai" has been visibly improving these past few years, showing willingness to shore up the holes in his game, which means he's not without adaptability. In the past, in Kickboxing bouts, he's had trouble against opponents who closed the distance and overwhelm him with combinations, constantly breaking his own rhythm and pushing him backwards. As his more recent fights have shown, however, he's added a few tricks to his counter-striking arsenal (particularly very short, very fast counter hooks just as the opponent is stepping in or as he's in the middle of a combo).
The main problem from a fan's perspective is Ghita's potential lack of grappling knowledge. From what I know of my fellow countryman, he initially started down the martial path by training in Judo in his youth, and later Sanda/Sanshou (a form of Chinese Kickboxing that allows throws, trips and takedowns, see Sweet Scientist's article on Kickboxing for more information) with his cousin, retired Kickboxer Ciprian Sora, before moving on to Muay Thai, and he's also a former Romanian secret service agent. Based on all of this, one can assume he's at least had a minimum amount of contact with grappling in the past.
What about the present, though? Even if he were interested in developing a ground game or at least acquiring some knowledge in the takedown and submission defense department, it's unlikely he's had time this year, having already fought 4 times, with a 5th bout set for late June. And while in his prime, he's nowhere near young at 31. It doesn't help either that for such a huge name he's a fairly private person, even in his native Romania.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. He's currently doing fine work in the Kickboxing ring and I'm thankful for it. There's a lot of pressure on him this year and one can only hope he stays injury free and keeps delivering highlight reel KOs. I leave you with a closing thought: would Badr Hari (the in-shape version) vs. Daniel Ghita not make for one of the most epic finals in the history of the K-1 World GP? Here's hoping.