The Blackzilian camp has been steadily adding high profile, elite talent level names to it's roster in an effort to fine tune their team into a force to be reckoned with. An MMA supercamp, if you will. Of late, they've been finding that rhythm, and with a little more time, they may even exceed their own expectations. Each athlete brings something unique and special to the table, whether it be jiu jitsu, wrestling or striking abilities. With Tyrone Spong, you have the cream of the crop for striking. When the term "K-1 level striking" gets bandied about, Spong is one of the first names that comes to mind. I recently interviewed Tyrone for the second feature in a series I'll be doing on the Blackzilian camp. Multiple topics were discussed, and will be detailed here for our readers.
Stephie Daniels: I heard from Glenn Robinson in an interview I conducted that you came to train Rashad Evans for the Tito Ortiz fight because of Mo Lawal, and ended up staying on as a permanent member and striking coach for the Blackzilians. Can you detail how that came to pass?
Tyrone Spong: That's right. Mo had been out to Amsterdam previously to train with me for about a month. We became close friends, and hung out a lot. He hooked me up with Rashad, so I came down to Florida to help him out for his camp against Tito. Rashad and I had a good bond, and we also grew close. I stayed with him at his apartment for almost six months, and then I finally made the move permanently. A lot of big names have come to our camp now, and we're still growing and getting better every day.
Stephie Daniels: Mo says that you're the best striker in MMA and kickboxing. What do you think of that compliment?
Tyrone Spong: I think Mo is a very smart man [laughs]. He's also correct.
Stephie Daniels: You chose to go with Glory instead of the new incarnation of K-1. What caused you to make that decision?
Tyrone Spong: When it all comes down to it, it's about the numbers. We're prize fighters. We fight to support ourselves, our families and our loved ones. The old K-1, they messed up a lot, and made their name not very trustworthy. The new K-1 is a different company and they're doing things the right way. They're trying to re-establish themselves like the old company from back in the day. I wish them the best, and I have kept really good communication with this new K-1. Glory just happened to offer me some better numbers, and that's what I went for.
Stephie Daniels: It's well known that K-1 had some money issues and left themselves owing many fighters, before the new management took over. Did they also owe you money?
Tyrone Spong: Yes. They owed me a lot of money, too. Thing is, you can't keep looking backwards at the past. You have to move forward, which is what I'm trying to do right now. I've got a bright future ahead of me. I just signed with Glory for a 4 or 5 fight deal, and it's a great contract because they are giving me the opportunity to also compete in MMA or even boxing, if I choose to do that. I'll probably be having my first MMA fight by the end of this year.
Stephie Daniels: You've transitioned yourself up to the heavyweight division. Do you feel that this weight will enable you to fight to the best of your potential?
Tyrone Spong: Yes I do. You're talking about a kid who has moved up from welterweight all the way to heavyweight, and I'm in there banging it out with the best. When I first started the transition, I wasn't even that motivated. I was just doing it because I could. Now, I have the motivation, and I'm training hard and with purpose, like a professional athlete. I wasn't fully committed in the past, but I am now. Even with that lack of motivation, I was still successful. At this moment, I feel really strong at heavyweight. I feel unbeatable.
In MMA, I'll be fighting at 205. I never really had to cut weight for kickboxing, since I was always one of the smaller heavyweights. Now, when I start MMA, I'll actually have to cut some pounds. We'll see how it goes, but I'm pretty confident, and I believe in my capabilities. I believe that I can do it and be very successful.
Stephie Daniels: What's it been like, having a legend like Ernesto Hoost as one of your trainers?
Tyrone Spong: You know, when I started out, those guys were the champions. They were the big names. Peter Aerts, Ray Sefo, Jerome LeBanner, Ernesto Hoost. They were the superstars. Ernesto has helped me so much when I lived in Amsterdam. He's just a real good guy that always looks out for you. He's very calm and points out your the things you're doing in a fight for instruction. That's why I like him. He has tons of experience, so it's always good to have somebody like that around you.
Stephie Daniels: What do you think about the mess that Badr Hari has gotten himself into?
Tyrone Spong: I think it's stupid. He's not going to be on the Glory card, a K-1 card, or any card, if it goes the way things are looking right now. I'm no lawyer, and I don't work in court, so I can't say anything about that, but the fact is, he blew it, and that's too bad, because he's a great athlete. As a person, I don't know. I don't have any bad experiences with him, but he's got himself into some big trouble, and that's a fact. I don't wish anything bad for him, but things don't look so good now.
Stephie Daniels: There have been rumblings for almost two years about you crossing over into MMA, but you're just now getting ready to take the plunge. What's taken you so long to finally make it a reality?
Tyrone Spong: We were making sure to find the right promotion, because for any organization, I'm a big name. When I do something, I want to do it right. When I make my debut, I want it to be a good one, and I want to be prepared. I don't want to make that decision just to make it, and not be prepared. I want to be successful. I want to win. I want to be a problem for whoever steps in that cage with me. Don't worry. Good things are worth waiting for.
Stephie Daniels: There are rumors that you have signed to fight for the new organization, World Series Of Fighting. Is that true?
Tyrone Spong: No, I'm not. I think I'm going to be fighting for Titan. There were some negotiations, but nothing came out of it. For now, it looks like Titan is going to be the one we go with for my debut. Eventually, I will end up in the UFC. There's no doubt in my mind about it. I just want to put on a great show for my fans.
Stephie Daniels: Braulio Estima praised your skills and your training of him for his MMA debut. How does it feel having an elite level athlete like Braulio giving you such honorable mention?
Tyrone Spong: It's great to feel appreciated. He's a great guy and a great athlete. For me, a champion doesn't mean that much. You have to be a champion in life, and Braulio is definitely a champion in life. I like working with him. The same for Melvin Guillard. He's very misunderstood. People just see Melvin the fighter, but as a person, he's great, and I enjoy being around him. We all help each other. It's one big happy family. This gym has so much potential. We have the best trainers and ingredients to become world class. We're just getting established right now, but mark my words, it's the future, and I seriously believe in it.
Stephie Daniels: Do you plan to train exclusively in Florida, or will you be traveling back and forth between there and Amsterdam?
Tyrone Spong: It's just going to be Florida. I live there now. I've got my kids and my family with me now. That's my home base.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel that with Glory making great fights and K-1 being under new management, and inking a TV deal, that kickboxing can make a big comeback to it's former prestigious reputation?
Tyrone Spong: I truly hope so. I think there's a very good possibility that it will. I hope that it does, because that will be easy money for me. I don't see any other kickboxer out there that's better than me. I hope they do good and go mainstream. People love striking and action, so I think it has a great chance.
Stephie Daniels: How has it been having Alistair Overeem with the Blackzilians, especially since you were responsible for getting him to come out there?
Tyrone Spong: Alistair and me go way back. We started out many years ago in the same gym, and he was my training partner for many years. It was seven years I think, before we parted ways. Then, there was a little bit of bad blood, and we didn't speak, and we weren't friends anymore. After I moved up to heavyweight, I finally ended up fighting him in the finals. It was a close fight, but he won, fair and square.
After that, almost two years later, there was some interest in him from the gym, and I'm a team player, so I reached out to him. We had a good talk, and we buried the hatchet. He's my teammate and my friend. It's an individual sport when you're in the octagon or in the ring, but it takes a team to get there, and I'm a team player.
Tyrone Spong: I'm a real big part of Vitor's training camp right now. I'm in charge of certain things for his camp, and I'm helping to get him prepared for this fight. Vitor is a great guy, and I respect him a lot. I think he's a hall of famer and a legend in the sport. I think he's going to do great, and I think he's going to surprise a lot of people.
Stephie Daniels: I've heard that in sparring practice, you hit like a truck and routinely knock people out, and even knock the teeth out of your sparring partners. Can you confirm this?
Tyrone Spong: You know, we're training in a combat sport, and sometimes these things happen [laughs]. It depends on where I am in the camp, too. If it's close to my fight, and I'm in that zone, these things tend to happen. If it's a teammate, I tend to take it easy in sparring, but if it's just a sparring partner, that gets paid to come and spar, and we're going hard, sometimes accidents happen. People might get knocked out or lose their teeth. They call me the teeth snatcher, so you better watch your grill [laughs].
You can follow Tyrone via his Twitter account, @Tyrone_Spong