Talk to Joseph Valtellini and that's the word you hear brought up again and again. Focus - focus on his fights, focus on his goals. And that goal?
"I want to be the best. To be able to go to bed one day and say I'm the best kickboxer in the world... I want to be perfect every time I step in the ring."
He's well on his way. At just 28 years old and only 11 fights into his professional career, Valtellini is already one of the fastest rising talents in kickboxing. He's 10-1 with 9 KOs, 3 of them coming under the Glory banner. This weekend, he looks for the biggest win of his career as he enters the Glory 13 Tokyo Welterweight tournament. He takes on Raymond Daniels in the opening round, with a possible clash with #1 ranked Welterweight Nieky Holzken looming in the finals. The last 3 Glory shows have all seen big upsets in the tournaments, and Valtellini absolutely has the potential to make that happen once again, but he doesn't let it get to him. Instead, at Glory 13, the calm, collected fighter will look to keep his head in the game, use his superb technical kickboxing, and prove to the world that he truly is #1. Here's his unique approach on how to get there:
"I look at fighting as the ring is your canvas and you're the artist. I just want to be in there and put in the perfect performance, and I want everyone to be amazed by the technique and the power."
These words may read as boastful, even arrogrant, but in conversation with Valtellini, there is no whiff of arrogance, not a hint of excess pride. Instead, there is a determined, but ultimately humble man ready to go out there and show the world what a great kickboxer looks like.
I had a chance to speak to Valtellini after Glory 11 and again as he packed before leaving for Tokyo. In this exclusive Bloody Elbow interview, he talks about Glory 13, his goals, and his passion for the sport:
On preparing for Glory 13:
"Training has been good... I've had a good camp. It was a quick turnover from my fight with Ghajji in Chicago. I was able to take about a week rest then get back to training. It's been back to back camps and I can definitely say I'm in the best shape of my career so far. I'm healthy, I'm on weight, and I'm ready to perform."
On fighting in a tournament:
"Training's been a little different. We're preparing to peak twice in one night so a lot of times my training day is geared like the tournament day would be. I try to peak in the beginning of my session, then put some time in to learning and drilling, then peaking again at the end of my training. It's creating a training environment that is like the tournament."
On how much he studies his opponent:
"I'm more towards the 'I fight my fight' style, but I still think it's important to watch your opponent to see what kind of style, what kind of stance, what kind of attacks they bring to the fight. But I don't overanalyze that. At the end of the day, I let the fight unfold. My coach from early on in my career trained me to find my own holes and find my own ways to victory... if you go in there with only one path and something goes off that path it can be very frustrating as a fighter. So I like to go in there with a clear mind and let things unfold."
On fighting Raymond Daniels:
"I'm not looking past Daniels at all. He's a very dangerous fighter who likes to use his karate to his advantage, so a lot of my training camp has been preparing for that, bringing in people who simulate him... The camp was geared towards still sharpening and improving myself, but being mindful that he is an awkward fighter so a different strategy might be used."
On fighting Nieky Holzken:
"He's very tricky. He likes to mix up his attacks; he's very good at mixing levels with his attacks. [My strategy is] putting pressure on him, getting in his face, showing him that I'm not backing down and saying let's fight. I want to make it a fight. A lot of guys go in there and try to make it a technical fight with him, and he's good that way, so I'm going to go in and bring the fight to him."
On the importance of getting the KO:
"I'm 10 wins and 9 KOs to my record. It's something I like to keep and something that motivates me, something I like to brag about, you know with all these KOs on my record I want to keep it going. At the end of the day it's a spectator sport and people want to see KOs, so the more KOs I can deliver, the more the sport grows especially being on Spike TV."
On the fighters who influenced him:
"One of the fighters I really enjoyed watching was Ramon Dekkers. The guy was amazing, he was a fast-paced fighter and whoever he fought he came in, threw heavy combos, heavy low kicks. He was an amazing fighter to watch. The other one I have to say was Ernesto Hoost. They called him Mr. Perfect, and I've been told I'm the next Mr. Perfect. The Glory staff told me one of the reasons they chose me to be on the co-main event [in Chicago] is because they wanted to showcase technical kickboxing. I feel I can bring that technique, that cleanliness, as well as good knockout power."
On the future of kickboxing:
"I really appreciate all the support I've been getting... I'm one of those people who want to do well for the sport and want to represent the sport in a positive way. I think it needs someone positive to be able to grow as big as the UFC and MMA. I hope I can be that person to help it grow to the next level... It will get there. It speaks for itself. If you watch these fights they're exciting. A lot of fans come up to me and were like, 'Man this was more exciting than a UFC fight.' people love stand up fighting. The biggest complaint from casual fans is that when it gets to the ground, fans don't like it. This offers 3 rounds, 3 minutes of heavy action. There's no boring time in a fight. Fans just need to see it."
"I'm confident this is going to be the most exciting sport in the world. I'm excited to be growing alongside Glory and building the sport and building kickboxing in North America."
Join us this Saturday, December 21 for Glory 13 Tokyo results, discussion, and full fight coverage.
For more kickboxing coverage, follow me on Twitter at @FCoffeen.