GLORY Heavyweight Title: 'CroCop' among possible challengers for Verhoeven's belt

Al Bello

Rico Verhoeven is the new GLORY World Heavyweight Champion after beating Daniel Ghita at GLORY LAST MAN STANDING this past weekend. Ghita stays in the contender picture but won't be Verhoeven's first challenger. So who will it be? Here's five possible options GLORY could consider.

Rico Verhoeven won the GLORY World Heavyweight Championship in the headline bout of the LAST MAN STANDING card, going 2-0 over his close rival Daniel Ghita in successive fights.

The win takes Verhoeven out of the rankings - champions sit above the regular rankings, looking down on everyone - and so, despite the loss, Ghita remains in the #1 position.

We are unlikely to see an immediate rematch though. Ghita will have to score one, maybe two more wins before getting another shot. So who will Verhoeven's first title defense be against? Here's five names who could fit the bill.

Mirko ‘CroCop' Filipovic (23-8, 12 KO's, 1-1 GLORY)

Ranked at #10 in the official listings, "CroCop" has a surprisingly strong case for a title shot. He is coming off a win in his last outing and, according to most fans, should really be 2-0 in his last two. The decision loss to Remy Bonjasky at GLORY 14 ZAGREB was highly controversial.

In his preceding three kickboxing fights he is 3-0 and if you go right back to the start of his 2012 return to kickboxing he is 6-1. That is the kind of run which gets fighters a title shot in other organizations and there is no reason GLORY couldn't do the same.

As an added bonus, Mirko "CroCop" fighting for the heavyweight title live on Spike TV would definitely bring in viewers. Yes he is 39 and yes his game is a lot more about spoiling-tactics these days, but he is still a big name.

The fight would either be a ‘passing of the torch' or, if "CroCop" actually won, proof that old soldiers die hard. Either way, two compelling storylines run through it and it would definitely pique my interest.

Whilst we are speaking of "CroCop", I'd also like to see the blatantly un-retired Peter Aerts re-signed to GLORY for an Old Boys match-up on US soil, live on US television. I think American fight fans deserve to see that, and both of them have legions of fans in America.


Errol Zimmerman (103-11-1, 44 KO's, 4-4 GLORY)

http://cdn0.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1855861/Errol_Zimmerman_vs._Hesdy_Gerges_1.gif (gif by ZombieProphet)

Verhoeven and Ghita are locked in a Tango De La Muerte which I think will end only when one of them absolutely mangles the other or achieves some form of completely dominant victory which ends all arguments .

While the division's top two fighters have been locked in their dance of death, Zimmerman has been trying to cut in on the championship dance card. Ghita violently rebuffed his advances in a one-minute destruction at GLORY 13 in December which came not long after Zimmerman's GLORY 9 points loss to Verhoeven.

But Zimmerman is a persistent sort. He was the one half of the first-ever GLORY title fight - he faced Semmy Schilt at GLORY 1 STOCKHOLM - and he isn't willing to be ruled out of the title race just yet. His response to being KO'd by Ghita was to violently KO two opponents in one night at GLORY 16 DENVER, regaining momentum.

There is also the matter of his being 1-1 with Verhoeven, making for a rubber-match narrative. However, I feel like his losses to Ghita and Verhoeven were just a little too recent for him to be in a title shot just yet.

I think if he can get on a late summer/early Fall card and produce another emphatic win, that would line him up for a shot at the belt in the last quarter of the year. But who against?

That's a good question. I could see an argument for a fight with Hesdy Gerges but I also like the idea of a Top Ten newcomer like Mladen Brestovac seeking to prove his worth by taking on a dangerous Top Five opponent like Zimmerman.


Badr Hari (50-12, 38 KO's) (Free Agent)

If GLORY was to sign Hari and enter him into an immediate title shot, the internet would light up. Go on any of GLORY's YouTube videos or social media posts; there will be on average at least one mention of Hari, even if the original post was something about featherweights or a ring girl.

Sadly his fame owes as much to his activities outside the ring as inside it, and even some of the in-ring acts have bordered on actual criminal illegality rather than being mere breaches of the sport's rules.

The ups and downs of Hari's career are entertaining and annoying in equal measure. On the one hand his escapades have made him one of the most compelling figures in combat sports. On the other, they have hamstrung his career and tarnished his legacy.

Hari is a colossus on the kickboxing landscape, but one weighed down by heavy chains made up of legal and personal problems.

Recent convictions mean he would be unlikely to get a US visa and that makes him of extremely limited value to GLORY which, despite its European roots, is following the UFC model of being a US-focused organization with the occasional extra-territorial venture.

There is no shortage of work out there for Hari - his recent Dubai venture was lucrative - but for a champion-pedigree fighter such as him, you just know he is dying to try and take the GLORY belt.

Having him as champion would certainly get attention, but would it be the kind of attention GLORY wants? One has to wonder whether GLORY execs could sleep soundly at night knowing that a potential PR nightmare was just one lost temper away. On the other hand, is there really any such thing as bad publicity?

Anderson ‘Braddock' Silva (38-11-1, 24 KO's)

I like Anderson, both as a person and as a fighter.

He also gets bonus points from me for having the exact same name, nationality, team allegiance and city of residence as someone who also happens to be a professional fighter - you know you are talking to a real fight fan when they interrupt to ask if the Anderson you are talking about is "Spider" or "Braddock".

However, cool points do not get you a title shot, recent results do. On that criteria Silva sadly has to be eliminated from the running at the present time.

He is heavyweight kickboxing's nearly-man. He has narrowly missed out on some big victories which, had the needle moved just a touch the other way, would have made his career and current position completely different.

Silva competed in the GLORY 16 heavyweight tournament, beating Sergey Kharitonov in a stupendously gritty fight then losing to Errol Zimmerman by knockout in the final. "Coming off a KO loss" is matchmaker shorthand for "not anywhere near a title shot right now."

I really hope Silva can string some wins together though. I'd love to see him get on a run. Over the past year he has either been fed a murderer's row of contenders or been robbed by the judges. A mid-tier opponent might take some of the pressure off.

Hesdy Gerges (44-13-1, 20 KO's, 2-1 GLORY)

Gerges is 2-1 in GLORY and riding a two-fight win streak, his most recent victory being a stoppage of Jhonata Diniz at GLORY 15 ISTANBUL.

As the former heavyweight champion of the now-defunct It's Showtime organization, Gerges knows how it feels to wear a champion's belt and he wants to get his hands on one again.

In times gone past Gerges was rather one-dimensional, a product of the Chakuriki Gym and its philosophy of winning fights with aggression and relentless forward pressure. 'Gameplan' was not a word in the Thom Harinck dictionary.

When Harinck retired the loyal Gerges moved on. Around eight months ago he joined the Vos Gym and began training under Ivan Hippolyte (Remy Bonjasky, Mirko "CroCop"). Now we are starting to see the evolution in his game, particularly his boxing.

Gerges' toughness and determination have never been in doubt. His nickname 'Fighter-Heart' (which probably sounds better in Dutch as vechterheart) speaks volumes. What he always needed was a touch more finesse and fighting intelligence and I think he's getting that under Hippolyte.

One more win could see Gerges enter the title conversation. As it happens, he is facing fellow GLORY heavyweight Jamal Ben Saddik in Azerbaijan this coming weekend, a non-GLORY event but a GLORY-sanctioned bout which will impact their standing in the official GLORY rankings.

Should it be Gerges who emerges victorious, particularly if he can score an explosive or dominant win, then he should start being a little more vocal about his title shot ambitions and hope that the GLORY matchmakers take notice.

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