Earlier this week the first of the four quarter-final matches for the GLORY: LAST MAN STANDING eight-man Middleweight Championship Tournament was announced.
Melvin ‘No Mercy' Manhoef (47-11-0, 37 KO's) will face Filip ‘The Belgian Bull' Verlinden (42-11-1, 16 KO's) in a classic brawler vs. technician match.
Famous for his forward-pressure attacking style and raw power, Manhoef has the highest KO ratio of any fighter in the tournament.
But Verlinden says if Manhoef tries to rush him in the first round, he might find himself walking on to something.
"If he really wants to be aggressive against me, if he really wants to try and finish me in the first round, maybe he gets finished in the first round instead," he smiles.
"Melvin Manhoef is an icon, one of the most feared men in the sport. But I have fought some of kickboxing's most dangerous men - I fought Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong.
"I have been doing this for years now and sparring with the best guys in the world. Ten rounds with guys like Gokhan Saki, Alistair Overeem, Errol Zimmerman, Jamal Ben Saddik, all heavy guys.
"I am used to sparring with powerful guys like that so Melvin Manhoef... I am not underestimating him but I am not afraid of him."
Verlinden used to fight at heavyweight, purely because that was where the money was. Before GLORY the only flagship divisions in the sport were heavyweight and lightweight.
Now GLORY has six weight classes stacked with top-tier talent. Verlinden first dropped from heavyweight to light-heavyweight and then realized his frame was more suited to middleweight, so dropped again.
He debuted at middleweight at GLORY 15 ISTANBUL in April against Israel ‘Iz' Adesanya of New Zealand. Verlinden won a unanimous decision, though looked to be close to scoring a finish at times.
"I felt stronger, I used to lack power [at heavyweight]. In the fight with Adesanya I felt, while I was in the ring, that this is where I belong. This is my weight class, I feel at home here," he says.
"Last Man Standing is the most exciting night in fighting. The world's best eight fighters come together and the winner has to fight and win three times in one night. If you win this eight-man tournament you are for sure the best middleweight in the world.
"Everything has to come together. You have to triple your cardio, triple your mentality, you have to bring yourself up to fight three times [if you want to win the tournament], it is heavy mentally. And you need a bit of luck. If you have all that you can win."
Verlinden does most of his training in the Netherlands, though he is from neighboring Belgium. He is nicknamed ‘The Belgian Bull' and says we will see why on June 21.
"If you watch bull-fighting you see that when the bull sees the red flag, he goes for it. They stab him and he doesn't fall, he keeps going for that red flag. For me the belt is the red flag," he says.
"In the tournament I will steam through. They will kick me and punch me, I will go down but I will get back up and keep going forward until I get that belt.
"I'm not going to save myself, I am going to give my all. If the KO comes it comes, if it doesn't it doesn't. If I have to fight four rounds for each fight, an extra round in each fight, I don't care, I will fight twelve rounds in the night.
"But I have to have that belt."
GLORY: LAST MAN STANDING takes place Saturday, June 21 and airs on pay-per-view, priced at $34.95 in the USA.
As well as the eight-man middleweight tournament the card features a heavyweight title fight between Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven plus Marc De Bonte defends the welterweight championship against Canadian contender ‘Bazooka’ Joe Valtellini.