Hesdy Gerges (49-16-1, 23 KO's) and Guto Inocente (31-7, 17 KO's) are fighting in the co-main event of GLORY 33 NEW JERSEY on September 9. They're booked on a card headlined by heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven defending his title in the main event against Brazilian veteran Anderson "Braddock" Silva (no relation to, but a friend and training partner of, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson "Spider" Silva).
The Dutch-Egyptian Gerges' title campaign took an immediate backwards step when his fight with Ismael Londt at GLORY 31 AMSTERDAM earlier this year resulted in a decision for Londt. The result was bitterly disputed by Gerges and a lot of fans agreed with him. He holds no ill-will towards Londt - they are friendly outside the ring - but can't say the same for the judges who adjudicated that fight.
"I am OK with it, you can't do anything about it. It happened and that's it. I think everyone around the world who saw the fight saw me as the winner. So maybe on paper I lost by decision but I really take it as a win, not a loss. Sometimes it happens in this sport. I don't really know what to say. At the moment in this sport we are seeing quite a lot of bad decisions. I think there are some judges who are not really of a high level," he shrugs.
"I don't feel like we saw as many bad decisions back in the day. Or sometimes you would get a bad decision but there was an argument for it, like OK yeah, I can maybe see how they arrived at that decision. But some of the decisions we are seeing recently it's like they aren't even debatable, they are just obviously bad decisions, not correct. I think it's something which will need to be addressed if it continues because it's bad for the sport and the fans."
Moving forward, Gerges is looking forward to a fight with one of the most stylistically unusual combatants in kickboxing. Inocente first started training at age four, taught by his father in a kickboxing style heavily influenced by karate and Taekwondo. He later trained in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and had a stint in the UFC before his arrival in GLORY.
"I don't really know him. When he was put forward as an opponent I went to watch some fights of his and he's got a really unorthodox style, a lot of spinning attacks, a lot of kicks. He's got a very different style compared to most fighters. But I'm a Dutch-style kickboxer and I am a natural heavyweight, he is coming up to heavyweight from light-heavyweight. I don't think he will be able to handle my power;" muses Gerges.
"He moves a lot and does strange things but I will just stick to the basics and I think I will be fine. I always keep pressure on opponents and always go forward, that's my style. I am not that kind of guy who moves backwards and side to side. I go forward and I take two punches to give one punch, that's just who I am. Everyone knows what I am about. He wants to try himself against me, cool. Let's do it. I think it will be a good fight and a good result for me.
"I always come to fight. The old-school style. You see less and less of it these days, the old-school Dutch style, but it's what I like. These days a lot of the fighters have changed, they don't have the same heart to fight. Robin van Roosmalen is a guy like me, always going forward, Nieky Holzken too, but a lot of the new guys don't. They are all about technique and technical fights, but back in the day the guys just wanted to fight. They trained technique of course but they were real fighters in their heart. I want to bring some excitement back to the heavyweight division."
Presently the heavyweight division is headed by Rico Verhoeven. He has dominated the weight class since winning the belt with a shutout of Daniel Ghita at GLORY 17 LOS ANGELES in June 2014. In fact, in his entire twelve-fight run in GLORY his only loss has been to former K-1 and GLORY champion Semmy Schilt. He is one of the most technically solid fighters ever to step in the kickboxing ring, but it's a style which has attracted critique from those members of the kickboxing community who like to see fighters stand and trade in the center of the ring for the entire duration.
"I cannot say a single bad thing about Rico, because he is the champion for a few years now and he's defended the title about six times. When I was already an established fighter he was really young, brand new, and since then he has fought hard and established himself as a fighter. I really respect that as a sportsman. But his style, I'm not a big fan of. I think maybe it would be better for the sport if someone else was the champion and giving the people what they want to see,"
Is Gerges aiming to become that "someone else" to head the heavyweight division?
"The goal is the title of course. And also my goal is to give the people the good fights and bring the heavyweight division back to a higher level again. I feel like it's been going down a bit, not so exciting. So I want to bring it back to a higher level and hopefully the judges will help me a bit this time, ha! No, actually I think the best thing is if I don't leave it to the judges in future.
"But I mean no disrespect to Rico. He is a really nice guy and a great ambassador for the sport, he's given everything for the sport and won everything. I can't say anything unless I take the title from him, then I can talk. But until then everyone has to shut their mouth about him, including me."
GLORY 33 NEW JERSEY takes place at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, NJ on Friday, September 9. The event is headlined by Rico Verhoeven defending the heavyweight title against Brazilian veteran Anderson "Braddock" Silva. Preceding the numbered card is the 'Superfight Series' card on UFC FIGHT PASS. That card is headlined by middleweight champion Simon Marcus defending the belt against Dutch prospect Jason 'Psycho' Wilnis.