2021 was quite the year for the King of Kickboxing, Rico Verhoeven. Rico went 3-0 in the ring and ended 2021 with one of the best kickboxing matches in recent memory, scoring a TKO victory over Jamal Ben Saddik after suffering a brutal cut under his left eye. With the win, Rico was able to defend his title for a record 10th time and extended his win streak to 15 fights, dating all the way back to 2015. His efforts earned him the 2021 Glory Fighter of the Year award.
Despite all of his success, Rico was very critical of his win over Saddik.
“My thoughts (on the Jamal Ben Saddik fight) are still the same. I’m my own biggest critic,” he said. “To stay the best, you have to be tough on yourself. I look at where I made mistakes and to me what’s important is where and how I can improve so I get better for the next time.
“Every fight brings its own lessons and you learn from it. You learn from it and you grow as a fighter and as a person, mentally and physically. I like to evolve every time and that’s what this fight did again. It helped me evolve and it helped me to stay grounded and stay focused on what the task at hand is.”
Jamal Ben Saddik was a late replacement for Alistair Overeem, who announced a return to kickboxing in June 2021, signing a multi-year contract with Glory. An injury forced Overeem out of the originally scheduled date, but the hype around the matchup makes it a no brainer for 2022.
“I’m happy with the opponent. I’m excited that he came to kickboxing and I think it’s a good name to add to my list. He’s a living legend in combat sports, in kickboxing and in MMA, and he performed overall pretty good. He got all the championships except for the UFC. He got K1, Strikeforce, Dream. He did a lot. He has a lot of championships on his name. And now he’s going to try to do it in Glory and we’re going to be there to stop him. I’m excited, I’m happy, and I can’t wait to hear a date.” Glory 80 will take place in the Netherlands on February 19th, but the main event and other bouts have not yet been confirmed.
Rico’s success in kickboxing has prompted many to speculate whether or not he would transition full time to MMA. In his lone MMA fight in 2015, Rico took his opponent down and finished him from the mount in dominant fashion. However, a lucrative contract from Glory and his unending passion for kickboxing have steered him away from MMA, making a full time transition highly unlikely.
“MMA for me doesn’t make any sense,” he stated. “For me if you want to become the best at something, it needs to be your ambition and your passion to be the best at what you’re doing. And if that’s not the case, it doesn’t make any sense to switch.
“I also did a pro boxing match. I like boxing a lot and I implemented it into the kickboxing training. But MMA is just a totally different sport.”
While he didn’t rule out a boxing match, it seems Rico is currently fully focused on his career in Glory as a kickboxer.
The full interview with Rico Verhoeven can be seen in the video above.