BURBANK, Calif. -- Tyrone Spong is already one of the world's most decorated kickboxers. He'll have his second pro mixed martial arts bout on Saturday. And sometime around the end of this year or the beginning of 2014, a foray into boxing is planned.
The 27-year old native of Suriname by way of Amsterdam is now based out of South Florida. And he'd like to known as the combat sports equivalent of another famous American athlete.
"I was doing a lot of interviews, and one of the guys compared me to the Bo Jackson of combat sports," Spong said at a recent World Series of Fighting media luncheon. "I thought it was a real honor to be compared to someone like that. He was a guy who succeeded in different sports, but he was a multi-sport athlete. I just want to do the same thing. I have a dream and I want to do it and I want to look forward to making it come true."
Of course, Spong might be getting a bit ahead of himself, since his main event bout against Angel DeAnda at WSOF 4 is just his second career MMA fight, and he's yet to step between the ropes for his first boxing match. So it might be a bit soon to compare him to Jackson, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn who went on to fame in the late 1980's with both MLB's Kansas City Royals and the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders.
But Spong is used to multi-tasking. He speaks three languages, for one thing, and when he goes home after a day of training he's got three children, 15 finches, and six pit bulls and bulldogs to take care of. So Spong insists he has a natural aptitude for switching between the various and sometimes contradictory demands laid down by each of his chosen sports.
"When I see something I can copy it and I can adjust," explained Spong, who trains with the Blackzilians. "I can drive to the gym, I'm going to do boxing training and I show up and they say 'you gotta train MMA.' I say 'no problem.' The moment I step into the gym into the ring or the cage or on the mat, I switch on the moment. I don't know how. I think I'm a good copycat.
"Like I said, maybe it's a dream, like as a small boy you, grew up and you watch kickboxing from Jean Claude [Van Damme] or Bruce Lee and you want to do that. Mike Tyson or Ray Sefo, you see these guys and you want to do that. So I always watch fighting, these combat sports are for me."
It's fitting Spong mentions his youth, because it was at a young age he figured out through process of elimination that individual sports were his calling. Spong moved with his mother and sisters from Suriname to Amsterdam at age 7. First, he played youth soccer and realized that relying on teammates wasn't his thing.
"When we had a loss or whatever, I'd be devastated," Spong said. "I'd be so upset for weeks. For days, my best friend, I'd get mad at him, 'it's because of you that we lost.' For myself, I give 100 percent so I want everybody to do 100 percent which you can't ask people from a team. No I just chose a sport, I fight, if I win, I lose, it's on me. I'm a better friend now."
At 13, Spong's curiosity led him to follow a classmate into a gym, one which just happened to be run by legendary kickboxing figure Lucien Corbin.
"I saw a guy from my school walking into the gym," Spong said. "And by coincidence for the first time kickboxing and training my coach back then was training, Lucien Corbin, was one of the best trainers ever. I saw him and I started training. I remember I never left the gym cuz I got my ass kicked bad and I couldn't take it, so from that day on I trained for four years straight and then I had my first fight when I was 16."
And let's just say that in some ways, the training was a little bit on the primitive side.
"It was old school. And old school doesn't mean that it's always smart," Spong said. "When you grow up, you see things and now scientifically you see that's not right. Like not drinking at all at a practice for an hour and a half. That's not right. Training with no ventilation, the sweat is dripping off the mirrors and the walls, and he even turns up the heating system, it's a sauna, you're basically training in a sauna, that's not right.
"But for me as a young kid, 13 years old, it gave me a mentality like I don't care what type of situation I'm in, I'm always going to work hard."
That sort of mindset is what helped Spong reach great heights in his kickboxing career. It's also what helps Spong keep focus as he juggles everything on his plate, with an agenda that includes Saturday's WSOF fight with DeAnda, a Glory bout against Nathan Corbett in October in suburban Chicago, and the planned boxing debut.
"You've got to apply in the moment," Spong said. "The pressure, that's the hardest part. When I see something I can copy it. I can do the movement, I can do the drill. That's easy. You have to apply the right moment under pressure. Someone wants to knock you out, someone wants to submit you, someone wants to ground and pound you. That's when you gotta prove you belong."