The concept of the one-night tournament in combat sports has always been more cinematic than realistic. The romance of having to fight multiple times in a night, often through injuries (and sometimes aided by the mystical healing agents in Mr. Miyagi’s hands) is a favorite Hollywood backdrop. In real life, such things are an act of old-school warriordom that’s rarely attempted these days.
But Glory 17 is headed to the old Forum in Los Angeles for it’s eight-man, last man standing middleweight tournament on June 21. Unlike the original UFC when Royce Gracie introduced jiu-jitsu as a trump card to all notional forms of badassery, Glory takes place on the feet. It’s kickboxing. When somebody goes to the ground, it’s usually a solo voyage after getting vaporized by a spinning backfist or a kick.
Since it began in 2012, Glory’s mission has been to take the most obvious form of fighting -- two guys standing in front of each other inflicting harm -- and extract its most violent (and sometimes most purely symphonic) essences. Remember this little ditty that happened in Broomfield a couple of months back.
And one of the Saturday night’s participants is a familiar name in the mixed martial arts. That would be the hard-hitting Dutch-Surinamese fighter, Melvin Manhoef, who takes on 31-year old Belgian Filip Verlinden in the opening round. Manhoef is 38 years old and has been around the fight game for a long time, both in MMA (Strikeforce, ONE FC, Dream, etc) and kickboxing.
And through over 60 professional fights all over the globe, he’s never competed three times in a single night. He appeared on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour and said there’s a first time for everything.
"I like fighting, so for me it’s a way of life," he said. "It’s my everything. I can fight two or three times, I don’t mind. I enjoy the fans. I can let people see what I bring on the table."
Manhoef is coming off of a first round knockout in April of Evangelista Santos in Rio de Janeiro. That was an MMA fight. His last kickboxing bout was against Zabit Samedov in Moscow last November (a narrow decision loss). Like Tyrone Spong, Manhoef doesn’t mind going back and forth between kickboxing and MMA.
In fact, his manager Jorge Guimaraes made it public recently that Manhoef would like to compete in the UFC before his fighting days are over.
When asked which he preferred, MMA or kickboxing, Manhoef said it’s apples to apples.
"Everybody’s asking me this question, but it’s like asking, ‘who do you love more, your mom or your father?’ It’s the same, it’s fighting," he said. "I like the fight game. I cannot choose between kickboxing and MMA. I am good at both. If asked to choose, I cannot.
"The number one goal now is focusing on Glory. That’s the number one goal at the moment. I have fought everywhere all over the world, in every organization, but I never fought in the UFC. It would be nice to be one time also in the Octagon…I’m a free agent now so it doesn’t matter. For me it would be nice, and I’d be honored to fight one time in the UFC, of course. I think [it’s like that] for every fighter, to fight at the highest level."
A strong showing in Glory might help facilitate that desire.
This will mark the first time that a Glory event will be a pay-per-view. Other than the middleweights being turned on each other there’s a heavyweight title bout between Daniel Chita and Rico Verhoeven, and a welterweight title fight between Marc de Bonte and the Canadian Joseph Valtellini.
The big allure, though, is the tournament, a survival bracket that features Joe Schilling and Simon Marcus in the opening round, as well. When asked who (other than himself) he’d place as the odds on favorite to navigate the field, Manhoef said it’s tough to forecast a winner in a battle of attrition like this.
"I really don’t know. It’s a tournament, so you have the luck factor," he said. "I think maybe Simon or Joe…you know, everybody is good, and I don’t mind who I’m going to get."
The one thing Manhoef is mindful of is that the PPV business adds a certain pressure to deliver. That’s been going through his mind as Glory ventures into those waters.
"For the promoters, and for the organization, it’s very good," he said. "But it’s also a very big responsibility for all the fighters, you know, because I think they did a great job and they want to put stand-up fighting on the market in the U.S.
"I will do everything in my power to make it a great show. I take responsibility for that. I am thankful that I can be part of it, because this is history, you know, when people are going to see stand-up for the first time on PPV in America. I know what I have to do."