By most accounts, the much-anticipated Glory matchup between heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven and longtime star Badr Hari finished with a letdown, as a broken arm suffered by Hari brought the clash in Oberhausen, Germany, to a premature conclusion.
But Verhoeven doesn’t see it that way. Appearing on a recent edition of the MMA Hour, the Dutch standout believes that his 50th career kickboxing victory went exactly as it should have.
“I’m happy with the result because I did what I had to do,” Verhoeven said. “I came in to demolish him every way possible and we started out with taking out that right hand and it worked so in the end, I’m happy. ... We know and everyone knows his right hand is strong. So part of the game plan was taking out that right hand and it worked even quicker than we thought.”
While the end of the fight came after Verhoeven delivered a knee to Hari in the clinch, Verhoeven believes the injury happened sooner and implied the final exchange provided his opponent with a way to save face.
“It’s not that knee that in the end broke the arm. I think it already happened in the first round,” Verhoeven said. “It was one of the middle kicks. So I was happy just even in that second round, because I didn’t know he broke his arm, but I felt the middle kicks were landing and I think just after a minute or something in the second round he thought this was something that he thought, hey, time to get out, this can only end badder than it is already.”
This came after a highly competitive opening round, in which Hari opened a cut on Verhoeven’s nose.
“I think it was a close round,” Verhoeven said. “I was pressuring him, I was in the middle of the ring. He landed some pretty jabs and I landed some good kicks, so I think it was a close round. People can say whatever they want about the first round. It’s a three-round fight. The fight was over when it was over. He said I wasn’t even going to get out of the first round, I’m going to knock him out within three minutes. So for me, it was good.”
The bout was unquestionably one of the biggest moments of Verhoeven’s career, as the Glory event gained traction outside the kickboxing world and drew in interest from around the general combat sports world. People who don’t usually follow kickboxing on a week-in, week-out basis knew about the fight and gave it a look.
Verhoeven acknowledged the bout brought in quite a bit of publicity. While he lists it as one of the top moments of his career, though, in his mind, it doesn’t top the night in 2013 in suburban Chicago in which he went won Glory’s heavyweight tournament as an underdog.
“I think the [best] moment of my career was when I became champion the first time, as an underdog I was fighting the No. 1 and 2 of Glory, and no one was expecting me to win that day,” Verhoeven said. “That was definitely the best moment of my life because it changed my life from that moment on. But this is definitely in the top three. I brought kickboxing to a whole new level. People who weren’t even into kickboxing, they were thinking about it. They were talking to me. ... That’s the effect of it, so from that side, it was the biggest fight.”
As for his next move? Verhoeven wants to enjoy the holidays. But for fans clamoring for an immediate Hari rematch, it doesn’t sound like Verhoeven is going to sit around and wait for his injured foe to heal.
“I’m not going to wait for nobody,” he said. “I’m the champ. I’m going to defend my title, maybe do an MMA fight, maybe a movie. Life’s been so good for me.”