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Kickboxing's best heavyweight Rico Verhoeven 'confident' he can beat top-10 MMA fighters right now


The world's best heavyweight kickboxer is fixed on becoming the world's best heavyweight MMA fighter.

Rico Verhoeven, the GLORY kickboxing heavyweight champion, is extremely serious about his crossing over into MMA. So much so that he says he's actually more excited about training in mixed martial arts than kickboxing right now.

"On the MMA side, everything is new," Verhoeven told MMA Fighting. "The grappling, the submissions. Stuff like that. All those things are new. When you feel things are working during sparring, that's great. You feel you are getting better and things are working for you. That's a part that brings more excitement, because new things are coming and there are new things that I'm learning. UFC and Bellator are getting bigger. Japanese organizations are coming up.

"Those things all combined give me the feeling in my gut that I have to change something and do a little more MMA as well."

Verhoeven, 26, made his MMA debut in October, beating Viktor Bogutzki via first-round TKO. The Dutchmen actually took Bogutzki down and finished him with ground and pound. Verhoeven has been training in grappling for four years, has won grappling tournaments and currently works his ground game with UFC middleweight star Gegard Mousasi. He very well might be the best heavyweight MMA prospect in the world right now because of his relative youth and substantial striking pedigree.

Though MMA is at the forefront of his mind, next up for Verhoeven is a defense of his GLORY title against Mladen Brestovac at GLORY 28 on Saturday in Paris. Then, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound specimen will weigh his options on what's next. The UFC and Bellator could come calling soon. Verhoeven has already brought on board powerhouse firm Paradigm Sports Management, which boasts clients like Conor McGregor, Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping.

"The excitement is there," Verhoeven said of MMA. "It's a new adventure. That brings a lot to the table for me. I've been kickboxing since I was 6 years old. I'm now almost 27. That's a long time. In kickboxing, there's nothing new for me to learn."

Verhoeven, who owns a 47-10-1 pro kickboxing record, would like to do both sports at the same time, but he's willing to give up kickboxing for a promotion like the UFC -- provided the money is right. Bellator would be a more flexible option, he understands, because it wouldn't restrict him to just MMA.

"Of course, we're sportsmen, but we're also businessmen," Verhoeven said. "I think that's an important thing to keep in mind. Of course, an organization like Bellator, they will give me the space to also do kickboxing. If the UFC wants to have me, they have to put a better offer on the table to even let me consider it."

Verhoeven is a frequent watcher of MMA, especially the heavyweight division. The top-tier fighters there are aging. One look at the UFC's official rankings and you'll see a handful of fighters past 35 years old. Verhoeven believes he can jump in right now and be competitive with the best.

"I'm also confident that there are a lot of top-10 guys that I can beat right now," Verhoeven said. "But you've gotta have some experience and that's what I'm looking for right now, just to gain some experience, jump into the top 10 and kick some guys' asses."

First up will be another GLORY bout and then maybe an MMA fight somewhere. At any point, though, Verhoeven is willing to listen to mixed martial arts promotions. In the meantime, he'll just be training in both things.

"I think the level of striking [in MMA] is way lower than what I'm doing," Verhoeven said. "The thing is in MMA, it's not just one specific sport that makes you a good fighter. Not that I'm just a kickboxer and that makes me the champion or you're a good wrestler and then you become champ. It's such a wide range of sports. For my part, that's what brings the excitement."

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