Neither Alistair Overeem nor Bard Hari bear any ill will towards each other anymore.
Saturday, Overeem and Hari face off in a trilogy kickboxing match at Glory: Collision 4. Back in 2008, Hari was highly critical of Overeem heading into their first fight, but was upset by a first-round knockout, the win the put Overeem on the kickboxing map. The two men rematched a year later with Hari finishing Overeem in the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix Semifinals. Now, nearly 13 years since the two last met, Overeem and Hari will face each other once again, and while this first two encounters were flush with animosity, over a decade of combat sports experience has seemingly mellowed both men.
“I’ve only got love for Badr,” Overeem said when he and Hari went on The MMA Hour together. “Throughout the years we’ve trained a little bit together, we’ve spoke a little bit together, I have a lot of respect for him. He’s had a rough patch but he’s shown beautiful things in the ring, and I know his technical ability, I know what he’s capable of. I know what he has done. He’s one of the guy, one of the pioneers. So it’s going to be an awesome fight and my hat’s off to Badr.
“After we fought, this was nine years ago, we trained together, and then already my attitude was different. But it also comes with age and it also comes with falling from your stature. I’ve had my fall from grace, and it humbles you. It manners you and it just shows you that all that, ‘Blah, blah, blah,’ it’s about nothing. Badr is very similar to me. He is actually me, just a different rout. But he’s a fighter and we have a lot of similarities, and throughout the years you see the similarities. Also, he’s career ups and downs, I’ve had my ups and downs, he’s like me. Just a different path.”
Like Overeem, Hari set aside old grievances long ago, and admits to underestimating Overeem as a kickboxer the first time the two met. But after suffering that hard loss to Overeem, and his ensuing 13 years of combat sports excellence, Hari says it would be hard not to have respect for “The Reem.”
“After all these years, you don’t see it like this. It’s not personal at all,” Hari said. “I just want to win this fight, I just want to enjoy, and knocking people out is the most beautiful thing in our sport. It gives a feeling of domination. This is just the cherry on the pie. For me, it’s not personal, it’s just me enjoying still standing here. Where the rivalry changed, I think it changed because if you see somebody fighting for all these years, you know what it takes to be on top for all these years. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work. You have to push everything to the side, so you know when you’re looking at the other guy that this guy has been putting in the same work that you have been doing for all these years. So I think it’s difficult to not be respectful for somebody who has been fighting in this game for so long, because it’s like looking at yourself in a mirror... So of course it’s not personal. I’ve got respect for everything he did. But still, Saturday is Saturday. I want to win.”
But despite the mutual respect, some remnants of the old competitive tension still peak through. Hari has not won inside the ring since 2015 (he did beat Hesdy Gerges in 2018, but the result was overturn to a No Contest after both men tested positive for PEDs), and so, despite himself having not even fought in kickboxing in 12 years, Overeem said that Hari was not someone he was targeting to compete against, something Hari took a bit of umbrage with.
“I was going to fight Rico [Verhoeven], but Rico is doing Dancing With The Stars or whatever, Dancing On Ice,” Overeem said. “Badr wanted to fight me. To be honest, Badr — I like you, we’re not friends or anything but there’s a respect there — you’re not on the greatest track, so I was not going to challenge a wounded animal. But you wanted this fight so I was like, okay, let’s go, because I’m not going to say no.”
“I don’t know how this fight happened, but it was not me challenging you,” Hari interjected. “Glory just made this fight happen. ‘Do you want to fight Alistair?’ I said yes. So I don’t know who informed you but you were misinformed. It’s not me who challenged you. But I’m like any fighter, you tell me, ‘You want to fight Alistair?’ and I’m like yeah, bring him. It’s not me challenging you, it’s Glory. They paid me, they asked if I wanted to fight Alistair and I said yes, because this is the only way to become great. And yeah, bro, a wounded lion is still a lion. Let’s see.”
Overeem quickly put the misunderstanding down to the actions of the promotion and the respect quiescence remained in tact, but come Saturday, when the fight begins, Hari for one, says that all gets set aside until they settle their business.
“Listen, you shouldn’t mix things up, because at the end, we are killers,” Hari said. “At the end of the road, if you are there Saturday, Oct. 8, and he punches me in the face or I punch him in the face, all this respect is gone. This is who you are as a fighter. You can be respectful but that doesn’t say nothing about the rivalry between me and him. The moment he starts kicking me and trying to hurt me, believe me, I will do everything to finish him. So don’t get confused, this is just respect for somebody who is too long in the game.”
Glory: Collision 4 takes place this Saturday at the GelreDome in Arnhem, Netherlands.