The Protègè of Holland’s
NHB Legend Chris Dolman,
RINGS Holland fighter:
by Chris Onzuka
Holland has produced some of the best kickboxers in the world. Led by Rob Kaman, many other Dutch fighters have met with success in the kickboxing world. Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts are some of the top kickboxers in the world, proving it by claiming numerous K-1 Grand Prix Championships. And NHB is no different. Remco Pardoel has met with some success, Bas Rutten has captured two of the most prestigious titles in NHB. He was the King of Pancrase and UFC Heavyweight Champion. But not many people know that Chris Dolman led the surge of tough as nails Holland fighters into NHB. He fought in beginnings of RINGS, at a time when there was not much publicity. Now, one of Chris Dolman’s students is an up and coming fighter. He is a converted kickboxer who has added grappling to his repertoire. What do you expect from a fighter coming out of Holland? His name is Valentijn Overeem (pronounced Valentine) and he is a specimen of a man. He competed with mixed results in RINGS USA “B-Bracket” Rising Stars tournament, losing to Tom Sauer in the finals. I called him a couple days after the tournament, interrupting his short vacation in Hawaii on July 24, 2000.
FCF: Let’s start off with your martial arts background?
Valentijn Overeem: I started practicing kickboxing first, when I was about 15. I had a couple of matches in kickboxing, then a friend of mine took me to Chris Dolman’s gym. I was about 18, I think. And then I started wrestling.
FCF: Was it kickboxing or Thai boxing?
VO: It was Thai boxing. I did about 8 matches.
FCF: How did you get into fighting?
VO: I was only practicing kickboxing and was only familiar with their rules. I didn’t understand how effective grappling was and how easy it was for guys to take me down and make me submit. So, I got curious and that’s where my interest started because I wanted to be an all-around fighter. That’s when I found out that I wasn’t good enough, that kickboxing for me wasn’t good enough.
FCF: How many NHB type matches have you had?
VO: I think about 26 matches.
FCF: What is your current record?
VO: Including kickboxing, it is about 34 or 35 [total fights]. And it would be about 6 or 7 losses, the rest are wins.
FCF: Which events did you fight in?
VO: I’ve done two vale tudo matches. I included those as well because I won both of them. I had 8 kickboxing matches, I only lost one of those. And the free-fighting, of course.
FCF: Where were those vale tudo matches?
VO: They were in England. It was a European title fight. I am the European Champion.
FCF: How long have you been fighting?
VO: I started competition when I was about 17, that was with the kickboxing. I started competing in free-fighting [MMA], when I was about 18.
FCF: How old are you now?
VO: I’m 23.
FCF: So you have been fighting for 5 years now.
VO: Well, I had an injury and I took off about 8 months to recover from it. In a match, my opponent covered himself with oil and when we started I wanted to throw him. But we fell on my shoulder because he was very slippery, so I couldn’t turn him over all the way. We fell on my shoulder and popped out my shoulder. I had a double operation for that.
FCF: How did you get involved in RINGS?
VO: My trainer, Chris Dolman, and I started grappling. He had a gym in Holland. He has 40 international titles in power lifting, wrestling, and judo. That’s the person who started my career in RINGS.
FCF: How long have you been fighting in RINGS?
VO: Since I was 18.
FCF: So, right after you started fighting?
VO: No, I started fighting for Chris Dolman in Holland first. I had about 5 or 6 fights and I won all of them because my kickboxing was quite good. That would allow me to win matches because of that and because I could submit a little better than the others in Holland. But when I went to Japan, I had to start all over again because I came up too short with my grappling. It was good enough for Holland, but when I came to Japan, those guys were much better. I had to do a lot more submission training.
FCF: Did you supplement your training with anyone else, or did you just stick with Chris Dolman?
VO: I supplemented my training. I still do.
FCF: Who are some of the people that you have or are currently training with?
VO: One of the students of Remco Pardoel has his own gym now. His name is Martin Dejong. One of the guys who teaches at Chris Dolman’s gym is Dennis Raven. He was one of the biggest judoka in Holland. I train kickboxing with Johan Vost in Amsterdam. That’s where Ernesto Hoost [K-1 Champion] trains.
FCF: Now, let’s talk about the RINGS USA event. Tell us about your first fight against Tali Kuliha’apai?
VO: Well, Tali was a boxer, so I didn’t want to take a risk and do some stand-up fighting with him, even though my kicking and striking is quite good. I thought that he was a heavy puncher because he had a heavy upper body. I thought that I would just go to the ground with him and try some submission with him. It worked out well. He’s a very strong guy, but I stopped his ground fighting by holding him. I saw that he wasn’t comfortable with submissions, so that’s when I saw a chance to submit him.
FCF: At one point in the fight, you stopped. It looked as though Tali hurt his shoulder. What happened?
VO: I got him in an arm lock and we turned around a bit. And I thought that I heard him scream, so I thought that I popped out his arm. He wanted to stop anyway. That’s when I let go of his arm and I stopped. Then I looked at the referee, but the referee didn’t hear anything, so I continued. I was pretty sure he wanted to stop though.
FCF: Let’s talk about your second match with Tom Sauer. Did you see Sauer’s first match?
FCF: What was your strategy going into that match?
VO: Well the first match I did grappling, so the second match I wanted to change 180 degrees and do stand-up fighting. If we did some grappling, that would be alright of course, but I just wanted to strike. And because Tom throws right crosses, he doesn’t throw straight punches, I thought that if I fought him down the middle, I could fight him quite well. So I started kneeing. After the first knee, which I hit him right on with the knee, he lost his balance and stepped out of the ring. That’s why the match was stopped the first time, then we started in the middle of the ring. After that, I wanted to go to the ground, but the referee intervened, so it wasn’t possible. So, I thought that I would throw another knee because the first one landed pretty hard, so I thought that the second one would land. But he caught me first with the punch.
FCF: Did you fight Sauer previously?
VO: No, no, no, no. We are like friends. I have seen him before in Russia and we got along quite well. We have a lot of fun together, but we both look at the fights like it’s just a profession, you know? In the ring it’s business, but out of the ring, we’re friends. He’s a good sportsman. We had a lot of fun afterwards.
FCF: How do you like RINGS rules?
VO: Well, in the last match, if I had a standing 8-count, it would have been good. It would have allowed me to continue the match because it was a knock down, but I was not knocked out. I think it would have been good to restart the match, but this time it was to my disadvantage. But many times, it has been to my advantage. So, if that’s the ruling, I feel very comfortable.
FCF: What do you believe is the key to being successful in RINGS?
VO: I can’t say that I’m one of the most successful fighters in RINGS, but I think it is very important to be well-rounded. That’s a big advantage because with all the information going around about fighters, if you’re not a good grappler, or not good at stand-up fighting, your opponent will be able to find out and be able to train for it. All around that’s about it.
FCF: Do you like to fight under NHB rules too?
VO: Yeah, I like those rules. But I think it requires less skill though, because if you have a heavy puncher, you will have to be able to grapple real good because he can throw a bunch of punches and knock the guy out. But the RINGS rules you have to be more skilled because you are not allowed to punch in the face when you are on the ground. So you will have to make him tap out. But beside that I like it also. I’m comfortable with those rules as well. But I think that RINGS is a very good experience also.
FCF: For those that are not familiar with the number of tough fighters coming out of Holland. Tell us what it is like training in Holland?
VO: I think it is an advantage that we have so many good kickboxers in Holland because that is where you can get a lot of stand-up experience. But then again, the grappling is less than it is other places in the world. You look at America for instance, the guys start wrestling in college, so the level of wrestling is much higher there, and in Russia too. And of course, you have the Brazilian guys, who fight well on the ground as well. The grappling is the hard part, but there are some guys who train with the Brazilians and they know the Brazilian style quite well. You really have to find the places where you can grapple with some good guys. It’s not easy to learn submission wrestling in Holland. But I think that every country is evolving quite fast. If I look at America, the guys are evolving quite fast. And I think the Russians are getting better. You can see that the fights are getting to a higher level because the fighters are more complete and skilled.
FCF: You have fought in a lot of other countries. Which country’s fighters do you think produce the toughest fighters?
VO: I think that it depends on the fight. If you have a grappling type fight, the Russians are quite strong. Then again, the Japanese guys are skilled and the Brazilians are skilled as well. When you’re standing up, I think it is pretty hard in my country because we’ve got a lot of good strikers in Holland. But it depends on what type of fight it is. I’ve had the most experience in Holland and Japan, so the other places I really can’t say too much.
FCF: From your experience, how does training in other countries differ than training that you’ve done in Holland?
VO: When you train in Holland, it is more real deal. If I look at the Japanese, they train with less strength, but more technique. They put in more hours because the training is less hard. In Holland, we train 2-2
posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm