Exclusive Interview: GLORY’s Remy Bonjasky Talks Life After K-1 and Upcoming Showdown with Tyrone Spong
By Hal Coleman
Rewind the clocks back to December 2008. Remy Bonjasky had just returned to the top of the kickboxing world, reclaiming his throne at the annual K-1 World Grand Prix eight-man elimination tournament where only the best of the best stand-up fighters would battle it out for the sport’s most coveted title at the time. The high-risk, high-flying moves of “The Flying Gentleman” were perhaps the most unorthodox the sport had ever seen, but also the most entertaining and very effective at throwing off the rhythm of his opponents.
In 2013, Bonjasky sits at a crossroads after coming off a three-year hiatus from action due to a nagging injury to his eye. While he sat on the sidelines, others like his upcoming GLORY 5 London main event opponent, Tyrone Spong, rose to power. In Spong, the 37-year-old Bonjasky faces a fearsome wrecking machine, a decade younger than him, this Saturday, March 23 at ExCel Arena.
In his long-awaited comeback fight at GLORY 2 Brussels, Bonjasky earned a majority decision over Anderson “Braddock” Silva, a respectable opponent, but not one of the sport’s elite heavyweights. Bonjasky showed limited signs of his old self, looking more like a conventional martial arts fighter than the kickboxing kamikaze that he once was.
Similarly, Bonjasky made it past the first stage or “Final 16” round of the GLORY 4 Tokyo Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament on New Year’s Eve, advancing to the quarterfinal stage by taking a unanimous decision from Filip Verlinden. In his next fight in the one-night, single-elimination contest, though, he made a quiet exit, losing a unanimous decision to Jamal Ben Saddik.
Q: This will be your fourth fight since you made your long-awaited comeback late last year after a three-year layoff from the ring. At this stage, how do you feel being back in the ring against top level competition?
A: It’s to make a comeback after such a long time. I have to make more fights to get in(to) my fight rhythm . But, I feel it’s coming back again. The top fighters are good and well-trained, but I think that I can level with them.
Q: What exactly happened with your eye that kept you out of the ring for such a prolonged period?
A: I was suffering from retinal detachment and I believe it’s okay to fight again after recovering for three years.
Q: How difficult was it for you to remain on the sidelines for three years and what did you do to keep busy all that time?
A: It wasn’t that difficult because I have my own Bonjasky Academy and because I train guys. That gives me the feeling that I have never left the ring.
Q: Before your injury, you earned widespread acclaim for your very unorthodox style of fighting that used all kinds of high-flying knee strikes and kicks. We’ve seen hints of this in the ring since your return, but nothing over the top yet. To what extent have you moved away from this style that could be characterized as very risky and to what extent is it just difficult for you to implement such an unorthodox style like this after being away from action for so long?
A: To fight like I do, it costs a lot of power and (requires me to be in) good condition during the fight. To be in that physical form and condition and to fight like that and to implement my style during the fight is very difficult. All these years from being away from the ring did not help me, but I feel good and strong again.
Q: Your last fight before you went on hiatus was for K-1 in 2009. What transpired that led you to sign with GLORY last year for your comeback rather than going back to K-1, which re-launched its fight series last year?
A: A new team with fresh ideas and the plans are more like I want to see them. Good people with a lot of ambition gave me the push that I needed to sign with GLORY.
Q: Looking back as someone who has been in the sport for many years, why do you think K-1 experienced a downfall after achieving so much popularity in Japan?
A: I think mismanagement and not able to look forward and anticipate.
Q: Mixed Martial Arts has experienced tremendous growth since the days when K-1’s popularity was at its peak. Given how the current climate of combat sports is so “MMA-centric,” what kind of opportunity do you think there is for kickboxing and GLORY to succeed and what do you think GLORY needs to do to carve out a place for kickboxing amongst fight fans who are being “fed” a healthy amount of MMA and boxing fights on TV?
A: They need more strong fighters from every continent and different countries. Too many fighters from the Netherlands will kill the game.
Q: Let’s talk about your upcoming fight with Tyrone Spong. It’s a big one. What do you need to do to persevere in this fight?
A: Use my experience during the fight.
Q: Tyrone has been very active the last few years. To what extent do you feel this gives him a big advantage in the matchup?
A: He is in his fight rhythm and will give him a lot of advantage but not enough to beat me.
Q: In closing, what can fans expect to see from Remy Bonjasky on March 23 when you step in the ring with Tyrone Spong?
A: A spectaculair fight.