(Photo courtesy of GloryWorldSeries.com)
At just 28 years of age, Tyrone Spong has already spent 10 years in the brutal world of professional kick boxing. The Dutch fighter has used kicks, punches, knees and elbows to become a world champion.
After making a name for himself in that world, Spong next decided to begin fighting mixed martial arts as well, joining the world-class “Blackzilians” team in Florida. The “King of Rings” is not content with beginning a second career, however.
Spong is currently balancing his first and second careers simultaneously. Spong last fought and won in MMA last August and on Saturday he’s taking on a rival in a kickboxing main event rematch in the Glory organization – the top international kick boxing promotion since K-1 faded away. What’s more, Spong says he hopes to make his professional boxing debut in December.
“It might sound crazy,” Spong tells Cagewriter.
It kind of does.
Spong insists that his motivation to fight in multiple combat sports is not just financial. He simply wants to become one of the best fighters of any kind, in history.
“We are all prize fighters,” Spong acknowledges. “We all need to make the money. But it’s just also a hunger and that competitive side inside of me. I made the decision [to fight MMA and boxing in addition to kick boxing] because I know I can do it. I’m capable of doing it. I think there are other guys out there that want to but they are not capable of doing it.”
Though the fighter out of Holland is confident, he admits that the non-stop fighting and training schedule he needs to maintain in order to be a full-time MMA fighter, kick boxer and, now, boxer, takes a heavy toll. “It’s hard,” Spong admits.
“The physical and mental drain is something that is real hard. It’s something that you gotta do with smart training, specific training and by knowing when to take a few steps off and when to put on a little bit extra when the fight gets close. It’s hard but that’s why I have a smart team, smart coaches. I’m fortunate that my body responds well to the training.”
Spong has his Glory kick boxing match on Saturday foremost on his mind right now as he attempts to avenge a 2009 knockout loss to Nathan Corbett (the loss was later changed to a ‘no contest’ because Corbett landed a blow after the referee had stopped the fight) but the fighter says he has lofty goals for himself in MMA afterwards. “I would like to become a champion in MMA,” Spong says.
“I want to become one of the greatest of all time not only in MMA but in combat sports overall. I’m busy trying to build a legacy. I’m a 10-time world champ in kickboxing and I’d liked to win a championship in MMA. I set goals real high up there for myself just to keep myself motivated. I always want to have a challenge out there for myself and keep fans excited and satisfied.
To make the transition to MMA, Spong trains with the likes of former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and a host of other top fighters like Vitor Belfort and Alistair Overeem at the “Blackzilians” team gym in Florida. Spong is happy with his progress thus far and that he has managed to go 2-0 in MMA but has no problem admitting that it is a whole new world to him.
One aspect of MMA in particular really surprised the stand-up striker. “The ground game,” Spong offers up right away.
“It is a whole lot more technical than people think. At first when I would watch MMA as a kid we’d see two guys grappling on the ground and just think that they were scrambling around. Ground work is not just a scramble, though. There is a lot of technique involved and it is not that easy.”
The particular challenges that each type of combat sport present, beg the question of whether Spong truly believes that he can become a champion in MMA if he continues to split his time and divide his attention amongst different combat sports instead of focusing on MMA. He is non-committal but says that it is possible that he’ll one day settle down and choose one of these styles for good. He’s just got to see how things play out, for a little while longer.
“Sometimes you’ve got to make decisions,” Spong concedes. “Once you get to a place where somebody or a promotion ties you down, you have to make a decision.”
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