Fri Dec 20 09:44pm EST
Peter Aerts is one of those strikers you always wished would have given MMA a serious try. You can’t really blame him for sticking with kickboxing, though.
Over the course of a nearly thirty-year career, Aerts became a legendary fighter and a superstar in Europe and Asia. The Dutch heavyweight won multiple world titles and became known as “Mr. K-1” for his feats in the now defunct top global kickboxing organization.
Kickboxing brought Aerts riches and fame. So, even though this writer would have loved to see what he could have done with his skillful chopping leg kicks in MMA if he had given it a serious commitment, one understands why he stuck with the one who brung him to the dance.
On the day before he is set to fight for a final time, now as a part of the organization that has replaced K-1 as the world’s top striking promotion, Glory, Aerts is in the lobby of the Keio Plaza hotel in Tokyo. He appears to be having the time of his life.
Watching Aerts sign autographs, pose for pictures and smile widely he appears to be on a goodwill tour, not a day away from doing battle against a hungry, young fighter. Kickboxing is a huge spectator sport in Japan.
Back when Pride was the top MMA promotion in the world and filled 60,000 seat arenas, K-1 still blew it away in terms of popularity. Not too far away from the hotel, there is a steakhouse called Ribera’s Tokio. Two of its steaks are named after kick boxers.
To Aerts, it seems like just yesterday that he was a 15 year old kid making his fighting debut.
“At the time, it all just happens,” he tells Cagewriter.
“So, you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t see it happen as it does. Now, when you look back, you say, [expletive] (laughs). At that time, you’re too busy. Now, you realize how big things got and everything that happened.”
In fact, the Muay Thai specialist out of Holland says that he never really made a conscious decision to become a pro fighter. His life just got caught up in the whirlwind of his quick and lasting success in the ring.
“I don’t know [if I ever decided to become a pro fighter]. I was 15 years old when I first started fighting. In my first seven fights I knocked out six people. I fought for the European title. It all happened so fast. I didn’t decide to become a professional, it just happened,” he says.
“Now, when you get old, you think about what has passed.”
One of the things Aerts thought about while reflecting on his career was how it was time to hang up his gloves. Though he could still make money as a prize fighter, he says the physical toll has just gotten to be too much.
“I’m 43. My hand is broken in three places,” he explains, looking down and pointing at his wrist.
“It hurts all the time.”
When it came time to schedule his retirement fight, Aerts says that Japan was the obvious choice for location. It may not be his homeland but the fighting nation made Aerts a king.
“I became big here. I became famous in Japan so I wanted to do my last fight here,” he says.
His team and family, who he has brought with him to Japan for the occasion, surround Aerts. Given how jovial and light the fighter is today, just a day before he’ll have to throw down, one wonders if it is easy for him to flip that switch and go from happy go lucky to kill-mode.
Aerts’ explanation for how he knows he’ll be ready and sharp come fight time is simple – it is what he does.
“I love this game,” he says, as an explanation for how he can turn it on once he steps inside the ropes.
Peter Aerts highlight reel:
“You ask my wife,” he goes on before calling her over.
“When I don’t have a fight I become…” Aerts searches for the right word in English. He asks his wife, the woman who suffers through his, well whatever type of mood he’s trying to describe. She can’t find the word, either. Then, Aerts asks a coach, whose English he says is better than his, to describe how the fighter gets when he doesn’t have a fight to prepare for.
His coach doesn’t hesitate to offer up a word. “Obnoxious,” he says.
“Obnoxious!” Aerts roars in nodding and approving laughter.
“I am obnoxious when I don’t fight. My wife, she says, ‘go fight!’”
That all, of course, begs the question of how Aerts will keep himself busy after his fight career is over. He says he has plans to return to pro-wrestling in Japan, a seemingly always available money-making option for the super famous super athletes in the country, and that he plans to coach.
“I have my own gym, you know, I want to teach,” he says.
“I want to pass on my knowledge to other people.”
In a few hours, Peter Aerts, one of the best kickboxers in history says he will walk to the ring to fight as a professional for the final time. Once he does, he’ll turn from the happy, smiling guy he was on Friday in the Keio Plaza hotel lobby, into the fearsome fighter the world has come to know.
Until then, he’s enjoying the view of the sunset.
“I’m just relaxing now, before the fight,” he says.
“But when I go to the stadium tomorrow, I’ll think about it, get nervous and all that. Now, I’m relaxing, sleeping, talking. Enjoying my time.”
Fri Dec 20 10:27am EST
UFC president Dana White has said that deep down he believes long-time welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre will return to fighting one day after his self-imposed leave of absence. Johny Hendricks agrees.
Hendricks, of course, lost a controversial split decision to St. Pierre last month at UFC 167 and will now fight Robbie Lawler in March for the vacated welterweight championship. If St. Pierre is anything like him, Hendricks says "Rush" will be back.
“Whenever I quit wrestling, it took me about five months and I was like, ‘Dude, I really want to wrestle,’” Hendricks told Sherdog this week.
“That’s just the competitor in me that I still wanted to be an elite wrestler, but I transferred over to MMA, so I had something to transfer over to, to keep myself motivated and push myself to the limits. I don’t know what GSP’s going to transfer over to, but if he doesn’t transfer over to something that keeps his drive there...I know myself [and] I’d go insane. So I know that’s what’s going to happen is he’ll probably take five, six months, maybe even a year off, and he’ll have the itch to come back and start training again, and once that happens, he’ll be back.”
One gets the sense that, as in the case of White believing GSP will return, a big part of Hendricks' prediction is wishful thinking.
If he does come back,” Hendricks went on, “I’m hoping that I’m there to be able to meet him.”
Fri Dec 20 10:12am EST
It's hard to deny that Joseph Benavidez is the second best in the UFC's flyweight division. Unfortunately for him, it's also hard to make an argument that he should get another crack at being its number one for some time.
The Team Alpha Male stalwart has only lost four times in his MMA career, but all four losses have come to two now UFC champions - Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight title holder Dominick Cruz. After losing to Cruz and Johnson both, Benavidez nonetheless worked his way back up to a title shot rematch with "Mighty Mouse" last week on the UFC on Fox 9 card in his home town of Sacramento.
The twenty nine year-old never got a chance to get his game going, however, after a right hand from Johnson caught him blind and knocked him out cold early in the first round. Now, Benavidez faces a future that could include a long road back to the top.
“I’m just confused about what happened,” he recently told MMA Junkie.
“I didn’t get to perform my best and fight the best guy in the world in front of millions of people. They don’t know how I could have performed. I know I was going to have a great performance. That stuff doesn’t happen every day, and that’s what you dream about [fighting] on Fox. That’s the crappy part. A loss is a loss. Winning the world title would’ve been awesome. Fighting ‘Mighty Mouse’ and just competing in there was fun."
Benavidez knows he'll have work to do to make a case that he should get another title shot and to make matters worse, he says there isn't really much he can go back and change, either.
“The losses happen, but there’s nothing to learn from it. I know to not get hit in the face. There’s nothing to take away from it.”
The one silver lining is that the fighter says that, despite suffering a concussion, he's feeling better already. “I actually feel good,” he said.
“I went and got scanned and everything came out good. I had a concussion. I got some good rest. But this morning, I woke up and felt like the ‘cloud’ was kind of lifted off.”
All that's left now for Benavidez is, well, everything that goes into starting over at square. He says he's up to the task.
“Bounce back, forget it, look forward to the future, and know there’s still good things to come. I’ve accomplished some things, but I’m not satisfied.”
Thu Dec 19 04:27am EST
Shinya Aoki is perhaps the world's most dynamic submission fighter and one of the best MMA fighters that Asia has produced in the past ten years. The Japanese Jiu Jitsu ace is still relatively unknown in the United States, however, because he's almost exclusively fought in Asia.
For that reason, many of Aoki's state-side fans were likely disappointed when it was announced that the champion had turned down a contract offer from the UFC and decided to stay fighting in the ONE FC promotion.
Cagewriter sat down with Aoki, who fights next on New Year's Eve, in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon and discussed a host of topics, including his decision to turn down the UFC. In the end, Aoki says that he didn't feel the need to leave a promotion that has taken care of him and where he still has goals he wants to accomplish inside of.
"OneFC has taken care of me," Aoki said.
"They've treated me well. I know the fighters there and I'm comfortable in ONE FC. I think I have more to gain from fighting there."
When asked what his two toughest career bouts have been, Aoki didn't hesitate to list his losses to American fighters Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez, both of which took place on U.S. soil. That said, Aoki doesn't feel a particular pressing desire to become more known to American fans.
"I'm happy that any fans from anywhere would watch me fight," Aoki said.
"I'm honored that they are watching but it isn't my goal to appeal to everybody."
Aoki now competes at featherweight, the lowest weight he's ever competed at in MMA, and says he made the decision to do so after winning ONE FC's lightweight belt last April.
"I was walking around with my weight pretty low already," Aoki explained.
When his team and coaches suggested to him that he consider dropping down a weight class, he decided to give it a go.
"I wanted to see how my body felt at that weight," Aoki said.
Aoki won a unanimous decision over Cody Stevens in his featherweight debut this past October but insists that 145 pounds is a good fit for him.
"I pretty much felt the same at that weight," he said.
In his next fight, Aoki will briefly return to lightweight, however. Aoki will fight Toshikatsu Harada on the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2013 card.
Wed Dec 18 07:33pm EST
Kick boxer "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini has had a busier year than most fighters in 2013, and he's about to see more action this Saturday in Tokyo. The Canadian fighter has fought and won three times this year already and, if things go his way, will fight and win twice more Saturday night at the Glory World Series kickboxing event to earn their welterweight tournament title.
As hectic as his fight schedule has been, Valtellini's professional kick boxing career isn't even his only job. By day, the Toronto area fighter is a special education gym teacher.
Pulling this type of double duty comes natural to the son of Sicilian immigrants.
"I'm from an old-fashioned Italian family, " Valtellini says.
"My parents always taught me to work hard and always be working. So, doing both things just made sense to me."
Though Valtellini is a work horse and made sure to get a college degree and job after school, his particular career choice of teaching also speaks to a free spirit.
"It's a very important thing in my life to not let my job dictate the rest of my life," he explains.
"With teaching, I knew I'd have my summers off and be able to travel and fight around the world."
Though the lifestyle suits him now, Valtellini says he was initially unsure of whether or not teaching special education gym classes for school children was for him.
"Coming out of college, I got a job right away," he says.
"It is hard to get work as a teacher in Toronto so I was grateful but I still wasn't sure if it was the right job for me. I was used to working with high-level athletes. I didn't know how well I'd do with the kids and how well they'd respond to me."
Valtellini took the job, however, and is very glad he did. The work is rewarding and he learned that the kids and he weren't so different from each other after all.
"They are just regular kids and I really enjoy working with them," he says.
His school community enjoys following the fight career Toronto's toughest gym teacher, as well. Valtellini says that he has always tried to keep his athletic career under wraps to avoid drawing attention to himself, but as his star has risen, his co-workers have taken notice and shown their support.
"Fighting isn't always viewed in the best light so I never really made a point out of telling anyone at work about what I do," he says.
"But with fighting in Glory, everyone has started to find out and take notice. They are all really great and supportive."
Valtellini arrived in Tokyo this week to fight further from home than he ever has before. In the semi-finals, he has drawn American Raymond Daniels. Should Valtellini win, he'll briefly rest before taking on the winner of the other welterweight semi-final bout between Nieky Holzken and Karapet Karapetyan.
Valtellini is perhaps the tournament's hottest fighter, winning his all of his prior three fights of 2013 by TKO, but he knows this Saturday might be his biggest test. It's a test the teacher can't wait to take.
"This is an exciting match up for me," he says.
"I can't wait to show what I can do."
Wed Dec 18 04:10pm EST
Chael Sonnen and Canadian television show host Michael Landsberg have had a weird, mutually beneficial relationship over the past few years. Once, Sonnen stormed off the set when he apparently didn't like Landsberg's questions.
Now, the TSN reports that in a new interview with Sonnen, Landsberg revealed that a source told him that the fighter had undergone colon surgery before fighting Rashad Evans at UFC 167 last month. Sonnen would not explicitly confirm that he did indeed have surgery but did say that "It's a little bit of a surprise that you had that information."
Sonnen, who lost in the first round via TKO to Evans, explained why he wouldn't elaborate.
"When I sign a contract to fight, I'm agreeing to fight a guy on a certain day at a certain time and in a certain venue," he said.
"It's my job to feel good when I go out and do it and if I don't that may play a hand in the fight."
So...that was kind of convoluted but props to Sonnen, we guess? Hopefully if he did indeed have surgery on his colon, the procedure helped with whatever health concerns that called for it.
Tue Dec 17 06:35pm EST
UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey next defends her title Dec. 28 at UFC 168 against rival and opposing TUF coach Miesha Tate in a rematch of their 2012 Strikeforce bout. Rousey and Tate's dislike of one another has been well-documented, including Tate's boyfriend/manager/coach Bryan Caraway threatening to knock Rousey's teeth in, Rousey's coach Edmond Tarverdyan threatening to do pretty much the same to Caraway and lots and lots of middle fingers drawn by Rousey and pointed at Tate.
That's why fans might be surprised to learn that Rousey's feelings about the rivalry with Tate include more than just animosity. She's actually happy for the attention that Tate's increased star brings all women in MMA.
"It's not like my dislike for her outweighs how much I care for women's MMA," Rousey said this week on a media conference call.
"It's not like I want her to be like permanently injured or retire or anything like that. It's just like it would be nice not to have to deal with her personally, myself, anymore but the notoriety she's gained from this rivalry has helped all the other girls out so I'm happy that she's actually done better because of it."
Still, Rousey is eager to beat Tate for a second time and put their rivalry to bed. The rowdy one says her trash-talking ways are are particular reaction to fighting Tate and Tate alone.
"I want to win every single fight. They're all equally important to me no matter who it is against but it will be nice to not have to deal with it anymore," Rousey admitted.
"I don't want to have to be able to put myself in a situation where anyone could instigate me again. If you notice, I've never really had a problem with any other opponent that I've ever had, if you think about it. Everyone thinks of me as this big trash talker but who have I had a problem with that I've fought except for Miesha?"
The champion also says that, despite the immense media buzz around this UFC 168 rematch between her and Tate, she has been left relatively to herself during training camp thanks to The Ultimate Fighter season that she and Tate coached being filmed last summer and being on the same card as Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman II.
"It's been a different experience. been unique. What's really been different about it the real media push happened so far ahead of time," Rousey said.
"It was way more work with the Ultimate Fighter but it was so far ahead of time that it was kind of nice to be relatively left alone for the actual camp period."
Tue Dec 17 11:15am EST
Women's MMA pioneer Julie Kedzie retired after a close decision loss to Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night 33 earlier this month but she'll stay involved in the sport as the new matchmaker of the all-female MMA promotion, Invicta FC.
"I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been in talks with [Invicta president] Shannon Knapp and I’m going to be Invicta FC’s new matchmaker," Kedzie recently told MMA Fighting.
"I’m going to be taking on the role as matchmaker of the company, going to work hoping to help developing the careers of other female fighters. Bring them up to the sports, get them the attention they deserve and hopefully promote the sport a little bit on the sidelines now and have a role where I can help people. Face to face, get them what they need...I’m really excited about it. I’m terrified, but excited."
Kedzie will serve as both matchmaker and as a color commentator for Invicta telecasts. She believes her dual role will help give fans a special insight to the sport and organization.
"You’re going to have the commentator and the matchmaker right there telling you why it happened," she said.
"So I think I’ll be able to give people more insights of the working of the business as audience members, and they will be able to see why people are matched the way they were."
Tue Dec 17 10:31am EST
We didn't know it at the time, but then-UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks met one another at UFC 167 last month at polar opposite points in their career. If that fact didn't become clear through the fight - one in which Hendricks controlled and did the most damage but which was ultimately awarded to St. Pierre through a controversial split decision - it certainly has become obvious through their respective comments since their bout.
St. Pierre told the world immediately after his win over Hendricks that he needed time away from the sport. Last week GSP reiterated that sentiment and vacated his championship.
After about ten years in the UFC and most of that time spent as a champion, St. Pierre is burned out and described the weight on his shoulders as too much for him at this point in his life. Hendricks, on the other hand, is eager to have that weight and a target on his back.
"I want the target on my back," he told MMA Fighting this week.
"I want everybody to come after me. That’s been my goal since I started fighting. Is that I want the gold and I want everybody to sit there saying, ‘I want to beat that guy.’ And that’s been my whole thought process through this whole time, [because] I need that. For some reason I enjoy that kind of pressure. The more pressure you can put on me and get me out of my comfort zone, the better I shine. And that’s what I wanted."
Hendricks will now face Robbie Lawler in fight to fill the vacant welterweight title spot at UFC 171 in his home town of Dallas, TX in March. The former NCAA wrestling national champion insists that he doesn't care who he has to beat to become champion, he just wants the belt.
"Here’s the thing, if I fight GSP again I fight him again. If I don’t, I don’t. My world doesn’t revolve around him. It revolves around that belt," Hendricks explained.
"And that’s what I’ve been saying this whole time. I’m not fighting GSP, I want what he carried around to all those press conferences, that’s what I was fighting for, and that’s still what I’m fighting for."
Who do you have in Hendricks vs. Lawler? Let us know in the comments section.
Sun Dec 15 08:32am EST
Nick Diaz has not fought since March, when he lost a one-sided decision to Georges St. Pierre in their UFC welterweight championship fight. Before that, he'd sat out during a drug suspension after losing a close decision to Carlos Condit for the interim welterweight title.
Still, last night in Sacramento, UFC president Dana White was willing to give Diaz another shot to be within reach of UFC gold when he offered the exciting fighter what would likely have been a number one contender's bout - a rematch with Condit.
"What I was going to do was, I was trying to make Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz. But he said he doesn't want it," White told assembled media Saturday night after the UFC on Fox 9 event had concluded.
"You know Nick. I thought that he wanted the rematch."
White would go on to say that Diaz told him he might consider coming back and fighting again in May.
"Obviously the Diaz brothers are very unique individuals to deal with but you don't pressure a guy to fight who says he's not interested," White said.
"It's about, 'do you want to fight or do you not want to fight?'"
Who do you want to see Diaz fight next in the UFC should he return? Let us know in the comments section.
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