When the bell rings to start the K-1 World Grand Prix '07 Final, Remy Bonjasky is confident that his peak mental and physical condition will carry him to victory in the world's most prestigious fightsport event.
After battling through a series of personal tragedies and professional setbacks, the 31 year-old Dutch kickboxer has emerged stronger than ever. Having won his last seven K-1 bouts, Bonjasky has now set his sights on capturing a third WGP Championship. On the eve of his departure for Japan, Bonjasky took time out from his busy training schedule for an interview with the International Fight Agency (IFA).
IFA: Remy, how are you doing?
Bonjasky: I'm doing great, thanks!
IFA: I know a lot of your fans are excited about your chances in the World Grand Prix Final this year. You been fighting with a lot of confidence recently. Unfortunately, you suffered an injury in last year's Final and had to withdraw from the tournament -- that must have been very frustrating.
Bonjasky: Yeah, I mean to leave the tournament like that was not good. My opponent, Stefan Leko, was for me a good opportunity to advance to the second round. Even though he kept kicking me in the nuts, I still wanted to fight, but unfortunately I couldn't continue. Yeah, that was very frustrating.
IFA: I'm sure it felt good to beat Leko this September.
Bonjasky: That was the best revenge I've ever had! He was talking a lot of bullshit in interviews, he said that I was an actor and I was not a good fighter and blah blah blah, you know the way he talks. He got me motivated for the fight, that's what I like about people who talk a lot in the media, they motivate me. I just thought, ok, we will finish this in the ring, and that's what I did.
IFA: Well, that win put him out of the WGP Final, and put you in. You've had great success in the ring this year. I don't want to dwell too much on it, but can you talk a little about where you found the spiritual strength to overcome the many hardships that had hit you?
Bonjasky: It was hard the last couple of years, there was my divorce, I lost my mother, I lost my title and I separated from my long-time trainer. But what kept my spirit up is my son, Cassius. He's the one who gives me the love and power that keeps me focused. I could have said after the loss against Semmy Schilt in 2005 that I was giving up, but I didn't want my son to see me as a quitter. I wanted to continue, to keep on fighting and to be the Champion again. Cassius will turn four on December 29, so if I win the World Grand Prix it will be a terrific Christmas and birthday present for him!
IFA: Looking back at your success over the last year or so, what are the technical strengths that brought you to victory?
Bonjasky: Well, when you get over the mental things, as they say, what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, and that's what happened to me. I've been working hard on my training with Ivan Hippolyte, we've done some power training to get stronger with my punches and my boxing, and I think that made me better during the fights. But I think when you get mentally stronger, that really helps you become physically stronger.
IFA: How long have you been training with Ivan?
Bonjasky: A little more than one year now.
IFA: Can you tell us about your typical training and diet routine?
Bonjasky: I try to eat healthy, I never eat junk food, I like good pasta. In the morning, I start training at 9:30 with Ivan, then I train again with Ivan in the early evening. I also work with Eric Warmerdan, he helps me with weight training, and then there's running. I train with Eric on Thursdays and Saturdays and the rest of the week with Ivan. I'm sparring with Gilbert Yvel now, and a couple of good A-Class fighters. Last week, Mirko CroCop came up to train with me.
IFA: Your first opponent at the K-1 Final will be Badr Hari. I spoke with him recently and he said, "I don't think I have to adjust anything for Remy, I'm not worried at all about his knees or about his kicks." What do you think of that?
Bonjasky: Well, that's basically my approach as well. When I fight against anyone I don't change my training, it's not that I'm not looking at their techniques, but I focus on my strengths and my power. I mean, yeah, if you look Hong-Man Choi, he's big and has a lot of power but not a lot of technique, but I don't have to adjust my fighting skill even to fight someone like that, I just have to do my own thing, move around. The same with Badr. He's a good fighter, he's talented, but if he says he's not concerned about my abilities, well, a lot of fighters say that, but at the end they're all down and have lost the fight. That's what's really important, what happens at the end.
IFA: You and Hari could be called complete opposites. You have an education, you worked as a banker, your nickname is "The Gentleman." He's from the rough part of town, known as the "Bad Boy", the "Trash Talker"...
Bonjasky: ...or "The Criminal"! Well, yeah, that's about what he is, a big-mouth criminal. I was recently shown footage of him bad-mouthing me, Fuji TV had cut together all these things he'd said about me over the last couple of years, and they showed me the tape. I couldn't believe it, he was full of hate, talking like "I will beat him!" and "I will kill him!", and he just went on and on like that. It was five minutes of trash talk and hatred.
IFA: That doesn't intimidate you at all?
Bonjasky: No no no, I thought it was funny. He was saying that I'm not a warrior and stuff like that. If he wants to go to war, let him go to Afghanistan or Iraq. I don't think of this as a war thing, I'm busy with sports.
IFA: So will this be something like a fight between good and evil?
Bonjasky: (laughing) Yeah, I think he has a lot of evil in his mind, I think he's twisted or something, I don't know what he's all about. But for myself, I think I'm the good guy, and I'm always trying to be the good guy! And they say good will win over evil. With a lot of love, you'll win everything!
IFA: I know fighters don't like to look beyond the first fight in a tournament, but in the back of your mind you have to know that on December 8, if you get through, you might have to go up against big Semmy Schilt, who was the last fighter to beat you. Would you like to see Schilt get knocked out in the first bracket, so you'd fight someone else?
Bonjasky: No, I want to fight Semmy again. Let's put it this way, a lot of fighters and other people say that when I won the World Grand Prix in 2003 and 2004, that the heavyweights, the big guys weren't there. This year, if I beat Badr, and let's say I meet Peter [Aerts] in the semifinals and beat him, and then beat Semmy, well then I would shut their mouths! Or maybe not, maybe they'd all still say the same thing. But anyway I want to be the one to stop Semmy.
IFA: Well good luck with that! Thanks for taking the time, Remy, and let me ask you one last question, with all the training and the pressure building up in advance of the WGP Final, how do you stay relaxed?
Bonjasky: What I value most is the time I have with Cassius. Besides that, I love movies, and I've just been reading a book by Miguel Angel Ruiz, the Mexican shaman. The book made me think -- of course, you have to work, you have to pay taxes and all that, but there are other things in life, and it made me think about things I'd never thought about. Also, right now I'm single, so I like chasing girls!