Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem was every bit as much a “Poster Boy” for PED’S if not more so than Vitor Belfort in the past five years. His hulking physique was second to none in MMA as his weigh-in photos circulated all over the internet. Needless to say this speculation tarnished the credentials of a very accomplished athlete.
Even after carrying the Strikeforce title with wins over current UFC champion Fabricio Werdum and finishing Brock Lesner via TKO in his UFC debut, many fans wondered how much the “juice” was helping him. Instead of fans marveling at his world championship skills and talent, he was viewed as a muscled up racehorse.
It all came to a head when he was banged with a nine month suspension in 2012 with the Junior Dos Santos bout looming for the UFC belt. Overeem was forced to clean up his act if he wanted to continue his UFC career but went an unimpressive 0-3 losing to Antonio Silva after dominating for two rounds then getting TKOED , Travis Brown and Ben Rothwell. All fights where he tested below average Testosterone levels. His UFC career was just about over but Dana White and the UFC stuck with him and his multi-fight contract rather than cut him. That also raised doubt whether any of the “wins” and “titles” he carried could have been won without the aid of steroids.
Not to mention his “failed” training stint with the Blackzilians which was itself a very interesting story where he was labeled a “pre-madonna” bringing in his own people to train at opposite times refusing to train with actual “team members”. This was all after he was giving a huge sign on bonus by by Blackzilion founder Glenn Robinson at an estimated 500k. He left the camp with such animosity that Anthony “Rumble” Johnson challenged him to a fight publicly stating his disdain for the “the Demolition Man”.
Since leaving Blackzilions and refocusing his training back to cardio and adjusting his “diet”, Alistair walks around at a lean much less muscular 243lbs. He also now splits his preparation between Amsterdam and the famed Jackson/Winklejohn camp in New Mexico. Most importantly this has led him to an impressive 3-0 win streak putting back atop the UFC heavyweight rankings.
The former STRIKEFORCE heavyweight champion with a 40-14 record has managed to turn his MMA career around winning his third fight in a row against former UFC champion Dos Santos. It was a long awaited bout after years of back and forth talk and a cancelled date mentioned above. Overeem was impressive winning via TKO thus proving yet again he can win as a natural fighter in today’s cleaned up MMA world.
At 35yo, which is by any means not old in the heavyweight division, he is primed and ready to challenge once again for the belt. But as only as he can and would do, he choose to let his UFC contract run out to test the free agent market putting more pressure on him to earn the victory. His gamble paid off.
Overeem did this knowingly walking into a fight with Dos Santos, a fight he very easily could have lost against a truly fantastic fighter and former champion. The leverage he gained with the victory is most likely significant. He did it in “Reem” fashion his way with absolute confidence in himself.
Not only that but he is climbing the ranks while walking at a noticeably lower weight with less muscle mass thus erasing any doubt he has the skills to contend and hold a UFC title belt. With a win against current champion Fabricio Werdum on his resume during his Strikeforce run, it is unlikely the UFC will let him go to another organization without a strong offer to retain him. There are many big fights for him in the UFC.
With 54 professional MMA and 14 K1 fights to his credit as well as his Strikeforce title reign which now gets more respect than ever after Rockhold and Werdum’s successes in the octagon, where does “The Reem” stack up compared to all time greats ? He has definitely earned the right to be mentioned in the conversation despite the lows he has faced. His resume of names he has defeated is as impressive as they come and while many legends of the sport seem to be falling since the new and improved drug testing policies in the UFC, he has regained his step. Will it take a UFC title to solidify himself or has he already garnered that status ?
I am sure many will say a UFC is needed to top it off in this new era of MMA. With the famed Fedor Emilianenko failing to sign with the UFC in his latest comeback, credit must be given to a fighter who faces the top fighters consistently even if he has dropped a few. Names such as Dan Henderson and BJ Penn come to mind. Those two fought anyone at any weight on short notice or hardly any notice. These two and others test themselves not worrying about records etc. These are real fighters And Overeem fits right in or at least closer to than not. Any fighter with 54 pro mma fights has went thru the gauntlet.
Is it possible as well that he is not well liked in the MMA circles thus not getting the recognition and respect he deserves. It is obvious he is not the greatest “team” guy and is more of a “me” type coming off as arrogant though no word of any problems have surfaced lately.
Maybe this is the more matured Alistair Overeem who finally realized he can’t do it alone and needs a team to reach the heights he wants to get to. Though this article has focused on his fighting career, it is obvious that maturity has reached all areas of life. It will be fun to watch just how far that takes him on this current streak.
James Brasco is a world class grappler and professional MMA fighter. He is a second degree black belt in BJJ under Pablo Popovitch and brings a unique perspective from both on the mat and in the cage.