3 fighters the UFC should sign immediately if GLORY goes under

Alex Pereira (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Alex Pereira (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

Three fighters from GLORY Kickboxing the UFC should sign.

GLORY Kickboxing, the world’s premier kickboxing organization, which recently aired exclusively on UFC Fight Pass, is reportedly close to filing for bankruptcy, according to a report from TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter.

GLORY had held just one event in 2020 — GLORY 75 at the Central Studios in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on February 29 — before the company was forced to postpone all future planned events in the year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, Marshall Zelaznik resigned as CEO after taking over the role from Jon J. Franklin — who had led GLORY to the No. 1 promotion in the sport since 2014 — in 2018.

According to journalist Giovanni Tjin (via Beyond Kickboxing) rumors were that executives Cor Hemmers and Remon Daalder had been fired. In addition, the promotion’s headquarters in the Netherlands were closed and fighters who competed at the major GLORY Collision 2 event in December had still yet to be paid.

In the United States, GLORY Kickboxing previously was featured on Spike TV (now Paramount Network) and ESPN before airing exclusively on UFC Fight Pass, which Zelaznik is credited with creating, in 2019. Prior to the exclusivity, UFC Fight Pass solely aired each GLORY card’s SuperFight Series portion.

GLORY was founded in 2012 after the purchases of the United Glory, Golden Glory and It’s Showtime promotions.

Which fighters from GLORY Kickboxing should the UFC sign immediately?

Despite some of MMA’s greatest battles being stand-up, back-and-forth trading of strikes, GLORY Kickboxing just couldn’t get the kind of audience and popularity MMA enjoys — at least in America.

Several kickboxing greats have competed in the organization from longtime heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven to longtime lightweight king Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong, to legends like Peter Aerts and Semmy Schilt. In addition, the promotion has hosted names that would ring a bell with MMA fans, including Schilt, current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, Joe Schilling, Nieky Holzken, Gabriel Varga and Robin van Roosmalen.

With GLORY hosting some of the best strikers in the world, and with some already having a little bit of MMA experience, the UFC could capitalize and sign some of these fighters. Here are three in particular.

Alex Pereira

Alex Pereira has done something that no one in the world of MMA has yet to do — defeat Israel Adesanya. And he not only beat Adesanya when they met at Glory of Heroes 7 in his native Brazil, he knocked out Adesanya.

Between 2015 and 2016, Pereira competed in three fights for the Jungle Fight MMA promotion, losing to Quemuel Ottoni by submission at Jungle Fight 82 before scoring-back-to-back finishes of Marcelo Cruz and Marcus Vinicius Fialho da Silveira at Jungle Fight 85 and Jungle Fight 87, respectively.

In November 2018, Pereira announced his intentions to return to MMA, and chase after an MMA bout with Adesanya, when his contract with GLORY expired the following April, but Pereira elected to re-sign with the promotion under the promise of the chance to compete in some MMA bouts.

Pereira defeated Simon Marcus at GLORY 46 in October 2017 to win the promotion’s middleweight championship, defending the belt five times and most recently knocking out Ertugrul Bayrak at the end of the first round of their GLORY Collision 2 bout to retain the belt in December.

He also knocked out Donegi Abena at GLORY 68 in September to win the interim GLORY light heavyweight championship, becoming the first (and now only) fighter in GLORY history to hold GLORY titles in two weight classes simultaneously.

Rico Verhoeven

A list of the best kickboxers in the world today cannot be complete without naming Rico Verhoeven, the longtime GLORY heavyweight champion considered “The King of Kickboxing” and widely considered the No. 1 kickboxer in the world for years now.

After success in promotions like K-1 and It’s Showtime, Verhoeven first competed in GLORY at GLORY 4, defeating current Bellator heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov in the opening round of the Heavyweight Grand Slam Tournament before losing to Semmy Schilt in the next round. Since the loss to Schilt, Verhoeven has lost just one of his last 19 kickboxing bouts — and the only loss in that span was Verhoeven’s only fight outside of GLORY since.

After winning the GLORY 11 Heavyweight World Championship Tournament, Verhoeven defeated the legendary Peter Aerts before defeating Daniel Ghita to win the GLORY heavyweight title at GLORY 17. Since then, Verhoeven defended the title nine times, defeating the likes of Errol Zimmerman, Benjamin Adegbuyi, Jamal Ben Saddik, Mladen Brestovac, Guto Inocente and Badr Hari.

In fact, Verhoeven and Hari had a pair of highly-hyped and intense bouts in GLORY, with Verhoeven winning both in disappointing fashion after injuries to Hari. Verhoeven also holds a kickboxing win over UFC and Strikeforce veteran Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.

Verhoeven, who has trained at the American Kickboxing Academy with several MMA names, including Daniel Cormier, competed in one professional MMA bout in October 2015, during his GLORY heavyweight title run, scoring a first-round finish of Viktor Bogutzki.

Tiffany Van Soest

GLORY Kickboxing had just one female championship by the time of its closure, and it was only introduced in 2016. But in the time since her 2009 debut, Tiffany Van Soest has become one of the best Muay Thai practitioners and women’s athletes in the sport.

Prior to her days in GLORY, Van Soest claimed the WBC Muay Thai International super bantamweight championship and the Lion Fight women’s featherweight championship (twice).

After a success GLORY debut over Esma Hasshass at GLORY 30, Van Soest defeated Jessica Gladstone and Amel Dehby at GLORY 36 to win a one-night tournament to become the inaugural GLORY women’s super bantamweight champion.

Van Soest retained the title against Meryem Uslu at GLORY 44 before losing it to Anissa Meksen at GLORY 48. After a rebound win over Sofia Olofsson at GLORY 55, Van Soest lost a title rematch with Meksen at GLORY 64 before winning the belt back in a trilogy bout with Meksen at GLORY 71 in November.

Van Soest, who is also a black belt in karate, competed in two professional MMA bouts between 2016 and 2017, both in Invicta. She was submitted by Kalyn Schwartz at Invicta 19 and scored a unanimous decision win over Christine Ferea at Invicta 23.

Van Soest may need to continue to work on the transition from kickboxing to MMA, especially when it comes to the ground game and submissions, but she’d make an interesting addition, especially with her striking, to either the UFC’s strawweight or flyweight divisions.

Honorable Mention: Chi-Lewis Parry

Chi-Lewis Parry hasn’t competed for GLORY since 2016 and has since moved from kickboxing to MMA. Parry has admitted that his MMA career has been more about fun than chasing championships, and the 36-year-old may not be as attractive a signing for the UFC. But if there’s the chance for a one-off bout, there would be one interesting — though maybe not the most competitive — matchup for Parry: Jon Jones.

Parry and Jones have a beef that stretches back to Parry’s days of training with Cormier, Jones’ greatest rival. The two reportedly have had a number of confrontations, including a May 2019 incident at a health and fitness event in England. In a recent interview, Parry has stated he doesn’t hate Jones and would be willing to help him turn his life outside the cage around, but he feels Jones will never be a very good person.

Even if the fight is gimmicky and ends up lame, such a fight’s hype and build would be quite heated and MMA (and kickboxing fans) might heat it up, especially when they learn of the history between these two.

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