Rico vs. Jamal: The Rematch of Changed Men
On December 9th, Rico Verhoeven looks for “redemption” for a loss suffered 2011. Across the ring from him, Jamal Ben Saddik is searching for vindication by beating Verhoeven a second time and proving he, and not Rico, is truly the greatest kickboxer in the world.
FIGHT SPORTS spoke exclusively with both men leading up to the headlining fight on December 9th’s triple header for GLORY Kickboxing, and both fighters referenced that they are different men than when they first met in 2011.
Rico Verhoeven told FIGHT SPORTS that the pressure of being the best kickboxer in the world weighed heavy on him when he first faced Ben Saddik, and that pressure caused Verhoeven to get inside his own head and force him to not be as loose as he wanted to be inside the ring.
“Enjoy the moments you spend in the ring… I wasn’t enjoying it, I was stressed out… Now I just enjoy myself.”
That change in mindset is a reason Rico believes he is the best in the world.
“I am doing everything an athlete has to do to be the best version of himself.”
Another difference is that he is no longer just a kickboxer. With his recent work voicing the titular character for a foreign dub of Ferdinand, a brand-new autobiography, and his work in commercials and as a spokesman, he is a brand. But more importantly as well, Rico Verhoeven is a father.
Rico explained to FIGHT SPORTS the balance between being a fighter, a father, a husband, and the face of his sport.
“The thing is, I enjoy doing all of the stuff next to kickboxing, I want to bring this sport to the next level.”
“Working hard for me is easy, because I enjoy everything that I’m doing, its fun stuff.”
“The time you spend at home, make sure it counts.”
– Rico Verhoeven
Jamal Ben Saddik is also in a much different place since their 2011 fight. Soon after defeating Verhoeven in 2011, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A battle that Ben Saddik endured and defeated on his way back to the top of kickboxing.
He is looking to repeat the second-round defeat he handed Verhoeven, and told FIGHT SPORTS that his training camp was very strong and says he will take the strength he found in defeating cancer into the ring against Rico.
“It was a difficult time for me and my family, and we had to move forward… I never took my eyes off kickboxing.”
“Difficult times don’t last forever and I will show that on December 9th.”
– Jamal Ben Saddik
Ben Saddik has focused on a healthier lifestyle leading up to this fight, focusing on diet, exercise and a proper sleep schedule.
With what he has endured since 2011, Ben Saddik tells FIGHT SPORTS that he is more of a fighter than when he first faced Verhoeven, and that his experiences and journey up until now, will be what guides him to victory.
With both men confident in victory heading into their grudge match in Rotterdam, GLORY lead announcer Todd Grisham says that most observers agree that Rico will live up to his word and knock Saddik out in the last round on December 9th.
“If you believe what Rico’s saying… He’s gonna knock Jamal out in the last round. He’s gonna systematically break him down and go for the kill in round five.”
– Todd Grisham
While the smart money lends itself to the idea of redemption and another successful Rico title defense, Ben Saddik has fought some of the toughest battles of his life outside the ring and has come back in better shape and possibly as a better opponent than 2011.
Stay with FIGHT SPORTS for full coverage of GLORY Redemption: Verhoeven vs. Ben Saddik, Saturday, December 9th in Rotterdam, Amsterdam.