Rico Verhoeven Goes Hollywood Ahead Of GLORY 59 Amsterdam

Kickboxing may not be mainstream in the United States, but in Europe—especially The Netherlands—it’s gigantic. And Rico Verhoeven (54-10), the GLORY heavyweight champion, is its rock star.

Eight straight title defenses, a 17-1 record in GLORY, and a driving passion to become the best at his chosen craft, have propelled the 29-year-old champion to the top of the kickboxing mountain. His handsome good looks, striking presence and outgoing personality have now shot him into the orbit of stardom.

Once called the sport’s prince, Verhoeven, who faces No.2-ranked contender Guto Inocente at GLORY 59 at Johan Cruijff Arena on September 29, is now referred to as “The King of Kickboxing.”

And right now it’s good to be the king.

When he’s not training, the Dutch champion is juggling a never-ending schedule of sponsorship obligations, Dutch television appearances, a clothing line, movie auditions (his most recent with Sylvester Stallone for Creed 2, which he didn’t land) and rubbing elbows with some of Hollywood’s elite A-listers.

“I look for motivation and I look for people I can compare myself with, who are in the same kind of position with what their motivation is and their vision of life and stuff like that,” Verhoeven told FIGHT SPORTS. “For example: Will Smith, Kevin Hart, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, those people just really motivate and inspire me.”

Verhoeven, who recently spent time wth Johnson at the Skyscraper premiere in Hong Kong, China, and trained with Hart, shared some of his experiences with both of them, as well as the audition with Sly, which would have landed him the part of Viktor Drago.

On Johnson: “It was a cool experience. It was fun. We had a good connection.”

On Hart: “I trained with him. I had him on the pads. So we had a lot of fun and a good connection as well. We are going to meet up again [later on] in October when I’m going to be in L.A.”

On Stallone: “He is a really cool and patient guy and he took his time to tell me what he was looking for and getting me comfortable there. [And to make sure you are] Just staying relaxed and enjoying what you are doing.”

“The journey has taken me literally everywhere,” said Verhoeven, his excitement and gratitude for where his career has taken him easily noticeable in his response. With his career continuing to ascend at such a rapid pace, which he fully acknowledged, and the fact that he’s been able to meet and connect with celebrities like Hart and Johnson, he admitted that he does occasionally step back for a minute to take it all in.

“I feel everything is going so fast,” he said. “We are on a high-speed train. We are rolling at high speed. Sometimes you just need to stand still for a second and just look at what we are doing and what we have achieved and what we can still achieve and what is happening around you. It’s crazy.”

Most recently, Verhoeven has been donning the headset and taken to the stage as a motivational speaker in his home country. Think Tony Robbins, or maybe Gary Vaynerchuk, except you’re listening to a 6-foot-5, 260-pound kickboxing champion, who’s taken part in some of the biggest heavyweight battles in the sport’s history. It seems more than likely he’s going to grab someone’s attention.

“I’m doing a lot of motivational speeches,” said Verhoeven. “It’s crazy with those. [I’m working] With big companies to motivate their employees or just give them some inspiration on how to work and fight for your dreams and stuff like that. So, we are working hard. It’s all good. It’s all nice. It’s all fun.”

Patrick Harderwijk, GLORY Sports International

What does it mean to the Dutch fighting icon to connect with audiences and inspire them by sharing his story of success?

“It’s really special,” Verhoeven said. “It just gives me a really satisfying feeling to help others get the right mindset and go and achieve their goals and dreams.”

With a victory over Inocente at GLORY 59, Verhoeven will extend his record for consecutive title defenses to eight. He offered some thoughts on his opponent, who owns one of the nastiest knockouts in the promotion’s history, a spinning-hook kick finish over Dennis Demoreo at GLORY 27.

“I think he is a good opponent,” the champion said. “He goes from different angles, spinning kicks and spinning attacks, spinning back fists and stuff like that, [he’ll switch it up and go] high, low. He’s a fighter that comes with a lot of surprises. We haven’t faced him yet. So, the people will have something to look forward to.”

Verhoeven has held the top spot for over four years now since defeating Daniel Ghita at GLORY Last Man Standing in June of 2014 to win the heavyweight title. And while many feel Inocente will be no match for the champion because the Brazilian contender has had some lackluster performances since that highlight-reel knockout over Demoreo, Verhoeven is smart enough to know that being the champion means whomever he faces he’s going to get their best shot.

“He’s probably really motivated to work now and get ready for this fight,” Verhoeven said. “I’m not thinking I’m going to face the fittest Guto until now.”

Verhoeven admitted that the start of training camps are harder now because he “enjoys doing the things next to the sport also.” But once he is in camp, he said, all the other stuff becomes secondary as he gets dialed in for another title defense.

Yes, he’s the “King of Kickboxing,” but wearing the crown doesn’t mean he’s no longer hungry or that he’s losing his edge. He explained what keeps him driven.

“The focus and the vision, I think that is the most important,” he said. “Setting records and doing things that haven’t been done before. Even in training, different sparring partners coming out to train with you, every time it’s like a—not really like a fight—but they all want to measure themselves with you. They want to see where they stand and how good you really are. Yeah, that keeps me motivated.”

2018 is winding down, but Verhoeven doesn’t have any set plans to reveal for 2019 just yet. “Let’s see what happens,” he said. “I’m enjoying life. I’m in a very good place right now. Let’s see where we are headed.”

The champion continues to transcend the sport of kickboxing while simultaneously achieving more and more growth outside of the ring. Breaking into Hollywood’s inner circle is quite the accomplishment, especially coming from a sport that has yet to come close to the popularity of mixed martial arts or boxing. It speaks to just how special an athlete Verhoeven is, and to how easily others are drawn in by his magnetic personality.

There will be more movie auditions in the future. There will be more motivational speeches. There will be more hobnobbing with action movie stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But on September 29, Verhoeven will only be focused on one thing: defending his GLORY heavyweight title. Kickboxing is the foundation he has built everything else in his career on top of. He still loves to do what he does best. And at GLORY 59, he gets to do it in front of his hometown crowd inside the biggest arena of the country.

“It’s always fun. It’s always an honor. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to entertain my home crowd and go home with the victory like always.”

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