The age of the internet has led to a lot of great things, including being closer than ever to superstar athletes as they globe trot and make a bigger name for themselves. I firmly believe that Alistair Overeem's recent burst of fame has a lot to do with great management and the hype that was built up for him. Overeem's internet documentary The Reem is absolutely first class. We followed Overeem from his Strikeforce title win to his K-1 World GP win and now we follow him through the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP. This is the second episode of The Reem. [source]
It's Showtime announced today that their 85kg World Title, previouly held by Melvin Manhoef, was now vacant. According to their official statement:
"Melvin Manhoef was in possession of this title from August 2009. However, due to various reasons he hasn’t been able to defend his title. An IT’S SHOWTIME world champion has to defend his title within 1 year, and IT’S SHOWTIME is able to extend this period with another year. Because the term of maximum extension will end next August, we have decided to make this title vacant immediately."
This doesn't come as a big surprise - earlier this year I spoke with It's Showtime president Simon Rutz, who told me that Manhoef being stripped was indeed a possibility, especially since the champion had declared he likely would not compete for It's Showtime in 2011.
Manhoef won the belt in 2009, defeating Denes Racz to become the first 85kg champion. Since then, Manhoef has only fought for It's Showtime once - a 2010 fight with Gokhan Saki that took place outside the 85kg weight limit. In fact, Manhoef only has two kickboxing fights in that time, as he has been more focused on his MMA career.
While it's unfortunate to not see Manhoef competing, this is a good move. It's Showtime is really working on emphasizing their titles, and making sure that they are held by champions who will defend them. I'm glad they are sticking to their contractual promises regarding title defenses, and look forward to seeing what is next in this division. Now let's just hope we can get Orono back to defend his 65kg title soon.
Regarding the future of the belt, It's Showtime stated "We don’t know yet when and between who the next 85kg max title fight will be. Also it is not an impossibility that Melvin will fight for this title in the future."
There has been a persisting rumor about K-1 legend Jerome Le Banner and his next fight possibly being in his home country of France for kickboxing's new powerhouse, It's Showtime. There was actually a rumor that he was the leading name to fight Badr Hari for his comeback fight. The reality is, a fight like Le Banner is incredibly risky for a fighter who is still a top prospect at this point and has yet to reach the top of the mountain. No one wants a guy to lose momentum taking a KO to a tough vet like JLB.
So, there have been talks of JLB still fighting on the card and a few people have flat out asked me if he will be fighting or if we know anything. Since It's Showtime also dangled a possible JLB fight over our heads at the recent Amsterdam card with a JLB sighting in the crowd and the announcers making a rather crass reference to us "seeing more from him soon," the rumors have just strengthened. It has gone as far as people saying it was a done deal that JLB was fighting in May.
Sadly, LiverKick.com today confirmed that just is not true. We spoke with the Hyper Battle Cyborg himself to see if this strong, persisting rumor held any weight and the sad truth is that Jerome Le Banner will not be fighting on the card and for right now, you might want to power down on the Hyper Battle Cyborg hype train coming to It's Showtime. Just for the time being, though. Expect more Jerome Le Banner news shortly, but just not for the It's Showtime Lyon show.
New fight announcement for the United Glory finals on May 28: in an intriguing rematch, it will be #14 Errol Zimmerman vs. #19 Mourad Bouzidi.
These two men first met two years ago at the It's Showtime Amsterdam Arena 2009 event. At that time, Zimmerman was a top 5 fighter, riding high off his 2008 K-1 Grand Prix final 4 appearance and Fight of the Year with Badr Hari. He was expected to take the fight easily, but it was not to be. Near the end of round 1, Bouzidi caught Zimmerman with a knee, opening up a large cut above the eye that stopped the fight. At the time, the fight was viewed as not even an upset, but more of a freak stoppage, and not a true loss for the Bonecrusher. Rewatching it now with some perspective, that's a very unfair way to look at it. Bouzidi was turning in a strong performance, giving Zimmerman a lot of trouble, and the knee that opens the cut is beautifully executed. Mourad Bouzidi won that fight.
For the rematch, Zimmerman is in quite a different place. A series of underwhelming performances and out of shape appearances has cooled his momentum considerably. He is coming off a powerful win at the United Glory semi-finals, but that was against an opponent far below Bouzidi's level. Despite their rankings, I would actually consider Bouzidi the favorite here, as he is the kind of disciplined, solid fighter that will always turn in a game performance. In the end, it's a very close fight, and one that Zimmerman needs to win. A win here shows he he still can compete at this level, while a loss furthers his downward slide. I'm greatly looking forward to seeing how this one goes down.
Zimmerman vs. Bouzidi is the 3rd fight set for this card. Already announced are the World Series of Kickboxing and MMA finals: Gokhan Saki vs. Brice Guidon on the kickboxing side, and Tommy Depret vs. Siyar Bahadurzada for MMA.
One final note - while I am excited about this fight, it must be mentioned that United Glory is notoriously unreliable for delivering fights as promised. I really hope this one actually happens, but am prepared that it might not.
UPDATE: Two updates courtesy of Golden Glory trainer Martijn de Jong. First, it appears the date is actually May 28, not the 21st as originally reported. Second, de Jong announced a 4th featured bout: #4 Artur Kyshenko vs. #6 Nieky Holzken. That right there is a GREAT match up, and if these four fights all go as planned, this is looking like a stacked show.
Watch Errol Zimmerman vs. Mourad Bouzidi from 2009 below: