A debate about the best kickboxers on the planet would lose all credibility if you failed to include Tyrone Spong.
The Suriname-Dutch warrior, at just 27 years old, has accomplished a tremendous amount inside the ring despite giving up a considerable size advantage while competing among the best heavyweights, winning multiple titles as he packed on bulk to hang with bigger, stronger opponents.
Hell, kickboxing wasn't enough for him and "The King of the Ring" made his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut last November, scoring a first round knockout of Travis Bartlett at World Series of Fighting I in Las Vegas.
In his last kickboxing bout, Spong knocked out one of the sport's greatest legends, "The Dutch Lumberjack" Peter Aerts. Now, he's gearing up for another legend in three-time heavyweight world champion Remy Bonjasky. Spong is slated to face the dynamic striker at Glory 5 in three weeks (March 23, 2013) in London, England.
The Imperial Athletics standout spoke with MMAmania.com about the loss of kickboxing legend Ramon Dekkers, being motivated by the recent losses of his teammates and when he expects to return to the MMA cage in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's start with the last thing you did. You're coming off your first mixed martial arts fight. I'm wondering, what was that like? You had smaller gloves, a cage, different rules. Did it feel the same?
Tyrone Spone: The gloves were small so I had to think a little bit about not breaking my hands. Other than that, the whole feeling, if you're a fighter, it doesn't really matter. Whether a ring or the Octagon, it's the same adrenaline rush, the same feeling, the same healthy nerves and healthy tension. Just getting ready for battle.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The world of kickboxing lost one of it's biggest legends very recently in Ramon Dekkers. It was terrible news. Considering he was a fighter who trained and coached out of Golden Glory a bit, a place you have a long history with, what are your thoughts on the kickboxing community losing one of its stalwarts?
Tyrone Spong: It's just a pity. It's like, I'm really sad about his death and for his family, all the fans. All the fighters looked up to him. I can remember myself as a boy at 13 years old watching his fights and the tension and spirit of watching his fights. It's just sad. He was such a big inspiration to me and it's just bad that he passed away at such a young age.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He worked at Golden Glory training. Did you ever get a chance to work with him, or did you have any special memories with him?
Tyrone Spong: I worked with him once and other than that, I saw him around all the time. I spoke with him a lot and we were friends. We didn't speak every day or every week but when we met it was just fine, like we had seen each other just yesterday. I remember when I was coming up as a fighter, he said he was following me too and he told me, "You're on the right track. Keep doing your thing and I'm going to be your fan. I'm your fan." That's something that I never forgot. I feel blessed and happy that I got a chance to meet him and know him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you've got a huge upcoming fight against one of the greatest kickboxers in Remy Bonjasky. He's so talented and he came back from retirement last year. What did you think of his performance at the 16-man Grand Prix on New Year's Eve in Japan? After being eliminated in the quarterfinals, some are saying that he didn't look like the same Remy.
Tyrone Spong: Styles make fights so honestly, I didn't even watch him fight. I don't know how he performed. The only thing I've heard about it is how I would have performed. People kept saying it's all easy from the outside without consequences. They can run their mouths but to step in the ring and be there and fight, that's something else. If it was easy, everybody would be champion. I don't let that affect me whatsoever.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After the success of the 16-man tournament on New Years, would you be interested in participating in the next big heavyweight single night Grand Prix, or do you prefer to put all your focus into training for one specific fight?
Tyrone Spong: It has to be interesting for me both contract-wise and money-wise. Let's see what me and the organization can work on for this upcoming event, for the tournaments and we'll move from there after the big fights.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In a recent article on the GLORY website, you mentioned that your teammate Alistair Overeem's recent loss didn't dishearten you, it instead motivated you. Can you explain how it motivates you seeing a good friend and teammate lose?
Tyrone Spong: Yeah, it's just that he made some mistakes and he lost. For me, I heard that Remy said, "I think it could affect him and maybe demotivate him," or whatever. Come on, man. I'm a fighter. It doesn't affect me in negative way. It just affects me in a positive way. Just make sure that you're ready and that's exactly what I'm gonna do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bonjasky has some of the best kicks and flying knees in the history of kickboxing. Do you think that the well-roundedness of your game with superior punching power will give you an advantage against him?
Tyrone Spong: He beat a lot of well-rounded fighters. He beat the best in the world so I don't know. I know one thing. I know I'm gonna be ready for the fight and it's gonna be a hard fight. It doesn't change anything about my respect for him. I respect him so much and I'm just looking forward to the fight and I think I have a good chance to win otherwise I wouldn't take the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had some great wins in your career, but considering Bonjasky is a three time world champion and such a legend, would a victory over him be the biggest win you've ever had?
Tyrone Spong: I have won over a bigger champion already and that's Peter Aerts. I've beaten so many big champions in my career already. I'm a nine-time world champion and I've beaten the best so if you just look at my resume, you'll see that I'm already at a young age, knocking on the door of being a legend myself, already. It's pretty funny because I'm only 27 years old but when you think about it, I have over 100 professional fights, that's a lot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're currently the number six-ranked heavyweight kickboxer in the world according to LiverKick.com, do you think that if you go out there and defeat Bonjasky, it would put you in position to fight Semmy Schilt for a shot at the Glory kickboxing title?
Tyrone Spong: I think I'm gonna kick LiverKick on the liver. I'm the number one heavyweight in the world. I don't care what anyone else says. I'm number one. You gotta think about it like this. I was a middleweight and I'm coming in this game and now I'm the guy all the heavyweights want to fight. It's funny because I wasn't a real heavyweight. I think I deserve a little more credit. It doesn't matter if they rank me number six. I think I'm in the top four for sure. They're pretty accurate about it, but it's my job to make sure I become the number one then.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question is for the the MMA fans. When do you plan to return to mixed martial arts?
Tyrone Spong: This year. This year I'm gonna have my MMA fight with World Series of Fighting. I'll keep you guys entertained. Just stay tuned to my twitter and I'll keep you guys posted.
Tyrone would like to thank Authentic Sports Management, his manager Glenn Robinson, all the people in the office who help him, his teammates Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Alistair Overeem, Anthony Johnson, all the guys at the gym. His coach, his fans and everyone he forgot to mention. You can follow Tyrone on twitter @Tyrone_Spong.