It didn't take long for "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini to get the call to face Marc de Bonte for the GLORY welterweight title at GLORY: "Last Man Standing" on June 21, 2014 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
This will be the Canadian's first fight since losing in the GLORY 13 tournament final to Nieky Holzken, and it's de Bonte's first title defense after winning the inaugural welterweight title in a split decision victory over Karapet Karapetyan, who was an injury fill in for the No.1-ranked Holzken at GLORY 16 in Denver.
The No. 2-ranked GLORY welterweight told MMAmania.com, "It was a little frustrating" that it wasn't him getting the call to step in to face de Bonte, "essentially because that was de Bonte's first fight in a while and Karapet lost (to Holzken) in the first round."
"Bazooka" handed Raymond Daniels his first-ever defeat in the opening round that night in Japan back in December, and put on a battle for the ages against eventual winner Nieky Holzken, succumbing to a technical knockout in the final round. Meanwhile, Karapetyan got knocked out early in the opening round against Holzken, so you can understand why he would be frustrated.
The Canadian kickboxer doesn't have to be upset any longer, thanks to an overwhelming amount of support via social media that was clamoring for him to get the next shot, even while de Bonte vs. Karapetyan was still underway.
The announcement came only a couple days after GLORY 16.
"It was quick," Valtellini said. "While that whole fight was on, the reaction on social media was amazing. Fans from all over the world were saying I should be in there. They were tweeting it and posting it. Social media and Twitter went crazy. All the people saying I should be in there and I deserved a spot. It was kind nice to see the fans educated on what's going on in the welterweight picture and pushing me as the next guy to get the shot."
"I really enjoyed that," he continued. "The fans were really educated outside of just this one event. They were the ones really pushing it for me. I didn't really have to push it myself. The fans and all my supporters stepped up and said 'Valtellini deserves this chance' and I'm happy de Bonte accepted it and I think we are going to put on a little more of an exciting fight than he did with Karapet." I'm just lucky to have this shot right away. I'm happy that he is willing to do it."
Karapetyan and de Bonte -- who were training together prior to the Holzken injury and being matched against one another -- put on a hard fought, technical battle that some experts and fans felt wasn't very exciting. Valtellini is one of those who shares the same sentiment and he vows to put on a more exciting display than both of them come June 21st.
"Those guys... I know they know each other really well, maybe that's what made for a little slow fight," Valtellini said. "It was a very physical fight. I think they both pushed a good technical fight on each other. They way both of them fought, I would bring a different fight than both of those guys. A lot of people weren't really entertained by that fight. I think I bring a faster style, a more hard-hitting pace, so I think I can bring a more exciting fight. It's going to be exciting to see how our two styles clash on June 21st."
While the title fight against de Bonte is Valtellini's main focus, the fighter who doubles as a High School teacher was asked about the Holzken loss at GLORY 13 and the possibility of facing him again in the future. Now 4-1 in GLORY, he feels it "would've been a totally different fight if it wasn't in a tournament format."
"They didn't really give me much time after the Daniels fight and I know Holzken has a lot of experience, especially in tournaments," Valtellini said. "He's been in that situation many times. But for me there was so much on the line. No matter what it took to win that title I was willing to put it all on the line and I knew with his experience and seeing a lot of his fights in the past, I felt that pushing him was one of my better strategies. Looking back maybe I would've changed strategies but at the time, that is what we went with and I felt that I could push him, push the pace and keep pushing him back and that would've been a good strategy for us."
"The end result, yeah, it was exciting for the fans, but it happens," he continued about the lone knockout defeat of his career. "It was actually the first time I experienced a loss like that. I just feel like, leaving it on the table, it's combat sports, it happens. I hope the next time that I do have an opportunity to fight Nieky in a rematch, it's a one-fight deal so both of us can be in our peak conditions."
One thing that is truly remarkable is the fact that Valtellini had only eight professional fights under his belt when he joined the GLORY welterweight division in April 2013. In the last year he has gone 4-1 with four knockouts, was part of what many considered to be kickboxing's fight of the year against Holzken, and will be fighting for a title on really just a "handful of experience." The former college punter says "it's crazy" to look back on what he has accomplished in such little time as a pro fighter.
"I don't know many people who can do that," Valtellini says. "That's what's one of my big motivating factors. I want to be the person to do everything in kickboxing in a limited number of fights. To fight for a title and win a world title with 14 professional fights, I don't know many people who have done that, especially in the kickboxing world. I want make history while I'm doing it. I want to show that I can hang in there and you can be the best in the world no matter what your experience is on paper and it's always been fun for me to keep challenging myself to try and make that goal."
Another fighter who was calling for a shot at Holzken or the welterweight title right after GLORY 16 was Daniels, who was looking to take the momentum of the highlight reel knockout over Francois Ambang that went viral within hours after it happened (watch it here).
Valtellini beat Daniels pretty handily in the GLORY 13 tournament, and while "Bazooka" called the knockout "impressive," he thinks it's "really early" for "Real Deal" to be calling for a title shot and mentioned how Daniels improved quite a bit after losing to him in Tokyo.
"It was a good kick," Valetllini said. "You what I find with a lot of guys that I fight? They end up evolving a lot after they fight me. You even look at Francois Ambang and he has evolved quite a bit as well. I'm pretty experienced in kickboxing. I bring a real good style to the game with a lot of power. I think a lot of guys really learn after they fight me."
"I think again, before you ask for a world title, I think you need to kind of put... show that you are beating guys that have been in the sport for a long time. I fought whoever they put in front of me and I've come out victorious. I feel like this is how I deserved and earned my shot."
Valtellini -- who won by knockout over Karim Gahjji at GLORY 11 in Chicago, the first card on Spike TV -- will get the chance to win the title on GLORY's first-ever pay-per-view (PPV) card. That is something he relishes as he vows to continue to put North America on the map in regards to kickboxing.
"I've been a part of this whole growth of kickboxing with GLORY and I was on the first card in Chicago that was on Spike TV and now being on the first card that GLORY is putting on pay-per-view is just amazing," he said. "Being on all these milestones of the rise of kickboxing, I'm happy to be that person. A lot of me winning this title is a childhood dream, but at the end of the day I want to see the rise of kickboxing in North America and it has been growing. I want to be that person that can really say was an influential factor to making it a big, huge sport like mixed martial arts."
Making that even better for the four-year veteran is the continent of people and fans abroad that are behind him for this title fight against de Bonte and rooting for him to succeed and achieve his goals in his still young career.
"The reaction of everybody around, the Canadian community and all around North America has just been something special," Valtellini said. "It just seems that I have a whole continent supporting me and even fans from around the world all encouraging me and really backing me for this. It's exciting. It's exciting to be backed from so many people and having so many people believe in me that I'll be the next champ."