Strikeforce will officially welcome back its heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem to the United States at "Heavy Artillery" on Saturday, May 15.
It has been a long time coming, to say the least. The last time we witnessed Overeem stateside was in November 2007 when he earned his Strikeforce title by defeating mixed martial arts veteran Paul Buentello.
In the roughly two and a half years since, he's stayed extremely active, fighting in seven MMA and six K-1 bouts.
The Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri will play host to Overeem's first title defense as he takes on contender Brett Rogers in the main event of the evening.
The "Demolition Man" took some time out of his training schedule to discuss why Fedor and M-1 are ducking him, Rogers' recent smack talk and crushing his knee on Brock Lesnar's head.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Over the past six months you have fought a total of six times - three under MMA rules and three under K-1 rules. Many fighters go 3 - 4 months in between fights or even longer. Why have you chosen to be more active than most?
Alistair Overeem: I feel I am at my peak. I have no injuries and my decision with my management to also participate in K-1 turned out really well. I had no injuries and scored many KO victories in round one. The training is harder then the fight itself. Also, my management Golden Glory did an excellent job in me signing a contract where I could fight in different organizations.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How is your body handling it physically? How are you feeling right now? Are you 100% healthy and ready to fight Brett Rogers on May 15?
Alistair Overeem: Yes, I am 100% fit. I have been fit for all my fights lately. I do not have to cut weight anymore and I am 100% focused on fighting. In the past, when I was fighting for PRIDE I was doing a lot of other stuff in between my fights. I bought an MMA magazine so I was running around with a camera to take pictures for my magazine. Then, personally at home, things did not go really good. The worst was originally my weight was like 103 kg and every time I came down to 93 kg sometimes I was pissing blood as I think my body was eating muscle tissue. That's one of the reasons I could feel the power run out of me after a few minutes. All of that has changed now since I became a heavyweight fighter.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Rogers has been pretty vocal already leading up to the fight and calling you anything from a "coward" to an "egomaniac" and so forth. Has anything he has said bothered you up to this point?
Alistair Overeem: Yeah, I read "chipmunk" lately somewhere. I do my talking in the ring. I've got nothing much to say. I do not even read the forums that much anymore. I'm too busy with training. I was laughing about a Dutch forum called "Mix Fight." They posted Brett doing pads. People thought it was staged, the footage, that's how bad it was! But I go by my own game plan. I got my trainer Martijn de Jong and Cor Hemmers, and I got great management in Golden Glory, as well as tons of big named and skilled sparring partners. I will be very ready for this fight!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Why do you feel Rogers has gone out of his way to trash talk leading up to the fight?
Alistair Overeem: I don't know. Something I said in an elevator? I don't know what he is talking about. He says he does not like me because of several reasons. I just see him as a next opponent and will do my talking in the ring with my knees, fists, or subs. If Rogers wants to profile himself the way he does that's his business.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Rogers is coming off a loss to Fedor Emelianenko in November 2009. Have you seen tape of the fight? If so, what did you think of his performance against Fedor?
Alistair Overeem: I think Fedor is not the Fedor he was in PRIDE like so many of that generation of fighters. Fedor is the best and has beaten the best, but he is not unbeatable. Vadim (Finkelstein) recently made comments about me being a "steroid bully," and that's why they do not want to fight me? But then fighters who got caught three times with steroids in the past they want to fight.
Or when Vadim does a co-promotion on New Years Eve, the unranked Hong Man Choi can be picked as an opponent for Fedor, who is 20 cm taller than me and 40 kg heavier. Rogers showed some strength, but gassed in my eyes and gave Fedor room to come back because Fedor could smell that!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you feel Brett Rogers has done enough to deserve a shot at your Strikeforce heavyweight title?
Alistair Overeem: I am not really busy with that. I wanted to fight Fedor but my management knows the management of Fedor very well. There is too much risk business-wise to make that fight happen for M-1. If they lose they cannot play their co-promotion card anymore and M-1 will be over. Scott (Coker) will terminate all bindings with M-1 and continue with me and Golden Glory as he knows we are reasonable and we have been around for 10+ years. I think he got gray hairs from them already (laughs).
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is there any aspect of MMA that Brett Rogers is superior to you in?
Alistair Overeem: He looks strong. I will not get into the trainings video which appeared on YouTube. Many approached me and were laughing their heads off about Rogers' training performances. I take every opponent seriously, especially for the belt. Brett Rogers is just the next one on my list decided by promoter Scott Coker and my management.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your official prediction for the fight?
Alistair Overeem: This will happen - if Brett keeps his promise and comes to fight and comes to me as he is saying in all of his interviews within two minutes he will get KO'd. He'll eat one of my devastating knees or I will sub him on the ground.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Fedor Emelianenko is fighting Fabricio Werdum in June. His camp has also expressed interest in possibly fighting Josh Barnett in the future. Are you starting to feel like Fedor and his management are ducking you?
Alistair Overeem: I explained this in the press before. Of course they are ducking me. I am a risk to their whole organization. Vadim is embarrassing all the Russians. First not fighting Couture and now ducking me. At the same time he calls me a steroid bully in the Russian press. My manager will reply to that soon. But he still wants to fight fighters who have been caught three times using steroids! I will even wonder if Fedor is fighting in June. It always is a surprise party dealing with M-1. I got a nice scenario - Werdum gets injured and I have to fight Fedor in June. Just wishful thinking!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): If you could pass along a message to Fedor directly, what would you say to him regarding this situation?
Alistair Overeem: Fedor, you are a great fighter and like many other great Russian fighters in history you do your talking in a ring or cage. Leave this M-1 circus and start fighting the best. It's okay to lose sometimes but hiding makes you look like a coward, which Fedor is not, Vadim is!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Moving forward, should we expect your next fight to be under the K-1, Strikeforce, or DREAM banner?
Alistair Overeem: I am a fighter and fight as much as possible against anybody if the UFC would have a policy that fighting outside their organization was okay. I wanted to fight Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, or anybody in their top flight right now. So my answer is I do not care about which banner. I care about beating my opponents under whatever banner.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): In that case, is fighting in the UFC even a possibility in the future? What are the chances that Dana White can get you to fight for him?
Alistair Overeem: My management is okay with Dana White. I met him one year ago when I went with my manager and Semmy Schilt to UFC in Ireland. We made pictures and talked about the UFC. If they want me to fight there, no problem, but right now I have a contract with Strikeforce and I will honor that agreement.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How do you feel you would matchup against the UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar?
Alistair Overeem: I would love to fight Lesnar. It would not be too difficult to crush my knee on his head!
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Is your next major goal to become the K-1 Heavyweight Champion?
Alistair Overeem: Yes, it was not my initial planning, but I must say the last tournament of K-1 was electrifying for me. I got such a good vibe; the atmosphere, the tournament. And I know I can beat teammate Semmy Schilt, who is also from Golden Glory. Semmy recently defended his K-1 heavyweight title against another Golden Glory fighter Errol Zimmerman.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Thank you for the time Alistair. Is there any message you would like to pass along to your fans out there or any sponsors you would like to thank before we go?
Alistair Overeem: I would like to thank Fight Game clothing and Full Tilt Poker and all other sponsors who helped me in the past and the near future. I want to thank my fans. Anybody who is interested in sponsoring me for my title fight with Rogers please contact my management www.goldenglory.com. Alistair will do some serious damage in 2010. Be prepared!
Derek Bolender is a frequent contributor to MMAmania.com. He is also a freelance writer who has contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and SI.com in the past. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekMMAWriter.