Fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada, is something Netherlands native Nieky Holzken has always dreamed about. He has competed in his home country, other parts of Europe and Japan, and made it to the United States twice, but after more than 90 career bouts, the fight capital of the world has managed to avoid him.
Tomorrow night (Fri., Aug. 7, 2015) at GLORY 23, which takes place inside "The Joint" at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, "The Natural's" dream will become reality when he fights Raymond Daniels for the GLORY Welterweight title. It's a high-powered rematch just six months in the making -- Holzken won the first encounter via technical knockout in the GLORY 19 tournament final on Feb. 6, 2015.
"When I started to become famous in my sport, I always looked at the big fights like UFC -- Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas -- and now it's going to happen," Holzken told MMAMania.
Holzken, 31, is currently the No. 1-ranked GLORY Welterweight, but has not yet fought for the division title. A lingering shoulder injury suffered in a car accident is the primary reason for that. As a result, Holzken had to sit on the sidelines while he was on the mend and watch Marc de Bonte defeat Karapet Karapetyan to win the title at GLORY 16, then see the belt change hands at GLORY: "Last Man Standing" when "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini defeated de Bonte.
"The Natural" was due for a showdown with Valtellini, which would've been a rematch from their epic clash in the tournament final at GLORY 13 in Tokyo, Japan, which saw Holzken win by technical knockout in the third round. But, in unfortunate circumstances, Valtellini had to vacate the title because of complications from post-concussion syndrome.
No matter who has held the belt, Holzken has always felt it belonged to him and is of firm belief his shoulder injury is the only reason it's not his already.
"That’s true yes," he said. "I was injured and other guys fought for it. I wanted to fight Valtellini, but he was injured. I had to fight in tournament in Virginia first. I beat Raymond Daniels in the finals. And now I’m fighting Daniels, but he didn’t fight a tournament to fight me. So, it’s all a little bit strange, but no problem, things have to be done."
Holzken (86-11, 8-0 GLORY) is a textbook Dutch kickboxer with excellent boxing skills. His speed, power and technique --along with his distance and timing -- are considered among the best in the sport. Daniels (27-2, 4-2 GLORY) is unorthodox and in constant motion while waiting to time his sudden and explosive attacks, which are often a variation of different spinning techniques.
Holzken nullified Daniels movement in their first encounter, cutting off the ring with footwork, preventing Daniels to roam freely and attacking his body with big punches. Daniels hung tough, but was overwhelmed several times in the fight before the fight-ending knockdown in the third round (the fourth of the fight).
Will Daniels will have a different approach in the rematch? Holzken is unsure, but made note that he won't be changing up his style.
"I don't know," Holzken said. "We will see. I don't know what he has learned in six months. I am going to fight the same way I always do. We will see."
Holzken said he has somewhat prepared for Daniels unconventional attacks, but he is mainly focusing on himself.
"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "Not so much, because he has to think about my style. I don't think about his style. I'm only going forward with this guy and will try to knock him out."
The one common ground between Holzken and "Real Deal" is that they will both be fresh on fight night, not coming into their second fight of the evening like they were in the four-man, one-night tournament format.
"Now we are going to start fresh and I think it will be spectacular," said Holzken, who arrived in Las Vegas early for a planned trip to Mayweather Boxing Club to work out with Jeff Mayweather.
The 13-year kickboxing veteran is also undefeated (8-0) as a professional boxer. And after a recent trip to train with the Blackzilians in South Florida, he plans to head back soon to work with boxing coach Pedro Diaz.
"I will go back for sure because I have some boxing work to do," said Holzken, who helped prepare Michael Johnson for his fight with Edson Barboza while he was there. "I want to do a lot of boxing matches also. I'm now 8-0 with boxing. I've won seven by KO and one by points. The last one I won by points because I was injured before the fight. I bruised my wrist, so, I fight with one hand for six rounds. Big things coming up for me with boxing also."
Holzken is well aware kickboxing has yet to fully breakthrough in the United States. He maintains he will continue to perform at his best to lure more and more fans to Spike TV and inside North American arenas to support GLORY fight cards.
"Just perform at my best and try to knock everybody out and come in as sharp as possible in the ring and try to make kickboxing look very good in the United States," said Holzken, "and come over there a lot and fight everybody who wants to fight."
The Breda, Netherlands,-based fighter is a rockstar in his home country and pretty much wherever he fights. As a spectator at GLORY 15 in Istanbul, Turkey, he was mobbed by fans wanting autographs and pictures -- a common occurrence all over Europe.
But, that's not the case stateside ... and Holzken is hoping to change that.
"Kickboxing is not so big in America, but we try with GLORY to get as big as possible," he said. "I hope in the future we will be rockstars there, too."