GLORY Heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven (47-10), has long been considered one of the best kickboxers on the planet. And while he continues his reign as champion, his pursuit in mixed martial arts (MMA) is just getting started.
Verhoeven, 26, won his debut fight at RXF 20 in Oct. 2015, defeating Viktor Bogutzki via technical knockout in the first round. He recently signed with Paradigm Sports Management to maximize his potential and opportunities in the world of MMA, revealing to MMAMania how their relationship came to fruition.
"I've known Audie [Attar] for a long time already, about five years," said Verhoeven about Paradigm's CEO. "We've stayed in contact. Especially now with me making my MMA debut this could be a step in the right direction."
"The Prince," as he's long been known, was officially coronated as "The King" after his most recent title defense at GLORY 27, where he knocked out No. 1 contender Benjamin Adeguyi round one. He is set to defend his title for the fourth straight time on March 12, 2016, in Paris when he takes on the No. 3-ranked Mladen Brestovac (49-10-1), whom he called a "good fighter" with a lot of "dangerous tools," making note of his fast kicks and southpaw stance.
But, before he begins his camp back home in Holland, Verhoeven is scouting different MMA gyms in the United States for a potential future landing spot.
"That is exactly what I'm trying to do," he said. "I'm just trying to get a taste and see what feels good. "I'm going to stay here for two weeks and then I go back and prepare for the fight."
What gyms has the the GLORY champion been visiting and training at?
"I've been to Dan Henderson's [Athletic Fitness Center] gym the last few days," Verhoeven revealed. "That was fun. Now I'm moving over to Las Vegas to watch the UFC and I will go to Xtreme Couture. I'm going to try all different gyms. Next week we will come back and go to San Jose and train at AKA and see how that goes."
With a career as an exclusive stand up fighter, being able to train wrestling and grappling with former UFC Heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez -- and current UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier -- could really provide him with a solid base and would work extremely well with his elite-level striking acumen.
*Note: Interview was conducted before last Saturday's (Feb. 6, 2016) UFC Fight Night 82 card.
Verhoeven wants to be patient and not just pick any gym or decide on the first one he visits. It's clear he's taking the process of choosing a home for his MMA training very serious. So he will continue to train at different places with different fighters, absorb as much as he can, and really weigh his options before pulling the trigger.
"Of course," he said, agreeing on his meticulous approach. "You have to try different stuff, different people, meet a lot of people and from there move on. Don't rush things."
Yes, he is actively seeking an MMA gym in the United States and is ready to head down that path, but there are no fights scheduled and no conversations with potential promoters just yet.
"First I have to defend my title," Verhoeven stated.
Once his fight versus Brestovac at GLORY 27 is complete, then he can continue searching for a gym and take the next steps in his still very young MMA career. That being said, he feels confident signing with Paradigm was a necessary and important decision that was imperative for his future.
"Yeah, definitely, take it one step at a time," he said. "First focus on this fight (Brestovac) and then move forward. That's how the schedule looks now. Focus on training and focus on kickboxing and then after that I will find a good gym and then I can think about an MMA fight. It all just coming together. For me it was like a puzzle. You have to look for the right pieces to put in the right place. This piece was a very important one for my career. It's going to bring me to the next level."