Overeem calls past training partners 'pathetic' for bad-mouthing him in press
SEP 02, 2014 10:00a ET
It's not uncommon at all for fighters to change training camps when one thing or another isn't working with a team or there's just a better home to be found at another location. UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem is still trying to find that perfect combination after leaving his original gym in Holland and then spending a couple of years working at the Blackzilians gym in south Florida.
His split with that team was very public, which included former training partner Anthony Johnson accusing him of not even being a Blackzilian and instead just 'Team Alistair.'
Overeem picked up and moved shop to New Mexico, where he's been working for the last few months with coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and their team, including UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and a slew of top names throughout the industry. When he walked into camp on the first day the only people Overeem knew were Greg Jackson, former opponent Frank Mir and Jones, whom he had chatted with at a few UFC events on previous occasions.
Overeem was the new guy trying to assimilate into a team that's known for being extremely close. Any pebble in the water that sends ripples through the chemistry probably won't last there very long. Thankfully, Overeem was welcomed with open arms and he believes he's found the home he's been looking for ever since he left his home country several years ago.
"It's going great, it's great being here. I truly can say I'm a fan of New Mexico," Overeem told FOX Sports. "People are very open, very friendly, very grounded, very real. The same attitude can apply to the gym. My compliments go to Greg (Jackson) and coach Wink (Winkeljohn) for creating that atmosphere and maintaining it. It's very Zen, it's very great, there's no ego in the gym. For me that was best.
“I think it's pathetic because if I have a problem with you, trust me, you'll know. I'll come to you and address your behavior with you. I'm not going to freaking talk to the media behind everybody's back with whispers. That's p--sy behavior”
"I've worked very hard for the last few months. I had the surgery April 9, so that's four-and-a-half to five months ago. Recovered from that and trained my butt off and now we're here. I'm in great shape and I'm in a great spot. There's no negativity. I'm learning every day and I'm just motivated. It's indeed a night-and-day difference from my previous camp."
When he bolted from that previous camp, Overeem had to read comments almost daily from former training partners about how he was a bad teammate, how he was selfish and how he went out of his way to injure other fighters when things weren't going his way in a sparring session. As great as he says things have been going lately, Overeem has still had to deal with some backbiting after he was apparently the training partner working with Jon Jones when he suffered his recent knee and ankle injury that forced him out of UFC 178 in September.
Once word got out that it was Overeem wearing the other pair of gloves in the cage with Jones that day, more interviews started springing up, accusing the former K-1 Grand Prix champion of misdeeds and dirty tactics inside the gym.
It's hard for Overeem to just gloss over the comments and pretend that they didn't happen, but at the same time he's not too concerned, considering the fighters who are saying things about him have refused to ever say any of these comments to his face. The fact that these so-called "friends" are now running to the press and crying wolf lets Overeem know their true character.
"The way I see it, it's just a deliberate attempt by certain people to talk bad about me," Overeem said. "Right now, I think it's pathetic because if I have a problem with you, trust me, you'll know. I'll come to you and address your behavior with you. I'm not going to freaking talk to the media behind everybody's back with whispers. That's (expletive) behavior.
"That's not how I am. I'm very straight-forward, very direct and that's not how other people are. It's all about you wake up in the morning, you brush your teeth, you look in the mirror and you like what you see -- I like what I see. I'm a very stand-up guy, positive guy, positive vibes."
Looking back on his experience with the team in Florida with an open forum to name drop and call out anybody in the camp for saying bad things about him, Overeem instead opts to take the high road. He admits things didn't go the way he had planned while working with the Blackzilians, but that it's not anybody's fault necessarily.
He was a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole and he just needed a change, nothing more.
"I would say I was the same guy in the Blackzilians, but I try to keep it positive and not blame anybody because sometimes there's just less of a connection and that's nobody's fault. It doesn't have to be 'Oh, it's that guy or that guy.' That's childish if you're going to be like that. Sometimes it's just a difference in character and a difference in chemistry. After a while you have to come to a conclusion. It's like any relationship," Overeem said.
"I'm taking the high ground to not talk about anybody. I could talk all day about this and that, but I'm not going to do that. That's a waste of energy and a waste of breath."
It seems Overeem found the right place working with the team at Jackson's and as he approaches his upcoming fight with Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Night in Connecticut this Friday, he's excited to showcase the new tools he's developed over the last few months. While he expects nothing less than a stellar performance, Overeem is also realistic to know that Rome wasn't built in a day — it's going to take time to truly mold himself into a better fighter working with a new coaching staff, so whether this fight ends up as a home run or he just squeaks by with a victory, he will be returning to Jackson's to continue his evolution as a fighter.
"This is my 20th year. I started training in 1994 when I was 14, now we're in 2014 so this is my 20th year. I've had a couple of dips in my career before, I left gyms, they would bad mouth me, it's happened before. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. You change everything for the better and you go back at it. That's what I've done these last 12 months," Overeem said.
"The work that I've done these last few months it's going to come out. If it doesn't come out this fight, it will come out next fight. I'm very satisfied with the direction it's going right now."