Alistair Overeem has seen it all and done nearly everything a fighter can do during a mixed martial arts career.
He’s been a champion in virtually every organization he’s ever competed in while also winning prestigious titles in kickboxing throughout his career. Now Overeem wants to finally add the last belt that’s eluded him for so long as he prepares to face Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title on Saturday night in Cleveland.
It's going to be the crown in my career. It's going to be history. It is going to be history on September 10, history will be made. Yeah, most decorated heavyweight of all time.
— Alistair Overeem
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"We were speaking about that the other day in some interviews. I like the ring of that," Overeem said when speaking to FOX Sports ahead of his fight at UFC 203.
When Overeem was first brought into the UFC from Strikeforce in 2011 he was immediately shifted into a bout against former champion and current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. The fight was expected to either vault Lesnar back into title contention or launch Overeem to star status with a shot at the belt looming overhead.
Overeem finished Lesnar inside of the first round and he was immediately booked for a shot at the title against Junior dos Santos, who had just recently become heavyweight champion with a knockout over Cain Velasquez.
Unfortunately, Overeem failed a drug test for elevated levels of testosterone leading up to the fight with dos Santos, and the bout fell apart. When he returned to the Octagon nine months later, Overeem then suffered losses in three out of his next four fights and it appeared like he would become a footnote in the UFC history books rather than a potential legend with one final title added to his trophy case of accomplishments.
But Overeem managed to turn it all around with four consecutive wins, including a knockout over dos Santos, and now he stands on the precipice of actually making history if he can beat Miocic at UFC 203.
Overeem had to endure a lot of turmoil over the past five years to finally arrive at this moment, but he’s not ready to celebrate just yet. This fight on Saturday night is the culmination of years of hard work, but the work isn’t finished until Overeem has the UFC gold around his waist.
"I’m not really appreciating anything, I realize there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done," Overeem said. "Even after you win the championship, the work doesn’t stop, it probably only becomes more. I’m just basically focused on what I need to do. There’s a lot that goes into this — diet, preparation, assembling the right people around you, sparring partners, coaches, etc. — so I’m not enjoying anything.
"I’m just putting in the work and I’m happy to report that everything is going good so far."
Add to that, Miocic is now defending the belt in Cleveland while also taking on a lot more responsibilities as champion that could serve as a distraction as he prepares for the upcoming fight with Overeem.
Overeem also loves the opportunity to play spoiler for Miocic’s homecoming in Ohio this weekend because he always seems to flourish when stepping into enemy territory.
"There is a lot of pressure attached to that. He’s already doing the championship route, right? The appearances, the this, the that, he got married, he’s living the life, I mean there’s always going to be more pressure with appearances from the home front. To me, I’m stepping into enemy territory and I’m going to use that as fuel and I’m going to use that as motivation," Overeem said.
"To me it depends on how you look at the situation. To me, I know how I’m going to do in this situation because I’ve done it before. I’ve fought in Russia in hostile crowds. We’re going to use that to my advantage. What that does to him? I don’t know. I just see for him more appearances, more obligations, more people wanting something from him and that’s going to work in my advantage."
Overeem can’t speculate whether becoming champion has changed Miocic for the better or worse and really he doesn’t care.
All Overeem is worried about right now is stepping into the Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night, snatching the title away from Miocic and then moving onto his first title defense as UFC champion.
"I’m working relentlessly at becoming a better fighter than I was yesterday. I think I’ve really shown that I’m a more evolved fighter these days than I’ve ever been. I’m very excited to show on Sept. 10 what I have in store for Stipe Miocic," Overeem said.
"Again the work will not stop there, I’m already looking ahead — Cain Velasquez is a fighter I’m looking forward to facing and any other heavyweight, I’m looking forward to fighting them, too."