Every athlete starts somewhere, but every athlete also hits a period of time when they need to reinvent themselves. Whether that need comes as the result of a losing skid in competitive events or because of things in their personal lives, they know that remaining a force at the highest level of competition means adding a few new tricks to their repertoires. If they can add those new wrinkles to their game, success isn’t the only thing that comes their way. They also cultivate a renewed interest from the MMA fan base.

Former Strikeforce, K-1 and Dream heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem used his high-level kickboxing prowess to dominate the scene in all of his former promotional homes, and then followed up by joining the UFC and scoring a dominant first-round finish of Brock Lesnar. In past bouts, that kickboxing, as well as his patient approach to each fight, helped him to execute his game plan well every time, and because of that patience, few thought he really needed to change anything up. Therefore, when longtime fans of Overeem saw him post back-to-back knockout losses to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Travis Browne, it turned out to be a bit of a shocker.

At UFC 169, Overeem stepped inside the Octagon, knowing that if he could not snap that two-fight skid—his first since his days in Pride Fighting Championships—with a win over former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, then he would likely find himself out of the UFC. How satisfying it must have been, then, to get back in the win column against one of the sport’s top submission aces.

“It felt great, of course!” Overeem exclaimed to The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “After my two losses, I worked on my cardio, as well as on a different game plan, and it worked out exactly the way we’ve planned.”

Sticking to his game plan against Mir proved key to successfully bring out “The Reem 2.0,” so to speak, but falling short against Browne and Bigfoot played their part as well. Overeem nearly secured victories in both of those fights before suffering losses. Professional athletes in the realm of combat sports often learn more from their defeats than their victories, though, so Overeem knew what he needed to do in order to return to form, and step one of that process involved learning from his previous performances.

“It was all about reinventing myself again,” Overeem revealed. “I’ve had a series of losses before, and I always come back as a stronger and smarter fighter.”

That learning experience paid off well for Overeem throughout the course of the three-round tilt with Mir. Overeem rocked Mir early in the fight. Instead of going for the finish and risking his gas tank—a mistake he made against Browne and Bigfoot—he remained patient and looked for ways to break down the former UFC heavyweight champion to where Mir could not threaten him from off of his back. This, again, trails back to what Overeem wanted to do from the onset of the Mir fight. He wanted to fight his fight, not Mir’s, and he wanted to come out victorious as a result of it.

“It didn’t take much discipline. I just followed the game plan,” Overeem explained. “I learned from the fights against Travis Browne and ‘Bigfoot.’ I improved my cardio and trained very hard.”

Overeem, who spent time in Boca Raton, Fla., training with the Blackzilians after splitting from Golden Glory a few years back, departed the camp and headed to Thailand to prepare for Mir. With the change in environment came a bit of isolation from the outside world as he trained for the fight, but he wanted to focus on nothing but Mir for the camp. Of course, whether or not Overeem chooses to return to Thailand for his next camp remains in question.

“I don’t know yet where I’ll have my next camp,” Overeem admitted. “But it could be again in a different country. But the good thing about Thailand was the isolation. No distractions! There was only one thing on my mind: train, train, train. Also, everything is very close by, so you don’t lose much time with driving to the gym, et cetera. Plus, I love the people in Thailand, and the food.”

When Overeem completed his demolition of Mir, he took to the mic during his post-fight interview for a memorable call-out of former UFC champion and WWE star Lesnar. Overeem handled Lesnar with ease when the two met at UFC 141 in December 2011, so what made him want to face Lesnar again?

“First of all—and I’ve already said that a few times in the media—it was a spontaneous action,” Overeem said. “I wasn’t too serious about it. There were some rumors about Brock returning to the UFC, and since he said he wasn’t 100 percent fit when he faced me, why not have a rematch if he does return? In my opinion, the UFC could use a character like Brock Lesnar in the heavyweight division.”

The Lesnar rumors may have faded, but soon after, talks surfaced about Overeem finally signing on to fight another former UFC heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos. A bevy of buzz hit the media about Overeem turning down a fight against dos Santos, with whom the UFC twice planned on matching “The Reem.” Overeem denied those claims outright.

“Basically, any fight against a top-10 heavyweight interests me,” Overeem explained. “It’s not a matter of me wanting to face someone else in the top 10 first. Of course, I would like to fight Junior dos Santos. But, before I can decide about a fight against, for instance, JDS, I need to be 100 percent fit. My recovery has my first priority, of course.

“I’m very blessed with all the people around me and my loyal fans. I’m happy to be in the UFC and looking forward to go back into the Octagon again!”

Alistair would like to thank his coaches, his teammates, the UFC and his fans for their support. Follow Overeem on Twitter: @Alistairovereem
  • nohatin_juststatin

    Overeem already reinvented himself when he went from lightweight to heavyweight. Overeem will never be top 3 in the UFC . To be truthfully honest with you I don’t believe he’ll ever get down to the top 5 of his division. He will win some but will lose more fights . I give him 2-3 record in the next 3 years.

  • Peter

    No mention of the fact he’s not on the juice anymore, or what his injury is that prevents him from fighting Junior.

  • 1droidfan

    I actually think Overeem could beat Cain or Dos Santos pretty quickly, if he went into Demolition Man mode on either of them. If they survived the first 3 minutes though he would be toast.
    I don’t think he can beat either of them in a long drawn out fight. I don’t care how much he trains Cardio, he will never be able to hang with Cain’s pace over 5 rounds. And with Junior, the longer he is in there, the greater the chance he will get caught. Junior is faster and more technical than him with his hands, its likely just a matter of time.
    I don’t think Overeem has a terrible chin, but his natural weight is 205lbs so his ability to absorb a shot is naturally at that weight. He just isn’t going to be able to take the shots a natural 260lb person would.

  • Levay

    Alistair is a entertaining fighter, been a fan of his since i watched his pride fights.
    And also being a good human overall.

    i hope he gets the title.