The heavyweight division has long been the marquee weight class in the world of kickboxing.

From Ernesto Hoost to Peter Aerts to Semmy Schilt, it’s been one Dutchman after another standing atop the ranks as the most dominant heavyweight on the planet for the last three decades.

So when 25-year-old Rico Verhoeven upset both Gokhan Saki and Daniel Ghita at GLORY 11: Chicago to claim the promotion’s one-night tournament, it wasn’t as big of a surprise as some might have thought.

Verhoeven (R) (James Law/GLORY)

Verhoeven (R) (James Law/GLORY)

And when the 6-foot-5 fighter followed it up with a hard-fought decision win over the aforementioned Aerts, it was clear that “The Prince of Kickboxing” was ready to take his place among his fellow Dutch greats.

“I want to be the new face representing this sport,” Verhoeven told The MMA Corner. “[This is] the start of a new era where young guys are taking over the heavyweight game.”

Some have dubbed Verhoeven the “new breed” of kickboxer, and his win over Aerts helped cement that moniker.

“Of course it feels nice when people say that,” said Verhoeven of his label. “Kickboxing grew to a new level. I think the sport has been elevated and the fighters have gotten much better than 10 years ago.”

Verhoeven’s success in the ring can be traced back to his early start in martial arts. His father, Jos Verhoeven, began teaching him at just seven years of age.

“I started with kickboxing right away, but my father’s base was karate,” explained the Dutchman. “So, he took that with him while teaching us kickboxing and made a good mix. I think it benefits me still because, for a big guy, I can kick pretty easy.”

By the age of 16, Verhoeven was competing professionally. He worked his way through the regional circuit before finding his way to K-1 and It’s Showtime. In 2012, he made his GLORY debut in the Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament. Although he fell short against eventual winner Semmy Schilt in the quarterfinals, it was the beginning of great things for the fighter.

Since that loss, Verhoeven has reeled off five straight wins, each more impressive than the last. It’s something that the Dutchman believes is the product of an added wrinkle to his training: working with the famed boxing camp of Peter Fury in England.

“Training with Tyson, Peter and Hughie Fury was one of the smartest steps I made in my career,” declared Verhoeven. “I definitely wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those men. They taught me so much and kept repeating what went wrong so my boxing skills got better and better every training.”

With Verhoeven’s unblemished record in 2013, including the tournament win over Ghita, it would be easy to assume that he’d be the top-ranked heavyweight in GLORY. Yet, he currently sits at No. 2 behind, you guessed it, Ghita.

“Disrespectful is not the right word; it’s more really strange!” proclaimed Verhoeven of the ranking anomaly. “I beat the whole top five in the last year and I’m still ranked No. 2. But that makes me hungry to show I’m the undisputed No. 1.”

Verhoeven will get his opportunity on June 21 in Los Angeles as he once again squares off with Ghita at the promotion’s Last Man Standing pay-per-view. This time, the heavyweight title is on the line.

“This is a point in history where kickboxing could jump out of the roof,” Verhoeven declared. “I’m crazy excited!”

In the pair’s previous meeting last October, both fighters competed twice in one night. This time, however, both will be fresh.

Verhoeven (James Law/GLORY)

Verhoeven (James Law/GLORY)

“I’m not expecting a different Ghita. He was fresh last time. He only fought two minutes last time; I did 3×3 minutes,” recalled Verhoeven. “You can expect a fresh, hard-hitting, a lot-of-stamina-having Rico. That will be the difference.”

One of the keys to Verhoeven’s win in Chicago was his ability to take away Ghita’s biggest weapon: his kicks. The 25-year-old is confident he can do it again on June 21.

“I neutralized his kicking last time by making him tired,” said Verhoeven. “The same thing will happen in LA.”

So, with the heavyweight belt and the No. 1 ranking on the line, what’s the Dutchman’s prediction for Saturday night?

“I already won it once and it’s mine,” he exclaimed. “It will be mine for the coming years, and I won’t let anybody take it from me!

“I’m feeling ready, sharp and more fit than ever. It’s going to be one hell of a night.”

Rico would like to thank all of his fans across the world for all their love and support. He would also like to thank his sponsors, family and friends for always being there for him. Follow Verhoeven on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and check out his website.
  • effin

    He is number 2 because he can’t KO people and Glory gives more points for wins on KO. Don’t really agree as well, but they need to have some rules on rankings.

    p.s. the new breed of heavyweight kickboxer is damn BORING!