No one understands a loss like Alistair Overeem.
Having spent the past two years of his life focused on winning the UFC heavyweight title, the pressure of being so close, but losing to reigning champion Stipe Miocic in the first round, was a bitter pill to swallow.
“It was a hard loss to swallow because it was for the championship,” he told ROUGH on a recent visit to Epic MMA in Hong Kong.
“It would have been such a grand, beautiful moment if we had won a championship, but in the end it’s a combat sport and anything and everything can happen at anytime.”
Such a hard loss gave him pause for thought on his career and even his future in the UFC, where he is currently the third-ranked heavyweight in the world.
“It was tough. It made me reflect on my entire career. But I realised I’ve had a beautiful run, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and there’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m still competing and I’m still healthy. I’m not out of the race yet. I still have a couple of good years left in me.”
Such is the nature of mixed martial arts, winners are celebrated and everyone else is merely background scenery for someone else’s triumph. But for Overeem, the losses are just as important as the wins.
I’M NOT OUT OF THE RACE YET. I’M STILL COMPETING AND I’M STILL HEALTHY. I HAVE A COUPLE OF GOOD YEARS LEFT IN ME.
“I think you take more from the losses, you’re in a place where you don’t want to be and emotionally you’re only as good as your last fight, so you’re going to be hunting for that victory again.”
Overeem is one of the most decorated heavyweight fighters of our time. The 36-year-old Dutch native cut his teeth in the heady days of Pride and went on to win titles with multiple promotions – a rare feat in the world of combat sports.
His career highlights include winning the Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 titles, but still, that UFC belt remains elusive.
“I still think there’s another chance to fight for the belt. That’s something I look forward to. I haven’t lost the drive and ambition to fight again.”
That run towards another title shot may come on 4 March, when The Reem takes on #6 ranked Mark Hunt at UFC 209 in Las Vegas. Training has resumed and Overeem says he has let go of the disappointment and refocused back onto the bigger picture.
“Of course you will always analyse your training and look to improve, but you have to keep going. I had to dig deep and look at all my accomplishments to be proud of myself, but I’m optimistic about the journey ahead.”
Some may wonder why, after a stellar 22-year run, he is still hungry for UFC gold. For Overeem, he says it’s personal and not driven by a desire to cement his legacy.
“I think my legacy has already been cemented,” he says.
“All over the world I get a lot of recognition, a lot of praise, a lot of thanks, a lot of everything, including hate.
“To me there’s not much else left to prove out there. Personally, I would have loved to add that belt to the collection, but looking at my whole journey it’s been amazing and I’m still going.”
But he does know the day will come where he will have to hang up his gloves.
“It will be hard to one day say goodbye, but I can see myself as a coach. As I mature, I can see myself become a coach. It’s keeping me healthy and it’s a different type of legacy.”