BONJASKY, KIRIA and PEREIRA win at GLORY ZAGREB
By Glory , Sunday March 9, 2014
BRAZIL'S PEREIRA WINS MIDDLEWEIGHT CONTENDER TOURNAMENT. "BITTERSWEET VICTORY" AS BONJASKY BOWS OUT IN ZAGREB. KIRIA STAGES EPIC COMEBACK TO WIN GLORY WORLD TITLE.
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BRAZIL'S PEREIRA WINS MIDDLEWEIGHT CONTENDER TOURNAMENT
In 2013, GLORY tournaments showed a trend towards being won by emerging new talents, with Rico Verhoeven and Andy Ristie among the year’s list of victors.
That trend continued in the GLORY 14 ZAGREB Middleweight Contender Tournament as Alex ‘Poatan’ Pereira (now 13-1, 9 KO’s), a Brazilian making his debut for the organization, won two fights in a row to earn a place in the upcoming Middleweight Championship Tournament.
“I believed in myself and in my skills, I knew I could do it. I am very proud to have won this tournament. I wanted to show that Brazil is not only MMA and Jiu Jitsu fighters, we also have kickboxers,” says the new GLORY Middleweight Contender Tournament Champion.
“Now I go into the eight-man World Championship Tournament and I’m ready to face anyone. I will prepare exactly the same as I did for this tournament and yes, whether it is Artem Levin or Joe Schilling, I am ready. Anybody at all.”
His first bout was against Dustin Jacoby of the USA.
A former MMA fighter and UFC veteran, Jacoby had entered GLORY as a light-heavyweight but is now down at middleweight. The hoped-for size and power advantage didn’t really materialize though - Pereira is the tallest fighter in the division and his reach caused problems for Jacoby from the off.
So did his timing and fluidity. Pereira’s constant movement and attack threw Jacoby off-balance and made him hesitant.
That in turn allowed Pereira to find the openings he needed. A knee to the head sent Jacoby staggering and that was soon followed by a left hook which took him out and sent Pereira through to the next round.
In the final he faced Sahak Parparyan, who had come through a very tough encounter with Jason Wilnis in his semi-final bout. The two had traded heavy combinations in the classic Dutch style, with both fighters taking numerous clean head shots and leg kicks.
Parparyan had taken more damage than Pereira but was not debilitated. What cost him the fight was losing his temper - having taken some blows, Parparyan got drawn into a boxing match and an attempt to out-punch the former professional boxer.
It didn’t work; Pereira gradually took control of the fight and had Parparyan increasingly frustrated. The more frustrated he got, the more one-dimensional his game became. He did manage to damage Pereira intermittently but the Brazilian was clearly winning the bout towards the end of the third and final frame.
The judges agreed. Pereira got the win and the tournament trophy, modeled on one which fighting icon Ramon Dekkers won over two decades ago in Thailand after beating one of the country’s top stars at his own game.
Pereira’s smooth but explosive striking style impressed fans in Zagreb and around the world. At the post-fight press conference he was asked to compare his skills with another Brazilian fighter, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
“Who is the better striker? Ha! I don’t know… We will let the people decide,” he smiled, refusing to be drawn on the subject.
Pereira goes through to the eight-man Middleweight Championship Tournament taking place later this year. Jacoby drops to 4-4 with 3 KO’s while Parparyan drops to 40-10-5 with 19 KO’s and Wilnis to 21-4-1 with 6 KO’s.
"BITTERSWEET VICTORY" AS BONJASKY BOWS OUT IN ZAGREB
The sun set on another legend of the fighting world tonight as Remy Bonjasky officially announced his retirement following a win over Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic in the headline fight of GLORY 14 ZAGREB.
It was a bitter-sweet evening for Bonjasky. On the one hand he took a win over ‘CroCop’, avenging a 2002 loss to him and ending his career on a victorious note. On the other, he had to endure a torrent of boos and catcalls from the Croatian crowd as the controversial judging decision was announced.
"I have been in this fighting business for more than twenty years. I wanted to end my career with a big win but the people didn’t appreciate it,” said Bonjasky, who rises to 99-12 and 36 KO’s with this final career win.
“I was disappointed by the reaction. At first I was very emotional because you don’t want your career to end to the sound of boos. I took it personally but when emotions calmed down I realized the boos were because the Croatians were disappointed that their fighter didn’t win. It wasn’t aimed at me.”
The fight was close but a lot of observers thought that ‘CroCop’ had been the aggressor and had landed the cleaner shots, so there was plenty of surprise when Bonjasky was announced as the split-decision winner.
‘CroCop’ - now 22-13 - was one of the surprised parties. He left the ring shaking his head in disbelief, returned to his dressing room to collect his belongings then left the arena without saying a word to anyone. Needless to say, he did not return for the post-fight press conference.
“Mirko left the ring and went to his dressing room after the fight, then he left the arena, so we didn’t talk yet. Obviously he wasn’t happy with the result and I know the fans felt the same,” said Bonjasky.
“I don’t know; I felt I was winning the fight and then there were things like when he caught my kick and swept my leg - that is not legal under GLORY rules, so maybe he lost some points with the judges for things like this.”
The boos spoiled Bonjasky’s special night and actually reduced him to tears afterwards, but he said he won’t be tempted to have one more fight somewhere else in order to end on a higher note.
“This was definitely my last fight, I won’t be back. I have had a good career, this most recent part of it was bittersweet maybe - my first KO loss, being booed tonight - but I think now is a good time to draw a line under it and move on,” he said.
“I have my academy and I have my television work so I’m very busy and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.”
As for the sport of kickboxing, to which the three-time K-1 Grand Prix winner has been both a faithful servant and a shining star, he feels that it has a bright future with the GLORY World Series at the helm.
“The difference between K-1 and GLORY is that with GLORY, even though it is less than three years old, already it feels like a family,” he said.
“I know everyone in the company, from Pierre [Andurand, majority owner] right down to the drivers. And already they are bigger in America than K-1 ever was, they have good promotion. GLORY is a great organization and I think the future of the sport is in safe hands.”
KIRIA STAGES EPIC COMEBACK TO WIN GLORY WORLD TITLE
Incredible fights and all-out action are two things which define GLORY kickboxing, but even the most experienced observers were left awestruck by what they saw in the World Lightweight Championship fight between Andy ‘The Machine’ Ristie and Davit Kiria (22-9, 7 KO’s).
“I started to train karate at nine years old and ever since then I dreamed of this day. I always wanted to be a champion and now it has come true. I think that this is the happiest day of my life,” said Kiria, tears running down his face as being crowned the GLORY World Lightweight Champion sank in.
“I think I will sleep with the belt tonight! If not on me then definitely near me. I like this belt and I am going to keep it for a long time.”
Kiria’s victory was an upset of legendary proportions. Ristie came into the fight off the back of a career-defining tournament win at GLORY 12 NEW YORK late last year, during which he stopped both Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin Van Roosmalen to take the #1 spot in the world rankings.
Originally he had been set to face Ky Hollenbeck of the USA but when the California native was forced out of the bout the place passed to Kiria, who came in as a significant underdog but one with a reputation for insane toughness.
As it turned out, that reputation was richly deserved. Ristie almost finished Kiria in the first round, came close to doing so again in the second, then had to watch in disbelief as the dogged Georgian hung on and came back into the fight.
Had this fight happened in a movie, people would have switched it off because it was too unrealistic. Kiria had been dropped twice and was one knockdown away from having the fight waved off.
He came back from that to knock Ristie out in the dying seconds of the round, a Davit vs. Goliath moment which is without doubt one of the most epic occurrences a kickboxing ring has ever hosted.
“Georgian people are a warrior people. All through our history we have had war and battle so we have a warrior spirit,” he told the post-fight press conference after being asked how he had managed to cling on despite being all but KO’d following a trademark Ristie knee.
“And I am a karate fighter, since I was a young boy. The spirit of karate is that you must keep going and keep going until your dying breath, you can never give up. So I think what kept me going was my Georgian heart and my karate spirit.”
Kiria’s exploits were being followed closely in his homeland and particularly in his home city, where an entire neighborhood doubles as his support team.
"Where I come from in Georgia, everyone is very close. My street is like one big family,” he explained with a laugh.
“So when I go back I must take the belt to each house on my street and let them see it and touch it, because they will feel like it is their belt also - we won the belt, not I won the belt.”
Now that he is champion, Kiria has instantly become a target for every other top fighter in the lightweight division. The likes of Robin Van Roosmalen and Giorgio Petrosyan will be very keen to get back in the ring with him.
As it happens, Kiria has losses to both of those fighters and is keen to redress the balance. He won’t be avoiding anyone that fate or GLORY places in his path.
"I am happy to fight anyone. I am a fighter, I am not someone who picks his opponents. Whoever wants to fight me, bring them,” he said.
“But I do agree that there are some possible rematches. When you lose to someone it is never right in your mind, you know? So it is obvious that there may be rematches with Robin Van Roosmalen and Giorgio Petrosyan, these are two guys I lost to and I would like to beat them of course.”