Fuelled by bad blood and a strong sense of unfinished business, Alistair Overeem is promising to “finish” Jairzinho Rozenstruik in a potential rematch, before concluding an already stellar career with a heavyweight title shot.
The Dutchman, in Dubai having last month reeled off a second successive UFC victory, is targeting another meeting with Rozenstruik following their clash in Las Vegas in December. Overeem lost via knockout with only four seconds of the five-round fight remaining, with all three judges having him up on the scorecards.
Currently the division’s No 5-ranked contender, Overeem said a second scrap with the No 3 challenger is the only bout that motivates him.
"I'm going to have, I think, a rematch with Rozenstruik - that would seem to me the most logical next fight," Overeem told The National on Tuesday, at a promotional event for UAE-based fitness brand Gym Clothing Co. "He's not booked, I'm not booked. There's still some bad blood there, still some scores to settle.
“I’m going to finish him the next fight - he knows it too. And if not, he’ll know fairly soon. Then I’m thinking a title shot after that. And when I win that I’m going to retire immediately.”
Having turned 40 in May, Overeem conceded he has noticed age catching up a little during this past year, although he believes he is still honing his talent.
The defeat to Rozenstruik was his only reverse in his past five fights, while he has won twice since the eve of his birthday. Last month, Overeem dispatched Augusto Sakai by fifth-round TKO in Las Vegas.
“I love being healthy, I love the lifestyle, I love being fit, I love improving,” he said. “I’m still improving: even at 40 I think you can clearly see that in my fights, there’s still improvement. I’m still executing new techniques, finishing much young fighters. I’m still winning. I’m still on a learning curve.
“But I have to be realistic. I’m going to have a couple more fights and then I’m going to hang up the gloves. I’m already saying if I win the belt I retire. Then the mission is completed. It’s over.”
A former heavyweight champion in both Strikeforce and Dream, and a K-1 World Grand Prix champion, Overeem fought for the UFC title in 2016, but was beaten by Stipe Miocic. With Miocic having regained the belt two months ago, and set to take on No 1 contender Francis Ngannou next, there is plenty elsewhere to play for in the heavyweight division.
Add in Jon Jones, the former light heavyweight champion who recently vacated his crown to move up, and heavyweight picture is an intriguing one. Jones is widely considered the greatest UFC athlete of all time.
“Jon Jones is a little bit the dark horse, because he’s coming up and it’s a little bit unclear what’s going to happen there,” Overeem said. “Is he going to fight for the title straight away or a contender? It’s a little bit difficult to predict. But I’m just focused on my own journey, my own trajectory, which is one more fight, might be two more fights.
“Looking at Rozenstruik’s ranking, and looking at my past performances, I’m definitely eligible to fight for a title.”
While Overeem (46-18, 11-7 UFC) says Jones “definitely deserves” a title shot given his pedigree and past record, he would be open to fight his former training partner should the UFC decide to make it happen.
“I’ve trained with him, so I do have some inside information,” Overeem said. “I do like him; we’ve never had any bad blood. But it could be a match-up also in the horizon.
“I don’t necessarily have a want to fight Jon Jones, but I never say no to a fight. That’s been one of the things throughout my career: I’ll fight anybody anywhere, any time, any rules. It is what it is. If it comes across it’ll come across, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”
Overeem has kept an eye on the feud simmering between Jones and Israel Adesanya on social media, with the American and the current middleweight champion trading yet more insults on Tuesday.
Last week, the unbeaten Adesanya defended his crown emphatically against Paulo Costa at UFC253 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, with many observers of the sport calling for him to face Jones.
“Very interesting,” Overeem said. “Adesanya is a star; Jon is a star, of course. I’m very intrigued by that bad blood between them. But is Adesanya willing to move up? And then does Jon Jones want to linger around light heavyweight?
“Because that’s a fight actually where he has something to lose. He’s going to be defending his belt against a dangerous fighter, because Adesanya has previously been underestimated, time and time again. And he’s withstood the test every time.
“I don’t really think - and I think everyone would agree with me - that Jon Jones is really willing to get that fight. He’s set his sights on heavyweight, because that’s a new challenge and there’s a lot to gain for him there. And Adesanya can actually take away his star power, his fame.
“The funny thing is, you would immediately underestimate [Adesanya in a higher weight class] because you think he’s a striker, he’s got no skills. But why is nobody taking him to the ground? Obviously he’s marketable. When he talks he captivates you. So he’s definitely an intriguing character. That’s what’s making that beef very interesting too. I hope I see that fight.”
Asked if that’s a match-up to make immediately, Overeem said: “Because it’s hot right now. And if you don’t act when the iron is hot it can cool off and dissipate. I don’t know; we’ll have to see. But the bad blood is real; they really do not like each other. Which makes the fight more interesting.”