December 12th 2011
Martijn ‘The Specialist’ de Jong had an accomplished MMA career of his own before transitioning into his role as full-time ground coach of the Golden Glory team, which is based in the Netherlands.
 
A famously strong brotherhood, Golden Glory was rocked by Alistair Overeem’s decision to leave earlier this year. That shock was tinged by pride in Overeem winning International Fighter of the Year at the World MMA Awards, as de Jong details in this exclusive interview.

 
FO: You had a strong presence on the list of nominations this year via Marloes Coenen and Alistair Overeem. What was your reaction to this? What do you think of the idea behind having the MMA Awards every year, is it a good thing?

I am very honoured that we were so strongly represented at the MMA Awards this year! I think the MMA Awards are a great thing for the MMA community. All the nominees are getting huge respect for all the hard work they put in all year through.

FO: Marloes did not win, Alistair did but of course now he has left Golden Glory. Was it a bitter-sweet moment to see a fighter you produced win this award, at the same time as he is leaving the team? Do you take pleasure in it, or do recent events overshadow it?

The goal of Team Golden Glory is bringing fighters to the top whether in Kickboxing, MMA or both. That’s what we did with Alistair, Marloes and so many other fighters.

Marloes got nominated twice but unfortunately didn’t win any. However having her name listed twice shows that she is on the right track!

I personally think it was a very sad moment that Alistair Overeem decided to leave our Team Golden Glory. Everybody in the team – managers, sparring partners, trainers, staff – worked very hard to get him up to this point of his career. I think we should be happy that he won the award as it was our combined effort to get him there, but on the other hand it is very sad to see him leave…

FO: We are talking about the MMA Awards 2011 so please, tell us your own high points (or high and low points if you like) for the year 2011, what were the good achievements for you and the team?

The good achievements for Golden Glory in 2011 were:

– Marloes Coenen defending her Strikeforce title vs Liz Carmouche
– Sergei Kharitonov defeating Andrei Arlovski by KO
– Siyar Bahadurzada winning the GLORY World Series MMA Welterweight (and got signed by the UFC)
– Gokhan Saki winning the GLORY World Series HW Kickboxing
– John Olav Einemo winning fight of the night bonus after more than 4 years of MMA inactivity
– Alistair Overeem defeating Fabricio Werdum (and got signed by the UFC)
– Both Nieky Holzken and Filip Verlinden winning all of their fights in the MPL (Muay Thai Professional League) and advancing in the tournaments
– Robin van Roosmalen winning the Showtime 70kg Tournament

The low points of the year were:
– Marloes Coenen losing the Strikeforce title to Miesha Tate and got fired from Strikeforce
– Alistair Overeem leaving Team Golden Glory after 12 year working with him.

FO: I hear you got hit by a motorcycle in Thailand! Drunk riders? How is your health, was it serious?

Hahaha! You are very well informed. I did indeed got hit by another motorcycle while driving one myself. I got away with no serious injuries, only some bruises. Not only me but two other team mates got into accidents during our 3 weeks of training camp in Pattaya, Thailand, luckily no serious injuries there as well. Hitting the road is more dangerous than hitting each other in training!

FO: Where do you train when you go to Thailand, does Golden Glory have its own facility or do you work with local gyms?

We train at Golden Glory Pattaya (www.goldenglorypattaya.com). It is a great facility with 2 rings in it.
 
FO: Sometimes a big name leaves and it hurts the profile of the gym, for example when Kenny Florian left Sityodtong/Mark Dellagrotte last year. Other times, the gym is bigger than the fighter. I think this is the case with Golden Glory but Alistair has become a very big name in MMA, so how much damage does it do to the team?

Of course it is a sad thing when somebody is leaving the team. However, life goes on. We have a lot of other great fighters and new potential ready to step up.

Currently at our MMA roster we have John Olav Einemo and Siyar Bahadurzada signed with the UFC, Sergei Kharitonov still with Strikeforce, Marloes Coenen found her home at Black Eye promotions, Jason Jones, Dion “Soldier” Staring and Tommy Depret are getting offers from around the world.

In our kickboxing department we have probably the best kickboxer in the world Gokhan Saki fighting Badr Hari in January, Errol Zimmerman just winning an 8-men tournament in Romenia, Robin van Roosmalen just winning the 8-men 70kg It’s Showtime tournament, Filip Verlinden and Nieky Holzken advancing in the MPL Tournament and many more..

FO: Bas Rutten made some comments recently that the GG fighters mostly did not support Alistair’s decision when it came to leaving GG for the reasons he specified; he also said they did not support his approach to money and contracts. Is that an accurate portrayal?

Every story has two sides, however Bas Rutten indeed knows what he is talking about and he has a strong opinion about fighters leaving their team.. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, that’s what I think is the case.. The more money fighters earn, the harder it is for them to divide it. None of the Golden Glory fighters supported Alistair’s decision when he left.

FO: After working together so long with a fighter and then you split (and this is common, it happens to many coaches), is it simply business or is there a feeling of personal hurt, personal loss as well? Sometimes I think, in soccer for example, it is normal for a guy to change teams for extra money, I don’t think anything bad of it.

But I think the martial arts is different, maybe even different to boxing, and I think that the relationship between fighter and coach is something unique and that it involves not just a business relationship but a relationship that should be stronger than money but maybe I have too much of a romantic idea, maybe its just business after all. What do you think about the bond between fighters and coaches?

Of course there is some personal hurt! I have been working with Alistair for the past 12 years and went to good and bad times with him. I laughed with him, cried with him, sweat with him and bled with him. If you work together on a daily basis in a sport like MMA, you are getting very close to your athlete and involved in each other’s personal life.

I don’t see it as simply business, that is not how I work with my athletes at all. We at Golden Glory are like family. Like in every family or relationship, problems and misunderstandings occur and mistakes are made. However me personally, I never see problems, just solutions. So to simply walk away? It’s just not my thing.

FO: Sergei Kharitonov is a veteran of the sport yet recently he seems to have rediscovered himself a little and is doing well. Are you working much with him? Any idea what is coming up, I heard he might be on the January 7th Strikeforce card?

I just worked with Sergei for 3 weeks in Thailand where he currently lives. He will be coming over to Holland in a few weeks and work with Cor Hemmers and me. He, John Olav Einemo and Dion “Soldier” Staring are big friends and love to train together. Cor and I will have now more time and attention to give to those three amazing MMA heavyweights.

FO: Kickboxing personally is my favourite sport and Golden Glory is like the Manchester United of K-1, but now K-1 seems to be on its ass, Its Showtime doesn’t have the money it once did… does the Golden Glory team now look to be moving more to MMA or is there confidence that kickboxing can regain its momentum?

When K-1 started to get into some troubles, we started a kickboxing league ourselves as well. Our GLORY World Series 2010-2011 hosted a $150.000 heavyweight kickboxing tournament with the likes of Gokhan Saki, Filip Verlinden, Brice Guidon, Mourad Bouzidi, Stefan Leko and more. It was an exciting and real action packed tournament with Saki winning the title and $150.000.

Regarding the K-1, I am sure that there will be a big announcement coming up soon. The name K-1 is too big to just disappear. From the beginning, Golden Glory gave them all the support to keep going. The K-1 will be back!

At our team we throw most of our guys in the “Golden Glory Crosstraining” mix. This means that most of our guys can fight MMA and Kickboxing at a decent level. The best example is Alistair Overeem who won the K1 World GP, the Strikeforce and the DREAM HW title.

But also look at guys like Gokhan Saki who is one of the best kickboxers in the world and has great potential in MMA. He learns MMA faster than light. At 70kg/155lbs we have Robin van Roosmalen who is an amazing kickboxer and recently KO’d Arthur Kyshenko. He has a blackbelt in Judo too and trains MMA with me. I can go on with this list for hours…

FO: Saki is probably my favourite fighter right now, I love his kickboxing. What is he like on the floor, does he do any grappling and is he interested in MMA at all? With some strong wrestling or jiu jitsu game he would be an absolute monster!

Saki is a kickboxing phenomenon and picks up MMA real quick. Because he is always moving and is faster than light, his style fits  perfectly in MMA! He has been training MMA for a while so it is just a matter of time to see him shine!

FO: We know about the big names at Golden Glory but tell us about some rising stars, who do we need to watch for?

I would say closely watch Robin van Roosmalen, he is just 22 years old but has a kickboxing record of 32-12-3. He has a blackbelt Judo and is training MMA for a while now. He can be the next guy winning a top notch kickboxing and MMA title real soon!