There is a rich history of kickboxers successfully transitioning into MMA. Whether it is Bas Rutten, Maurice Smith, or more recently Gokhan Saki, kickboxers’ superior striking skills have often proven effective in the cage. Despite this, the sport of kickboxing/Muay Thai as a whole has certainly decreased in popularity since its heydey in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
This is due in part to the rapid growth of MMA as the main combat sports alternative to boxing. Just like in the early days of MMA, high-level kickboxers are still making the transition to the cage. Former Glory Light Heavyweight Tournament runner-up Tyrone Sponge made a brief foray into MMA but didn’t stick around long.
For a kickboxer to be successful in MMA they have to develop their entire skillset. This means dedicating a significant amount of time to become proficient at grappling. The most recent kickboxer to make the transition is the most high-profile in a long time. Rico Verhoeven comes from a long line of successful Dutch kickboxers.
His move to MMA has made headlines as Verhoeven is the reigning Glory Heavyweight Champion, one of the highest accolades in kickboxing. Verhoeven started his debut aggressively, attacking with his clearly superior kicking game.
His opponent Viktor Bogutzki pressured him but Verhoeven never looked in danger. Bogutzki attempted to capitalise on the Dutchman’s lack of grappling experience but was unsuccessful. Verhoeven managed to land a trip takedown and get on top of his opponent. Verhoeven demonstrated that he is no slouch in the grappling department by making his way into full mount and establishing position.
From there, he rained down a barrage of punches that his Russian opponent clearly had no answer for. As the relentless flurry continued, referee Herb Dean stepped in to prevent any further damage. Giving Verhoeven a first-round, TKO win in his MMA debut.