“I always go for the kill. It’s a little bit cruel but if you break it down, people are a little bit savage. It goes way back in history, like with the Romans and the gladiators. They were cheering for two guys to just kill each other, and in modern times its two warriors in the octagon or the ring, just smashing each other with people cheering,” stated Tyrone Spong. “It is never going to change inside of people, so I enjoy my job, my job is just to fight.” Those are the words of a true modern day gladiator, something every fight fan likes to hear.
BJPenn.com’s very own Kinch was given an opportunity to catch up with the Muay Thai wrecking machine, recently turned MMA fighter. Spong makes his way back to kickboxing competition in the main event at GLORY 5, as he is set to face fellow standout and K-1 legend Remy Bonjasky on March 23rd in London.
Having recently moved stateside and making his MMA debut at WSOF 1, Tyrone Spong looks to step back into the kickboxing spotlight and continue to build his already impressive legacy against Remy Bonjasky later this month. When asked how his training is progressing throughout this fight camp at his new team, the Blackzilians, Spong said, “Training is going very well, I’m just getting it in, working and doing my thing.” One can imagine how different it must be coming from a Dutch striking background and moving to an MMA gym to train exclusively. Tyrone feels the transition to the Blackzilians training facility in Miami has been very beneficial to his career, stating “I am a lot more focused on my training, working hard. For me it has improved a lot. I live here; this is my home base, so for every fight I’m just training here. If I need to travel for whatever situation, I have my coach go with me, and I’m doing my stuff wherever I am. Other than that this is just home base, I have everything I need here.”
It seems that the “King of the Ring” has also gained considerable respect for the tenacious work ethic of MMA athletes. “I have to say, MMA fighters work their ass off. I think the fighters deserve a lot more credit, from all athletes. I like sports, I have been around a lot of athletes, I have a lot of friends that are athletes, and I know how they work, and I know how we work. We work our asses off.” Tyrone also made it clear that he feels MMA fighters aren’t given enough credit for how hardworking they are in the gym, and he hopes that other athletes begin to recognize that they train at the highest level possible. “We go out there and put our lives in danger for the fans when it comes down to it. We do it to keep everybody satisfied and also for ourselves, and I think we deserve more credit.” He couldn’t be more correct, we as fans and media tend to be hard on fighters when they have a lackluster performance, and we should try to give these guys more credit for endangering themselves for our entertainment.
As for the game plan against Remy Bonjasky, a three-time K-1 Grand Prix champion and legend in his own right, Tyrone plans to stick with what got him here. “I’m always working the same,” said Spong, “Always the same stuff. I’m a complete fighter, so I’m always working on my overall game, and just making sure that I’m ready, that I’m focused, that’s it.”
Bonjasky, also recently featured on BJPenn.com, told us he felt Tyrone was undersized at super heavyweight, and will be considerably slower, but with more power. Spong began his career several weight classes below where he is finding plenty of success today, and says he is simply in pursuit of bigger challenges. Spong stated, “Honestly it was drive and it was that I didn’t have any challenges left at the lower weight classes, and this is just part of my legacy. I started out at 70 kilos, that’s like 155 pounds, so I was first champion at 70 kilos and from there I went up all those weight classes above and became champion in all those weight classes. That’s pretty unique nowadays, you have some guys that try and they succeed but then kind of fall off. I’m only 27 years old, and I’ve already done all those things, and I’m still here and I’m one of the best out there.” There is no doubt Spong is elite amongst in the kickboxing world, as he went on to say, “Im fighting people that are the best, and they want to fight me because they see a challenge in me and I think that says something about my skill set and about who I am in the sport, and that even at my age, I am already a legend in the sport. Getting older didn’t hurt when it came to putting on weight, but I worked hard to get bigger as well”
It has come to light that many K-1 competitors such as Ray Sefo, and Alistair Overeem were never compensated by the promotions parent company, FEG, for their fight appearances. The same is said for Tyrone Spong, and he made it clear that the subject is old news for him, telling BJPenn.com, “It’s done, I am tired of talking about it, nothing is going to change, so I don’t look back too much, I just focus on my future. If you keep looking back you can’t see what’s coming up, so I just keep looking forward, and just focus on things that are going to happen, and things I want to happen. That’s what I’m doing.”
In the same token, the relieving news came last year that the K-1 brand was being taken over from FEG by kickboxing’s new premier organization, in what is now known as GLORY, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.With K-1 dead and nearly 2 years of no elite kickboxing outlets, Muay Thai competitors and fans were looking at a grim future, and Spong has nothing but praise for the promotion. “I think Glory is without a doubt the biggest organization out there right now. They saved kickboxing, and I hope they keep doing as good as they are now, and become even bigger and better. They have the biggest shows, great events, so I supported them and that’s why I signed with them. They treat me really well, they offered me a good contract, and they signed the best kick boxers out there. That’s the thing inside of me, I like challenges. Once you don’t feel that drive to test yourself I think you are in the wrong business.”
As for his future in mixed martial arts, and how he plans to balance fighting in both MMA and Muay Thai at a professional level simultaneously, Spong just wants to stay active. Telling us, “For now I am going to stay active in both sports and then I’ll see what is going to happen. Let’s say for instance Glory blows up, and gets even bigger, then O.K., let’s see what happens there. For now, I am signed with World Series Of Fighting for a few fights. At the same time, I am building up my MMA fan base, so we will see.”
Tyrone made his MMA debut in one of our sports most promising new promotions, World Series Of Fighting. It was the promotions inaugural event last November in Las Vegas in which Tyrone made quick work of his opponent Travis Bartlett, winning by first round knockout. But it was the way Spong reacted to dropping Bartlett that many MMA fans found amusing. “You saw Mark Hunt last time. Mark Hunt pulled a ‘Tyrone Spong,’ he knocked the guy out and he walked off,” said Spong in reference to Hunt’s recent win over Stefan Struve in which he casually walked away after dropping the “Skyscraper” to finish the fight. “I think as a kick boxer sometimes it’s just a natural reaction, and it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Once you hurt somebody bad, sometimes it’s good to stay calm and just focus. If it’s me, if I hurt you bad, I think I’m going to finish the fight, and I’m pretty sure the fight is going to be over. It was my first MMA fight, I hit the guy, he dropped, and I knew it was over, so I just walked off. Also the 8 count system is kind of still in my body, so the next time I knock a guy down like that, I’m pretty sure I’m going to jump on it.”
With the striking pedigree of the Dutch powerhouse being top-notch, many of us speculate that if Tyrone can form a complete MMA game, he will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with at light-heavyweight. We asked Spong a hypothetical question, that if the UFC was to offer him a deal after he gains more cage experience, would he sign an exclusive contract and abandon kickboxing to pursue MMA full-time. Spong, clearly not thinking of such hypothetical scenarios at this point, answered with, “It’s all about the contract. If it’s an interesting contract why not? But other than that, I have my MMA going on, my kickboxing, and I’m also busy with my boxing. I am working with one of the best boxing coaches, and I am just a fighter all around. I am working on my overall game. I believe in myself, I have the capability to be successful in all three sports.” Could Spong become the first fighter to find success in three different combat sports? Only time will tell.
Although MMA fans look forward to Tyrone’s return to the cage, he has quite the task at hand on March 23rd against Remy Bonjasky, and assuming he defeats the “Flying Dutchman,” BJPenn.com wanted to know what Spong would like next. He simply answered, “I don’t care, whoever they put in front of me. Glory has the best guys out there, and I am just going with the flow. But I am aiming for Semmy Schilt, I want to fight Semmy Schilt.” Stylistically a very intriguing match-up indeed, as both men have power. With Tyrone being aggressive and Semmy being more of a counter striker, that could make for a great fight. Plus we all like to see a David and Goliath story play out, and it would be quite the challenge for Spong.
An interesting fact is that a large group of kickboxing’s elite hail from the country of Suriname, a small country on the east coast of South America, colonized by the Dutch in the 1600’s. Spong and his opponent Remy Bonjasky both hail from the Republic of Suriname, as well as other kickboxing notables such as Ernesto Hoost and Errol Zimmerman. When asked if there was something in the water that made Surinamese people so naturally inclined to be great kick boxers, Spong told us, “I think it’s not only fighters, there are so many good athletes there, but they don’t have the facilities to really work their skills. I’m telling you Suriname is full of a lot of great talent, a lot of athletes. It’s just a pity they all don’t get the chance to work the skills they have and their abilities. Suriname was a colony of Holland, they are independent now, but a lot of Surinamese people live in Holland, and that’s why in the history of kickboxing a lot of fighters come from Suriname.” Tyrone went on to explain his deep gratitude to be able to represent his country on the professional level, stating, “I just feel honored that in the history of the sport, I am the first to represent Suriname. There are a few out there that are representing Suriname now, but I was the first to represent my country, because I think Suriname deserves the credit. A lot of great fighters and athletes come from Suriname. I’m just proud I can represent my country at the highest level and that I’m the first one to go down in history representing them as an athlete.”
As for being an ambassador of the sport, kickboxing recently lost one of its greatest ambassadors and most entertaining fighters, Ramon Dekkers. A pioneer in Muay Thai, as well as an idol to many of its competitors, Ramon Dekkers was widely regarded as one of the most captivating fighters to watch. Spong was a friend and training partner of the late Dekkers who passed at the early age of 43, and had this to say regarding his lost colleague, “I think it is really, really sad because he died at such a young age, 43 is not an age for anybody to die, and certainly not an athlete. I feel really sorry for his family, for all of his fans, it’s a big loss for the sport. He could share so much with other fighters, with the fans, and just to help develop the growth of kick boxers and the organizations world-wide. The sport is growing, it’s getting bigger, so somebody like that could be an ambassador and share his experience with the fight world, and we could all benefit from it. I had the honor to meet him and to get to know him, and I feel privileged that I had the opportunity to do so. I just have to say it’s a big loss for combat sports and for kickboxing. Even Mike Tyson tweeted out to pay his respect, and for Mike Tyson to know of Ramon Dekkers says a lot.” If you haven’t heard of Ramon Dekkers, make sure you read up on him and watch his highlights. He was a legend and a big influence for many kick boxers including Tyrone Spong, which may explain Spong’s exciting fighting style.
On a lighter note, and more personal level, Tyrone Spong is also a vocal an animal lover. His favorite animal being the canine, with the pit bull being his favorite breed. A pit bull owner himself, BJPenn.com’s Kinch couldn’t resists asking what made Spong get into breeding pit’s, and his opinion on the breeds misguided reputation. Tyrone, a great advocate for the breed, responded by saying, “With the bad reputation, you know it’s probably a little bit corny for me to say, but it’s not the breed it’s the owners. Bad people raise them. I love pits, at one time I had twelve, I had a big yard, the kids could play with them, and everybody who knew me loved the dogs. They are really friendly dogs; I compare myself with a pit bull sometimes. I am physically strong, but I am not a bad guy. A pit bull is strong and can do a lot of damage, and I can do a lot of damage, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy.” Tyrone went on to say, “The thing is, once they get into a fight, it’s pretty hard for the owners, but you can avoid all those things. I think it’s just a misunderstanding when people start shaking when they hear pit bull; they say ‘oh it’s a dangerous dog.’ No it’s not. I think that the majority of bite incidents worldwide are from Labradors. Till now, Labradors, Huskies, Rottweiler’s, they have more bite incidents than pit bulls. The only thing I can say is, when a pit bull bites, the damage is most of the time bigger, but if you compare it, the Lab, Husky and Rottweiler bite more people than pit bulls, so it’s pretty stupid. The lab is used for helping blind people but they have the most bite incidents. I compare myself to a pit bull and that’s why I like them so much, they are big and friendly, and so am I. The only thing is, just like a pit, when I start fighting, I do a lot of damage.” It is certain that most of Tyrone’s opponents can attest to his pit-bull-like fighting style, and Remy Bonjasky is the next to encounter this war dog.
Tyrone Spong has a great deal of respect for Remy, and has no ill will toward the K-1 champ, but when the bell rings, you can expect Spong to unleash his inner red nose, stating, “We are both well-trained athletes, and I’m just going to go in there and unleash everything on him. I’m going to do everything necessary to win the fight. He is a big champion; I respect him a lot and I would say to him, let’s give the fans a good show. On March 23rd , I am going to make a statement.”
GLORY 5 goes down live on Pay-Per View Saturday, March 23rd from the ExCel Convention Center in London, England. The card also features a full line up of great bouts, including Andy Ristie vs. Albert Kraus. Tickets are on sale, and can be purchased at ticketmaster.com!
To check out our exclusive interview with Spong’s opponent, Remy Bonjasky, click here.
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