Alistair Overeem is no stranger to the test.
The 38-year-old heavyweight has maintained a surprising relevance in combat sports over the past two decades, largely due to his willingness to evolve and adapt his skills to a constantly evolving game . Although changing teams has become a taboo subject in mixed martial arts, Overeem attributes this practice to helping him stay at the top of the heavyweight division for as long as he has done. And whether it's Golden Glory or JacksonWink or his current team, Colorado's Elevation Control Team, Overeem has always appreciated the benefits of a change of scenery.
"If I had stayed in one or two places, I would probably already be retired," Overeem said Monday at MMA time. "Because as a fighter, you can be compromised. It's not for everyone, but I've had a lot of compromises over the course of my career, and for me it was really time to die. I had to make some changes. Sometimes I did not want to make changes, but I still had to make changes if I wanted to continue my career.
"Let's go back to my last defeat against Curtis Blaydes. It was actually two games in a row because I had lost to Francis (Ngannou) and Curtis. I was training outside of Jackson. The chemistry there, we had good chemistry, but it was just finished. And for me, I still want to fight, so you will continue doing something that does not work for you? Or are you going to make changes and solve the problem again? And for me, I had to do that. I had to understand him again. I still felt that I could do that. At the time, I was 37 years old, I am 38 years old now. But I felt I could still do it, I have to do it. "
Overeem, who is fighting the replacement of his opponent Alexey Oleynik on April 20 in the main event of UFC St. Petersburg, is one of the most decorated heavyweights of his era. At various times in his career, he has won titles in Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1, and has been a competitor in both PRIDE and UFC, even competing for the belt in this latest promotion. And Overeem believes that his willingness to seek change once the situation has changed has helped tremendously throughout the process, with one exception.
"Let's not forget that I've been training for 26 years and competing for 22 years. My first fight was in 1997. So it's obvious to me: you're going to have at least two different camps, "said Overeem.
"I do not know if it's always a bad thing. Sometimes when the chemistry is over and when there is no clear direction, but there is a direction you want [continue to] to fight but there is no clear direction [within the team], the communication is not really good, it's a good thing to change. In my 26 years, change has always been a good thing. In fact, the only place that was not a good change was when I went to the Blackzilians. It was really terrible and it showed. And I made some changes [to get] from MMA Jackson until the chemistry is complete.
"Because it's like every relationship. In relationships, chemistry can go down, right? Unfortunately, marriage is not always perfect forever, because once I had to say goodbye to coaches, but I had to do it, because yes, I want to fight, I want to do the most of my career, and I've always lived essentially with this phrase. I want to make the most of my career. And sometimes you have to say goodbye to people, groups, teams, to achieve that goal. "
Overeem's current training situation is in Colorado with Elevation Fight Team. He joined the group last year after losing to one of its members, Curtis Blaydes, at UFC 225.
Since arriving in Colorado, Overeem has only been praised for Blaydes, a UFC heavyweight competitor who ranks first and that "The Reem" is already calling one of his Favorite teammates.
"He's an excellent fighter, he's a great athlete, and he's a good guy, too," Overeem said of Blaydes. "I really like it really. I have been training, in my 26 years, with a lot of professionals, a lot of champions, a lot of good fighters, and Curtis is one of my favorites. No ego whatsoever. We do not discuss our fight. We are raising each other to a better level. It's great to be part of the team and help them on their journey to greatness. "