MMA and kickboxing have always been close cousins. So it stands to reason that there’s been a number of crossovers between kickboxing and the UFC over the years.
Wrestlers and grapplers have often dominated the UFC for long stretches. However, the promotion has also been home to some top-level kickboxers, some of whom have experienced major success.
A handful of these world class kickboxers have reached the very top of the UFC, with some even holding gold for periods of time.
With another world champion kickboxer being one of the UFC’s most recent acquisitions, it’s time to take a look at five top-class kickboxers who moved to fight in the UFC.
#5. Alistair Overeem – former UFC heavyweight contender
Technically speaking, Alistair Overeem began his career as an MMA fighter, competing in promotions such as M-1 Global and RINGS before making his way to PRIDE in the early 2000s. At one point, he was even known primarily for his grappling.
However, prior to his UFC debut in 2011, it would be hard to deny that ‘The Demolition Man’ was one of the most accomplished kickboxers on the planet. At the time, it’s probably fair to say that Overeem was the most feared striker in the world.
A longtime member of the Golden Glory team – primarily a kickboxing squad – Overeem had dabbled in professional kickboxing while fighting in MMA dating back to 1999.
However, it was in 2008 that his kickboxing career really took off. That December saw him matched with reigning K-1 heavyweight champion Badr Hari in a kickboxing match. To the shock of everyone watching, Overeem knocked ‘The Bad Boy’ out with a left hook in just two minutes.
From there, Overeem essentially paused his MMA career to focus on kickboxing on a full-time basis. He entered 2009’s K-1 World Grand Prix and defeated two highly regarded fighters in Peter Aerts and Ewerton Teixeira to make the semi-finals, before falling to Hari in a rematch.
That wasn’t the end of the line for ‘The Demolition Man’ though. Instead, he qualified for 2010’s K-1 World Grand Prix, and went one better, defeating Ben Edwards, Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki and Peter Aerts to win the tournament, becoming recognized as the world’s numer one heavyweight kickboxer.
The achievement marked the end of Overeem’s kickboxing career for a time, as a year later he signed with the UFC.
However, after being released by the promotion earlier this year, he’s now set to head back into the ring in October – facing current Glory heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven in the main event of Glory: Collision 3.