Few heavyweights have entered the UFC ranks with as much hype as kickboxing sensation Alistair Overeem. As the winner of DREAM, Strikeforce, and K-1 Grand Prix titles, and owner of some of the most vicious highlight reels that Youtube has to offer, “The Reem” entered the promotion looking to finally cement his status as the baddest man on the planet. Would his destruction of lower caliber mixed martial artists translate into success in the UFC? Would an elite-level wrestler be able to neutralize his dangerous striking game? His first round stoppage of Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 put any doubts to rest. The fight earned him a shot at then UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos, and for a time it appeared the opportunity he craved had arrived.
All this momentum was brought to a temporary halt when a surprise pre-fight drug test by the Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed a 14:1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio, well above the allowed limit of 6:1. The infraction resulted in a nine-month suspension, and cast much greater skepticism on his earlier claims that the transformation from lean middleweight to hulking heavyweight was done naturally. Most fighters would face a significant drop in stock following such an event, but he was granted a title eliminator upon his return due to the relatively shallow landscape of the heavyweight division. Entering his fight with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Overeem seemed to be more confident than ever. In his pre-fight interview with Fuel TV, he promised that “the fight will end within one or two rounds,” and he didn’t seem to feel threatened by any aspect of Silva’s game. This confidence would work against him, as Bigfoot knocked him unconscious with a flurry of strikes against the cage midway through the third round. Post-fight blood work would reveal that Overeem’s testosterone levels were dangerously low. Most fighters would be able to apply for a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy, but with his history of a failed drug test this was not an option.
Alistair Overeem enters his August 17, 2013 match in Boston looking to once again redeem himself. He has largely stayed outside the public eye, opting to take a more reserved approach in the lead-up to this bout. For his part, his ambition doesn’t seem shaken. In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, he had the following to say:
“I believe that both (Travis) Browne and myself are top ranked fighters and the winner of this fight will be one step closer in getting a title shot, so in that sense I know this fight can put me right on track as I still have one goal in life and that’s becoming the UFC heavyweight champion.”
He is correct that this bout is a step toward redemption. An impressive win over Browne will once again put his name in the title conversation, but it won’t erase the sting provided by his last loss, nor will it silence the public skepticism surrounding his physique. These are burdens that Overeem will always carry, but his UFC career is far from over. Resiliency is one of the most important attributes a fighter can display, and as he competes in the co-main event of the UFC’s debut on Fox Sports 1 the public will find out if he has what it takes to put himself back in contention.