Rico Verhoeven – AKA The Prince Of Kickboxing – takes the same winning approach to his life and businesses as his viscous roundhouse kicks, so what can we learn from his style?
‘If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things,’ wrote Miyamoto Musashi, the Japanese ronin still considered the greatest swordsman of all time. It’s a lesson not lost on Holland's Rico Verhoeven – after taking up kyokushin karate (under his black-belt father) at five, he started fighting adults at 16 and was the champion of Glory, the world’s biggest kickboxing promotion, by 24.
In a division where size is often the only thing that matters, he’s known as a ferocious finisher, with a do-anything style that uses counters as much as power. He’s done it, he says, with hard work, intensity and focus, and he brings the same approach to everything from TV appearances to app development. Here’s what you can learn from him…
Control What You Can In a division where heavyweights occasionally run out of gas before the end of the second three-minute round, Verhoeven is known for his cardio. ‘The way I look at it, if I lose on stamina or conditioning, I’ve beaten myself,’ he says. ‘That’s something I’ll never allow to happen. I don’t need anyone to get me fit, no sparring partners, no coaches – I can go outside, go running, do my conditioning by myself. I stay fit, stay sharp, never lose on conditioning.’ The lesson: you can’t always control everything, but you can always make sure you’ve put in enough work to prepare for success.
Learn From Your Failures ‘Watch my last fight, against Jamal Ben Saddik,’ says Verhoeven. ‘It’s really a redemption fight, because I lost to him six years ago. I think every loss is a learning experience. I twist it and use it as fuel, but you can only do that if you turn it into something positive, so… yeah. I look in the mirror and go: “Okay, why did this happen?” If you ask yourself those questions you’ll get better at whatever you do.’
Every opponent is like a book and I want to read that book in three minutes
Take It Outside The Ring ‘The only ‘secret’ to my success is, every training I do I give one hundred percent,’ says Verhoeven. ‘It doesn’t mean you have to die every training session, but you have to stay focused, motivated. And to do that, you have to remember that the work’s not done when you’re done training – it means getting healthy food, rest, all the time. That’s the big difference.’ It’s the same in any field; if you aren’t eating right or getting your minimum of seven hours sleep a night, you aren’t going to be ready to perform on the job. Take care of yourself.
Come Prepared To Perform ‘Every opponent is like a book,’ says Verhoeven. ‘I want to read that book in three minutes – in the first round, basically – at the most. I watch a lot of fights to study ahead of time, but when you get into the fight your opponent’s trained something and has a gameplan, and that might be something entirely new he’s done just for you.’
‘Everyone falls back to certain techniques when a fight gets tough, though, and if you know what those techniques are you can stay a step ahead. The trick is to push your opponent to going back to what’s always worked for him in the past – then knowing how to beat that.’ Outside of the ring, an hour of preparation might make you better able for the ten seconds of a job interview, or negotiation that count. Come prepared.
Build New Skills And Combine Them Though he became World Champ early in his career, Verhoeven’s barely let up since, constantly aiming to perfect his craft even as the World Number One. ‘I’ve been doing more boxing recently,’ he says. ‘It builds new skills, and actually helps me a lot with kickboxing. The movement is good, the footwork is a lot better. You have to go in with a beginners’ mindset, and be ready to take something from every training session.’
The way I look at it, if I lose on stamina or conditioning then I’ve beaten myself
Prepare For The Next Thing… For a kickboxer, it’s never clear when your career might be over – whatever you do to prepare, a big knockout or an unexpected concussion can cut a career short. Verhoeven keeps his backup plans diverse. ‘I do a lot on the business side,’ he says. ‘I have an app, merchandise, commercials, photoshoots, TV shows, films. I love to do martial arts, but I love the business side too, and it’s the same mentality – giving it everything you have, every time. Then, when it’s time for family or friends, it’s the same thing: full commitment.’ In a volatile world where no job’s 100% safe, it’s the only smart option.
…And Never Be Satisfied For most men, getting to the top of their sport in their early twenties would be the time to coast, settle… and fall prey to another hungry contender. For Verhoeven, it was just the time to shift his focus on even more ambitious goals. ‘I want to keep pushing the sport to the next level.’ he says. ‘I don’t just want to be a champion, I want to be one of the all-time greats. When you are the best, you want to stay the best. You have to keep on dreaming.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Verhoeven’s redemption against Saddik free on the promotion’s YouTube channel, then add some explosive jump squats into your gym routine to build your own kicking power.
Comments are for information only and should not replace advice or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
Tickets for Glory 54 are available from The Ticket Factory