Sergei Kharitonov, one of PRIDE's top 4 Heavyweight fighters, was crushed at the hands of Middleweight fighter Alistair Overeem in the February 26th PRIDE 31 UNBREAKABLE event. Overeem told spoke to PRIDE in an exclusive interview and explained that it was his desire to dominate the upcoming Open Weight Grand Prix that led him to overcome the weight-class difference.




Pride Fighting Championships: Honestly, I was amazed at your KO victory over Heavyweight fighter Sergei Kharitonov at PRIDE 31.
Alistair Overeem: It was a good result for me and it was a satisfying result. After I lost to Shogun, I trained very hard for six months. I was never injured during that time and I was able to compete this time in top condition. My opponent was a top Heavyweight fighter but I think the results of all my training showed. Actually, I surprised myself because I was able to do so much. (laughing) It was a satisfying win for me, though.
Pride: In terms of techniques, what do you think was the reason for you victory?
Overeem: I worked on my ground-and-pound in particular this time, and boxing. I trained to be able to fight well on the ground or standing up but I was confident that my opponent wouldn't take me down.
Pride: Your takedown in the beginning looked like Fedor's. Did you learn that when you were training with Fedor in Holland?
Overeem: I learned many techniques when I was training with Fedor but I didn't learn that takedown from him.
Pride: You were able to completely control Kharitonov from the side position. Was that something that you worked on in training?
Overeem: Yes. I did a lot of ground control training.
Pride: There are already people saying that you may be better suited for the Heavyweight class, rather than the Middleweight class.
Overeem: That opinion may be correct. Well, I will continue to fight at Heavyweight and see how it goes.
Pride: You originally fought at around 100kg, didn't you?
Overeem: I fought at around 98~99kg in the beginning.
Pride: In your Middleweight fights, you often seem to lose stamina in that last half. Was that due to cutting weight?
Overeem: Probably. For the Shogun fight though, I caught a cold 10 days before the fight and I didn't feel well.
Pride: You've mentioned the Shogun fight several times. Did that loss mean more to you than other losses?
Overeem: I learn many things from my losses. I can find my strong points and my weak points by analyzing the fights that I lose. I can grow from that, so my losses motivate me. I always try hard to make myself grow from my losses, not just from my fight with Shogun.
Pride: Kharitonov was considered on the top four Heavyweight fighters. Now that you've beaten him, has the dream of winning the Open Weight Grand Prix become closer to reality?
Overeem: Of course, I think this victory will give me a chance at competing in the Open Weight Grand Prix. I'm going to being training as soon as I return to Holland. I think that all of the fighters in the Grand Prix will be tough fighters, so this will be a new chance for me and I want to be completely prepared.
Pride: Fedor, Nogueira, Mirko and Josh are the top Heavyweight fighters. Of these four fighters, is there anyone that you would like to fight?
Overeem: If I were to say whom I would like to fight, it would be Mark Hunt, not one of those four. Hunt is a really strong fighter and he's tough. He keeps on fighting not matter how much damage he takes. I'd like to see what I could do to him. And he was also a top K-1 fighter. However, all the other fighters besides him are strong and I'd like to fight all of them.
Pride: I thought that you might want to fight Mirko, in terms of a style match-up.
Overeem: That's okay. I wouldn't mind fighting him.
Pride: Where you do think you would have an advantage if you fought Mirko?
Overeem: My ground game. I will be better if the fight goes to the ground. Of course, I think Mirko's striking is good when he's standing, particularly his left kick. I don't think I have to worry about it too much, though.
Pride: You seem confident that you can win the Open Weight Grand Prix.
Overeem: Of course. Naturally, you have to be confident if you are going to compete.
Pride: Until now, most fighters from Holland have been incredibly strong in their striking but incredibly weak once the fight goes to the ground. What caused you to begin paying attention to the ground game?
Overeem: I've been learning sambo since I was 16. I've been wrestling for a long time. I continued training after I became a professional fighter, too. So, even now I don't think I'm perfect and I will continue to grow.
Pride: Did you begin kickboxing before that?
Overeem: I began kickboxing when I was 13. I took about a year off and then I began again from 15. That was because I could use the striking anywhere, anytime on the street. (laughing)
Pride: Are there any other Dutch fighters like yourself that you putting as much work into their grappling game?
Overeem: I don't think I'm the best grappler but I think I'm the best grappler among the Dutch fighters in PRIDE.
Pride: What do you find interesting about grappling?
Overeem: I think the defensive techniques are the most interesting. Protecting yourself. In PRIDE in particular, you can't win if you can't grapple. First, you have to protect yourself. If you can do that, then you can learn the guillotine choke and submissions, and then you can develop your ground-and-pound. That's why I think that the techniques for protecting yourself are the most important.
Pride: You won all your matches by submission in the ADCC preliminaries in Holland. If you have the chance, would you like to enter the ADCC World Championships and compete in a grappling-only event?
Overeem: No, I'm concentrating on fighting in PRIDE right now so I'm not even thinking about that. If I get the time, I would like to train and compete in the (ADCC) World Championships but right now, I don't have time.
Pride: There are several elements necessary to win a fight, such as technique, physical conditioning and heart. What do you think is the most important element for a Middleweight fighter to beat a Heavyweight fighter?
Overeem: First, tactics. Then, you have to have power, even if your body is small and light. Heavyweight fighters have big bodies and power but not much speed. Middleweight fighters have to stay fast and gain enough power to handle the Heavyweight fighters or I don't think they can win.
Pride: Do you think up your tactics yourself?
Overeem: I think about them, along with my grappling coach and my striking coach. We create a plan before training and then we train according to that plan.
Pride: So, you create a new strategy for each opponent, rather than doing the same training all the time, and you change your training each time for the new strategy, right?
Overeem: That's exactly right. You have to fight smart.
Pride: You mentioned street fighting earlier. Street fighting is the ultimate open weight class. Who is the biggest guy you have had a street fight with before?
Overeem: Rather than just opponents with big bodies, I was fighting adults when I was still small, around 14 years old, and I won most of them. (laughing)