Kickboxing phenom Tyrone “King of the Ring” Spong will make his MMA debut with the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) on November 3rd in Las Vegas, NV at the Planet Hollywood’s PH Live. With a record of 68-6, 1 draw, 1 no contest in kickboxing to his name, he’ll look to be just as impressive in his MMA career when he meets Travis Barlett at light heavyweight in the WSOF’s decagon.
Initially, Spong was expected to make his debut with Titan FC on November 2nd, but when the World Series of Fighting opportunity came around, he couldn’t pass it up. “I want to put on a good show, especially being my MMA debut. And for the first time, me being on NBC, it’s like a dream come true. I’m very excited about it,” Spong said in his interview with MMA Fight Corner on Wednesday night.
For the past year leading up to his MMA debut, Spong’s been preparing with the Blackzilians at the JACO Hybrid Training Center in Delray Beach, FL with fellow Dutchman Alistair Overeem, UFC light heavyweight Rashad Evans and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master, Braulio Estima, just name a few of his teammates. The journey into the world of MMA for Spong started when he was called upon to help Rashad prepare for his fight vs Tito Ortiz at UFC 133.
“I came down here to help Rashad Evans out for his training camp and while I was here, I was here, so I trained for myself too a little bit. I trained on the ground, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and all the coaches and my teammates, they saw that I had big potential and that I picked up all the techniques very fast. Also, I lost the motivation a little bit in kickboxing since I’m a nine-time world champion in kickboxing in six different weight classes. K-1 was going bad and K-1 at that moment was the biggest organization. They were going bad, they couldn’t fulfill all the payments and stuff like that. I was just not really that motivated anymore and this was something new. I got my motivation back, started training really hard again and here I am,” Spong said.
In addition to making his MMA debut, Spong also recently signed a 4-fight contract with Glory, a kickboxing organization. “They signed the best strikers in the world and it’s a real big league and they just gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. And being a guy that needs a challenge in life, this was something that I wanted to do because they have the best strikers in the world, and for me to compete with those guys, that’s in my nature.”
Though Spong explained he is planning to have a full-fledged MMA career, he said he took the opportunity with Glory to make sure he’s keeps his competitive edge while staying covered financially also. “This is just to overcome that gap. Of course you fight for the honor and the recognition world-wide, but at the same time you have to pay your bills and you need to live. So, Glory gave me a good offer, they’re paying real good and in MMA I’m just starting out. So for me, it’s a win win situation for me. I can make good money while I’m still getting into my MMA career. But [MMA] is not just something I’m trying out. I’m not the type of guy to just try something out. If I do something, I want to do it good and I want to be a champion in MMA.”
Becoming a champion is synonymous with training with champions, like World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion, Braulio Estima who Spong credits for showing him ropes in developing a ground game. “I benefit from it a lot. He’s a monster guy. He’s a bully on the ground. I’m a bully standing up. So, we bully each other and help each other out.” Spong added the Blackzilian camp is all about pulling together and growing from the wealth of knowledge and experience everyone there has accumulated. “Everybody is an asset to the team and we all have our qualities. And the good thing about it is everyone on this team helps each other out.”
Spong has been recognized for years for his outstanding kickboxing record with organizations in Holland, throughout Europe and also with K-1, but now that he’s in MMA, he’s learning a more well-rounded skill set. Wrestling is a primary base in MMA and Spong is striving to learn all the basics he’ll need to be competitive. “It’s gone pretty well,” Spong said of learning wrestling. “Like I said, I’m a natural athlete and I picked it up real fast. I have to say that I’m satisfied about how it’s going right now. Of course, I can’t say in a year that I’m a good wrestler, but I’m getting there and I have everything to do it. I have the capabilities, I have the physique and the mentality to pull it off. It’s on me to showcase and to let everybody see what I’m about.”
“I think now you have to work on your overall game, otherwise you’re going to be a one-dimensional fighter,” Spong said. He also mentioned he’s developing a diversified repertoire and plans to learn it all, but he’s starting with square one and growing from there. “I’m working on everything. You will see me take guys down.”
Now that he’s debuting with the World Series of Fighting, he is also ecstatic about working with WSOF President Ray Sefo who was an idol of his growing up. The two actually also faced off in K-1 and Spong defeated Sefo in a unanimous decision victory in 2010. They been through it all together and Spong is ready for their new relationship with the organization. Tyrone said the best part about having a president who was also a fighter truly is a benefit for the WSOF. “He understands us. It’s mutual respect. I respect Ray, he’s a real gentleman,” Spong stated.
When he faces Barlett on November 3rd, Spong said he’s not entirely sure what his opponent has in his arsenal, but he’s game for the fight. “I don’t know too much about him, but he took the fight. So that makes me think that he’s pretty confident and that he’s sure about his game. So, I’ve just got to show up ready.”
The WSOF makes its debut on the same night Spong is and he promises that those who tune into the NBC Sports Network on November 3rd won’t be disappointed. “It’s going to be a tremendous night. There’s a lot of great fighters on the card. I don’t want to do too much smack talking. Just for all the people out there, just tune in cause everybody knows with Tyrone Spong, you can’t go wrong. Just tune in and I’m going to put on a great show for you guys.”