“I’m a fighter and everything comes very naturally to me; fighting is like a second nature for me.”
That quote from decorated kickboxing champion Tyrone Spong should put the MMA community on high alert. The Dutch-Surinamese star has been flirting with the idea of crossing over from the ring to the cage, working with the team at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Florida to add the missing elements needed to be successful in MMA to his fighting arsenal.
Thursday afternoon, Spong told Heavy MMA that he’s very excited with his progress and thankful to be a part of the family atmosphere being cultivated in South Florida.
“We have a great group of guys here,” offered Spong of the Imperial Athletics team. “Coach Mike Van Arsdale is a great wrestling coach. Rashad is a very good wrestler. You have Jorge Santiago, Babu is a great jiu-jitsu coach, the brothers Villefort — Danillo and Yuri — JZ (Cavalcante); it’s a group of very good fighters and they make me feel very good here. They help me out.
“Everybody helps each other out. There are no stars in the gym; everybody is equal and we’re like a big family that helps each other out. That suits me just fine — I like it — and I feel very much at home here; that’s one of the most important things to me.”
A transition to the cage has been rumored since he began training in Boca Raton, but the 25-year-old says there is nothing concrete to report at this moment.
“I can’t say that 100% yet,” said Spong of an impending move to mixed martial arts. “I got a few organizations and people who really want me to do it, and since I’ve been working here in Florida with “The Blackzilians,” I’ve been working on my ground game a little bit, so we’ll see. We’ll see what the future brings.
“What’s scheduled now is a (kickboxing) fight in October, but it’s also not 100% confirmed yet. I’m just getting myself prepared for any fights that are coming up. I’m ready; whenever they say I have to fight, I’ll fight.”
Spong admits that the current tumultuous situation with K-1 is part of what has him considering the transition into MMA. Long considered the premier kickboxing organization in the world, the Tokyo-based outfit has experienced highly publicized financial issues of late, with numerous fighters indicating they’re owed large sums of money.
Spong is one of those fighters, and says that the outstanding debt needs to be dealt with before he’ll return to the K-1 ring. In the mean time, he’s going to make the most of his time in Florida, and is open to accepting whatever new challenge is presented to him.
“They owe me money. K-1 is the biggest kickboxing organization worldwide, (but) it’s kind of shaky right now; they’re in some bad weather right now. First of all, I’ve got to get my money before I step into the ring again; that’s one thing that’s for sure for me.
“While I’m here, I just prepare myself. I train MMA with really good guys here. I like a challenge, and MMA is a new challenge for me. With that said, with a good challenge and a good contract, why not? That’s how I think about it, you know? If that’s all it takes and everything is set up, why not? I can fight. I think I would do good.
“A good contract for me means the money is good and both parties are satisfied,” elaborated Spong, adding that he’s currently free to compete in MMA if he chooses. As for whether he plans on competing in both kickboxing and MMA, he says that all comes down to the terms of the contract.
“It depends on the organization you’re signing with and what the contract says. If the contract says you can do one or another, you have to do what your contract says. It all depends on what my options are and what they are going to offer me. If everything is okay, it works out well, and you get a good contract, you just do what the contract says. If that means you can’t fight kickboxing, you’ve got to oblige to your contract and do what it says. It’s for whatever it says for me. I enjoy fighting, and fighting is fighting for me.”
In addition to working on his ground game and surrounding himself with a talent group of teammates and coaches, Spong believes what will allow him to make a smooth transition from kickboxing to MMA comes down to intelligence and natural ability.
“I think it’s the way you can adjust and your abilities as a fighter. Are you a smart fighter, an intelligent fighter? Can you adjust the stance between MMA and kickboxing?,” he suggested. “Then it’s just the God-given talent that you have and the hard work that you put in. That combined makes you the fighter that you are.
“I think that I’m very gifted — thank God for that. I can adjust, I enjoy it, I know how to play it at the right time. If I can showcase that in the Octagon, I think I can do good. The way I’m doing it in the gym, then I will do good. That’s one of the basic things: your own abilities, the way you are in your head, and can you adjust. Not everybody has the capabilities to do that.”
Though he’s competed as a heavyweight in kickboxing, Spong anticipates dropping down a division when he does eventually make the transition to MMA.
“I think the most logical weight class for me would be 205. I fought very big guys. I’m a big guy too, but not as big as the guys that I fought; I’m only 225 at my highest, maybe 230 if I work hard for it, but that’s it. If I could cut to 205, that would be better for me.”
Competing at light heavyweight might be best for him, but it could be bad news for the rest of the athletes in the 205 pound ranks. No matter where he signs, the addition of a dangerous striker with 42 wins by way of knockout is something to keep an eye on in the future.