Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder is one of the most talked-about athletes in the mixed martial arts industry at the moment, but he wants the talk to turn into action.
The ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion is coming off a pair of dominant victories over Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang in which he claimed two-division gold, and now he is on the hunt for his next assignment.
“I’m looking to be active,” the Dutchman says. “I don’t want to sit out, so line somebody up every three months.”
In this exclusive interview, De Ridder talks about ending his rivalry with Aung La N Sang, the top contenders to his throne, and potentially making history by going after the ONE Heavyweight World Title.
ONE Championship: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, how do you feel about your second victory over Aung La N Sang at “ONE on TNT IV?”
Reinier de Ridder: I’m happy with the result, happy to get the second belt on six days’ notice, and happy I took the chance and went out there. But I could have finished him. [There were] a couple of instances — especially in the second round — where I could and should have finished him. But [stuff] happens and I’ll finish the next guy.
ONE: It looked like history might repeat itself when you took Aung La N Sang down and got to his back early in round one. Did you think it could be over then?
RDR: Yeah, it was very close on the back, but I was sloppy with my grips. I wasn’t as good and I didn’t feel as strong as I usually do, but it was good to be in a five-rounder for the first time. I’m happy overall.
ONE: Before the bout, you sounded happy about being fit enough and in good shape to do the rounds. Was that talk or did you really feel that confident?
RDR: I felt very good. I was absolutely ready to go, but you need some time to prepare mentally as well. I got the news six days out, flew out five days out, and got there four days out, so I had a couple of days to get adjusted to fighting Aung La again.
To be honest, I wasn’t that excited to fight him again. It was very hard to do it even better than the first time [in October 2020], so I’m just happy to put it behind me, and — after this interview — to never have to speak about it again and be done with it. It’s been good. A lot of respect to the guy. We’ve had two good fights, and I’m done.
ONE: Looking around at the middleweight contenders, you had a very close bout with Leandro Ataides that went the distance. What are your thoughts on facing him again?
RDR: I think he’s a great challenge to me. His style is very strong, very explosive, and very dangerous, and I’d be very happy to fight him again. He is the only one that got away, the only one I didn’t finish, so that’s a match I would really like to do again.
He’s a great fighter and a good guy. He’s been to my gym after the last fight. I think he’s one of the most deserving guys and the only one who went three rounds with me.
ONE: How was it to train with him at your gym after you had competed against each other?
RDR: It was very cool. He’s a very humble, nice guy. It was very good to get some tough rounds in with him, so we definitely continued to match in the gym. And I’d like to put some more rounds [in with him] in the Circle.
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ONE: The other notable contender would be Vitaly Bigdash. What are your thoughts on him?
RDR: Well, he’s been known to pull out, right? He’s pulled out of a match with me before. He’s pulled out on Aung La a couple of times. He hasn’t really been active. I don’t think he’s the most deserving. But hey, line them up and I’ll fight him.
ONE: How about Fan Rong? You beat him in your ONE debut, but he has won back-to-back bouts since then.
RDR: Yeah, his last fight was with Yuri Simoes, an ADCC Champion, one of the best grapplers in the world, and he really handled him. He was very good at the takedown defense, his grappling looked sharp. Fan is a great fighter.
ONE: You also called out Brandon Vera after your last win, but since then, Arjan Bhullar defeated him for the ONE Heavyweight World Title. You’ve both talked about fighting each other. Is that what you want next?
RDR: That’s a chance to make history for me, and that’s what I would really love. I’ve been saying I want it. Arjan has been saying he wants it online, but offline, he’s not that interested. So, I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future. But maybe someday someone will beat him and I’ll fight the next champion if he’s not interested.
ONE: Arjan said he’d come down to light heavyweight to take your belt. Would you entertain the bout in that division?
RDR: Yeah, why not? It’s not about the belt anyway. It’s just me knowing I’m the baddest guy around, the baddest man on the planet, because that’s pretty cool, right?
ONE: How do you think you would fare against his wrestling?
RDR: I’ll take him down easy. His wrestling is okay, but it’s not like he’s the greatest wrestler to ever grace the Circle. He’s good and his wrestling is okay, but it’s not special.
ONE: What do you think about him talking about your “garbage” takedowns and grappling?
RDR: Yeah, he’s talking himself up and he’s already saying, “Oh, I’m not Aung, I’m not Aung.” Yeah, right. We’ll see.