Interview with Gilbert “The Hurricane” Yvel

The Dutch Muay Thai powerhouse Gilbert Yvel has been a force in MMA for well over a decade, since making his MMA fight debut in early 1997 at the age of 20The Dutch Muay Thai powerhouse Gilbert Yvel has been a force in MMA for well over a decade, since making his MMA fight debut in early 1997 at the age of 20. After dismantling his first 9 opponents in a brutally impressive display of technique and precision, Yvel became known on the global MMA scene as a man who could crush any opponent, at any point in a fight, with any of his “eight limbs” (hands, shins, elbows, and knees). His Muay Thai pedigree combined with a flair for the spectacular, allows Yvel to attack his opponents with an unusual arsenal of strikes, which includes his famous signature “flying knee” strike.

Fighting out of the famed Vos Gym in Amsterdam, Holland, that has produced the likes of fellow world-class strikers in Ernesto Hoost, Ivan Hippolyte, Remy Bonjasky, Jerrel Venetiaan, and Antoni Hardonk, Yvel is feared for his explosive striking power. He is also known for some of his controversial matches, which have some people wondering what to expect from the man appropriately nicknamed “The Hurricane”, as he looks to unleash a whirlwind of talent on American soil for the first time on Saturday night, against Josh Barnett at Affliction 2 – Day of Reckoning in Anaheim, California.

Bevois: Hey OTM, I’m here with possibly the Most Known Unknown and one of the more personable people in the world of MMA, Gilbert “The Hurricane” Yvel. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Gilbert. How are you feeling just a few days away from your big fight with Josh Barnett at Affliction – Day of Reckoning on Saturday night?

Gilbert Yvel: I’m already in California and I’m feeling good. I don’t need to worry about making weight as a heavyweight, so I’m just resting and ready for Saturday night.

Bevois: You are affiliated with Vos Gym out of Holland, but have been training at J-Sect and Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas to prepare for this fight. How different has your training been in the States?

Gilbert Yvel: It has been totally different. In Holland, I train mostly stand up and striking for about 2 hours a day. I arrived in Las Vegas on December 28th and train at J-Sect every day. I train a lot of groundwork, striking, boxing, Muay Thai, and cardio for 6 hours a day. I also train 2-3 times a week at Xtreme Couture, where I do a lot of sparring.

Bevois: Who have been your main training partners at J-Sect and Xtreme Couture?

Gilbert Yvel: At J-Sect, I train with everyone. John Lewis, Marvin Eastman, Skip Kelp, and lot of pro boxers like Henry Namauu. We do a lot of running and pad work. At Xtreme Couture, I do a lot more sparring and wrestling with the bigger guys.

Bevois: Who will be in your corner on Saturday night?

Gilbert Yvel: John Lewis, Skip Kelp, and Ivan Hippolyte (former Muay Thai world champion) who is my coach from Holland.

Bevois: In a recent interview, Affliction’s VP Tom Atencio described your upcoming fight with Josh Barnett as the clean cut All-American fighter vs. the controversial, tattooed, foreign bad boy? How do you feel about playing the roll of a heel in this fight?

Gilbert Yvel: No problem! After the fight people are gonna change. I don’t care really, as long as I’m in there minds *laughs*.

Bevois: Some hardcore fans like Atencio label you as a controversial fighter due to some past transgressions surrounding some of your fights. Do you plan on shedding that image or embracing it the way you did when you held a previous yellow card on the way to the ring in PRIDE?

Gilbert Yvel: I think I did that before my fight with Jeremy Horn in PRIDE, because they would give me a yellow card in every fight. It was getting kind of crazy, so I brought my own *laughs*.

Bevois: You have nearly 50 fights to your credit, but this will be your first fight on American soil. How do you feel about fighting for the first time in front of the rapidly growing American MMA fan base?

Gilbert Yvel: I don’t really think about it when it’s time to fight. Japanese fans, Dutch fans, American fans…I just want to have a good fight. I do know America is the best place in the world to fight in MMA and this is my chance, my time to shine, and just let people see how good I am.

Bevois: In February 2007, you were originally going to make your debut fight in America at PRIDE 33 against Sergei Kharitonov, but the NSAC denied your fighter’s license due to some controversial past fights. How pleased are you with the way the CSAC has handled your licensure?

Gilbert Yvel: Yes, they have treated me really good. They let me come in and talk to them face to face, instead of listening to others. They got to meet me as a person and see that I’m pretty laid back and a nice guy. Then they gave me a unanimous approval on applying for my fighter’s license. This is the best thing that has happened to me in MMA.

Bevois: Josh Barnett is a former UFC heavyweight champion, PRIDE star, and has been a top-five heavyweight fighter for a long time. What do you think about Barnett as a fighter and your opportunity to fight him?

Gilbert Yvel: This is a great opportunity for me, because the only thing I have to do is beat him. I have no pressure. If I beat him, everyone will notice me. I do think Josh is good on the ground, but he will never make it very far standing with me.

Bevois: Your head kick KO of Gary Goodridge at PRIDE 10 is a classic highlight reel KO. Do you plan on doing the same to Barnett?

Gilbert Yvel: The best way for me to win a fight is always with a KO. It leaves no doubt. It doesn’t matter how, but I am definitely looking to knock him out.

Bevois: How bout a hurricanrada a la your nickname, off the top ropes to give Barnett (who’s done pro wrestling) a little taste of home?

Gilbert Yvel: Josh always fights the same. I have a good idea what he is gonna try to do, because he likes the ground. All fights are different, so I’m gonna to try to throw off his game for sure.

Bevois: Josh Barnett has said in a recent interview that he hopes you go for leg locks, due to some recent success you have had with them. Are you gonna take the bait?

Gilbert Yvel: I only go for leg locks, when people go for leg locks on me. Josh also won his last fight by KO, so I hope he decides to stand with me *laughs*.

Bevois: You have a TKO win and an armbar win over Valentijn Overeem, who once defeated Randy Couture. Do you have any desire to fight Valentijn’s brother Alistair, who is being heavily recruited by several organizations after his big kickboxing win over K-1 star Badr Hari at K-1 Dynamite on New Year’s Eve?

Gilbert Yvel: He had a chance to fight me two times already, including last spring in Holland. One time he was supposed to fight me and they had me fight someone else to see how good I was. Then the second time he said he was injured, because he had been losing a lot, but then he went and fought in another show right after. It’s really no big honor beating him, because I’m supposed to beat him. So at this point my focus is on Josh Barnett and fighting in the United States.

Bevois: You are the only man alive to knock out Cheick Kongo, who is now a big star in the UFC heavyweight division. How do you feel about the talent in Affliction’s heavyweight division?

Gilbert Yvel: I did not see the first Affliction show, so this is all a bit new to me. I don’t know much about them, but they do have good fighters. They made it all happen for me and I’m grateful. They gave me a chance and they treat me very good. Personally, I don’t know a lot about the other fighters, because I pay attention to my own fighting and training.

Bevois: You have finished your last 7 opponents, dating back to mid-2006, via KO, TKO, or Submission. If you beat Barnett, do you want to fight the winner of Fedor-Arlovski?

Gilbert Yvel: Why not? Especially if it’s for the title, then hell yeah baby!

Bevois: How do you think the Fedor-Arlovski fight will unfold?

Gilbert Yvel: I really don’t know this Arlovski guy, but Fedor is gonna win. I don’t know how, because all of his fights are so different. But yeah…Fedor is gonna win.

Bevois: Fedor and yourself were regular forces in PRIDE for a long time. Is that a fight you have always wanted?

Gilbert Yvel: To be the best of the world, you need to beat the best of the world. He is the best so I would love to fight him. Fedor is also a good friend of mine and he’s a really nice guy.

Bevois: What are your plans in the near future after Saturday night?

Gilbert Yvel: I plan on staying and living in Las Vegas, where I will teach privates and train full time at J-Sect.

Bevois: Do you have any sponsors or anyone else you would like to thank?

Gilbert Yvel: I would like to give a big thank you to OTM for sponsoring me for this fight, so thank you Scotty Nelson and Scott Bieri for supporting me. I want to thank Affliction for helping me meet with the athletic commission and giving me this great opportunity. I want to thank my good friend Mark Bieri for letting me stay at his house and drink all his drinks *laughs*. I also want to thank John Lewis, Skip Kelp, all the guys I trained with, and anyone I hurt a little bit while sparring *laughs*. Thank you all for helping me and make sure you watch me win Saturday night!

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