Luis Tavares: "I'm going to take my revenge"

Luis Tavares: "I'm going to take my revenge"

Monday, Jan 31 2022 by GLORY Press Office

We sat down with the #1 Light Heavyweight Luis Tavares as he prepares for his upcoming fight against GLORY Champion Artem Vakhitov at GLORY 80 in Hasselt, Belgium on March 19.


In retrospect, how would you describe 2021?

It was a very eventful year, but a very good one. I fought and won twice (Editor’s note: Tavares defeated Abena at GLORY 77 and Micheletti at GLORY 78). If you keep on winning, you can say it was a good year. Regarding my fight against Abena, people can say what they want but a win is a win. Abena can say whatever he wants, he never agrees with anything. If you look back at that fight, you will see that I am sleeping a bit in the first round but the second and third rounds are mine. After that fight, I was supposed to fight Sergej Maslobojev, but he got injured and Felipe Micheletti replaced him. I dominated that fight; it was perhaps my best fight in GLORY so far.

What was the highlight of the year for you?

My highlight of the year was securing a title shot. On a personal level, despite all the things that happened in the world, I’m glad I was still able to enjoy my life, my family and the people who are close to me.

It was also an eventful year for GLORY. What were your favorite moments?

The COLLISION 3 main event was a real classic in my opinion. Rico and Jamal were two titans who really went at it. Jamal was close again, but Rico showed that he is a real champion. He is often accused of playing it too safe or fighting on points, but he didn't show that this time and he just went for it. For that, he gets my respect. So does Jamal. He took the fight in short notice and had a very good lead in the first two rounds. Other than that: Wrzosek, the fact that he almost died and yet managed to come back.

Can you take us back to your fight against Donegi Abena and tell us exactly what happened?

It was the first time I fought without an audience. It was in the middle of the lockdown, there even was a curfew. GLORY had taken many measures to allow for the fight and event to take place. Everything was cordoned-off and we weren't allowed to leave our locker rooms, so that took some getting used to for me. Then we walked out without an audience, which was also new. I was sleeping a bit during the first round, Abena won that round. After that, I did what I had to do and won both the second and the third rounds. All the fuss that came from his side or his team after the fight is none of my business. So far, he has lost four fights in a row. He always has something to complain about, even after his last fight against Maslobojev. If I were him, I'd just go back to the drawing board and really look at where I need to improve.


Luis Tavares dodging a punch from Donegi Abena.


Would you say that Abena is your biggest rival?

People have said that Abena is my biggest rival, but I totally disagree. A guy who loses four times in a row can never be my rival. He’s a boy who lives in his own world. In my opinion, he's just a big fool. He doesn't seem like a nice guy to do business with. When I look back on my career and what’s coming ahead, Vakhitov is my biggest rival.

Last year, Alex Pereira and Artem Vakhitov fought twice. Pereira won the first fight then Vakhitov won his title back. What did you think of both fights?

I thought the first fight was the better fight. They were evenly matched, and you could see that they are two guys at the top of the division. You could really see that they had respect for each other in that sense. In my opinion, Vakhitov should have won the first fight, although it was close. It didn't go his way and there was a rematch, which was a bit of a bummer for me because I had to wait again. In the rematch, the fight went pretty much the same way, they had respect for each other again. I think a little too much respect that time. It was a much calmer battle. It was close again. Vakhitov took the win, but it could have gone the other way. They were two fun fights and because it was in my weight class, I watched it with a lot of attention. Too bad Pereira is gone, but the UFC is a great challenge for him too.

This year, you will face Artem Vakhitov for the title. You fought him 9 years ago. Who in your eyes has improved the most since then?

I'm going to say that I have. If you look at my first fight against Vakhitov and the path I took after that, I am not the boy I was back then anymore. Neither is he. Of course, he was a champion then, and he still is. He looked almost invincible at some point, but that’s not the case anymore. I have grown a lot and to get to where I am now, I have really had to prove myself. So, I'm going to say I'm the most improved fighter.


Luis Tavares faces Artem Vakhitov for the first time at GLORY 9 in 2013.


How do you rate Vakhitov among the best pound-for-pound kickboxers?

Today, when looking at the best GLORY pound-for-pound fighters, he is in the top three for sure. Rico Verhoeven and maybe Cédric Doumbé would complete that list.

What about the all-time best pound-for-pound kickboxers?

That’s very difficult. There are a lot of fighters I’d put above him on that list. I don't mean to disrespect him by saying that because he is world class. When you beat a guy like Artem, you can really say you're a champion, and I want to.

How does a fight between you and Vakhitov end?

I'm going to take my revenge. If you look at it that way, it's a Cinderella story. Nine years ago, he was my only knockout defeat. Since then, I have walked a completely different path. I've had to walk the right path and prove myself everywhere I have been. I did and now here I am. My last two fights were both rematches where I still had to put things right. I did that and now I'm going to continue that path. It's nice that he's still a champion, so I can close a chapter.

If you take the belt from Vakhitov, would you be open to an instant rematch or would you rather give someone else like Maslobojev the chance to fight for the title?

If I become champion, a lot of guys will want to take a shot at the title. If it's up to me, I'll go for the money fights and let them wait for a while.

Which fights do you see as money fights?

The big names in Heavyweight, those are the money fights. Those are the names that everyone knows: Rico, Badr, Saki and Alistair. Those are the big names that could potentially be fun when I'm champion. But of course, I must beat Vakhitov first, that's the most important thing.


Luis Tavares is hungry to clear the Light Heavyweight division.


A lot has happened in the Heavyweight division over the past year. You fought in this division before. Is it something you’d want to explore in the future?

Yes, I was just talking about the money fights, right? Then I think Heavyweights. After I win the belt in the light Heavyweight division, there will be nothing left for me in that division. So, I look at the Heavyweight division with a lot of interest. But I do everything step by step. First, it's really important to beat Vakhitov. When I am champion, I will see what the future brings.

What GLORY fights are you looking forward to in 2022?

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Alistair Overeem again. He hasn't done kickboxing for a long time, so I'm curious to see how he will return. I'm also curious to see how the Heavyweight division will develop further, what Rico will do, what Badr will do. I am also curious about what will happen in the Welterweight division, you can see that Hamicha is a rising star there now.

Serkan Ozcaglayan fought as a Heavyweight in the past and now competes in the Middleweight division. Do you see him as a possible opponent in the light Heavyweight division?

Serkan is well known, I trained with him for nearly two years. He made a good debut against a guy whom I expected Serkan would beat, so he's done a good job. When he trained with us, he was truly a Heavyweight, but he has lost a lot of weight since then. This has worked out well for him in the Middleweight division. I think he will probably come to the light Heavyweight division one day, but it will take a while. He's just a nice guy to have around. He is now with Said El Badaoui and I am also curious to see what he learned there. He is a nice addition in both weight classes, but he will have to prove himself there too. You see that the top guys in the light Heavyweight division are simply world class, there is not much difference between each other, so you really must be made from the right stuff to compete there.


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