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Sports Illustrated Notebook: Reinier de Ridder to meet Vitaly Bigdash in ONE 159 main event

'The Dutch Knight' will defend his ONE middleweight championship on July 22, according to sources.
reinier-de-ridder

Reinier de Ridder will defend the ONE middleweight championship against Vitaly Bigdash in the main event of ONE 159 on July 22 in Singapore, Sports Illustrated has learned.

A two-division champ, de Ridder (15-0) holds both the middleweight and the light heavyweight titles.

"People are going to see me dominate Bigdash," de Ridder says. "It's going to end on his back with me choking the life out of him."

A charismatic, brash personality, de Ridder should grow in popularity as ONE jumps with full force into the U.S. fight market on Amazon Prime. Whether loved or hated, De Ridder will be relevant because he possesses such a commanding presence in the cage.

"MMA is a weird thing, as you need to be this big, brash, egotistical killer to thrive," says de Ridder, who last competed in March when he fought in a submission grappling draw against Andre Galvao. "You need to think you're the best. You need to think you're God's gift to fighting to get anywhere close to a title. You need that kind of confidence, and that's what I have."

Bigdash (11-2) is a former middleweight champion. He lost the title to Aung La N Sang, but he avenged that defeat this past February when they ran it back. After winning his last three bouts, the 37-year-old Bigdash worked his way back to a title shot.

"He's the next guy up and the No. 1 contender," says de Ridder. "He's worked his way back to the title fight and deserves this shot, but it's not going to end well for him."

Known as "The Dutch Knight," the 31-year-old de Ridder is a proud father of two. Speaking with Sports Illustrated from his home in the Netherlands, he shared his opinion on potentially becoming one of the premier personalities in ONE. He is also fully committing to MMA – a frightening proposition considering he is already undefeated and a reigning two-division champ – and plans on quitting his physical therapy practice within the next month.

"I really no longer have the time to see my patients," de Ridder says. "This is a big deal with Amazon. I am looking forward to taking this step into America, and I know I can compete with anyone from any organization.

"I just took a trip to Florida and trained at Sanford MMA and got a lot of good rounds in with guys from all the top organizations, and I know I could go with them. I know my skills, and I'm testing myself every week at Gegard (Mousasi's) place, so my training gives me a lot of confidence. I am grateful for these opportunities to keep showing what I can do."

De Ridder knows what is at stake at ONE 159. He has finished six of his last eight fights – if he defeats Bigdash, especially in a convincing manner, he will arrive on Amazon Prime as ONE's reigning champ. His notoriety would only grow from there, which he believes is an inevitability as he continues to wipe out opponents in the cage.

"This is starting to gain some traction," de Ridder says. "Soon it will be worldwide."

valentina-shevchenko

Valentina Shevchenko is one of MMA's most unstoppable forces. As the reigning UFC women's flyweight champion, she has won her last eight fights – and looks to increase that total to nine in two weeks when she meets Taila Santos at UFC 275.

If she is victorious, Shevchenko (22-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) will likely challenge the winner of the Amanda Nunes-Julianna Peña rematch. And there is every reason to believe she will enter that fight as the favorite. Despite suffering two losses against Nunes, she is now entering the prime of his career, and a rematch with either opponent (Shevchenko defeated Pena by submission in 2017) would be must-see viewing.

Part of Shevchenko's success is her ability to focus on what she is doing in the moment. Speaking with Sports Illustrated, she shared that her focus also extends to her meals.

"I love to eat," Shevchenko says. "And my favorite is the Chinese buffet."

Unlike the rest of us mere mortals, Shevchenko is not interested in out-eating any of her peers at the buffet. Instead, she explained, her focus is savoring every bite.

"When I am eating, I am focused on the process," Shevchenko says. "Really understanding and enjoying what I am eating. It's not about proteins or carbs. It's about feeling the energy of the food and the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant. For me, that is more important than counting calories."

kai-kara-france

Kai Kara-France fights Brandon Moreno for the interim flyweight title this July at UFC 277.

Entering the title bout on a three-fight win streak, Kara-France (24-9 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is now only one victory away from attaining his dream of wearing gold in the UFC. Yet standing in his way is Moreno (19-6-2 MMA, 7-3-2 UFC), a former UFC flyweight champion and someone who has already put a loss on Kara-France's record.

Moreno defeated Kara-France in December of 2019, which began a win streak that culminated in his title victory. This rematch is a chance for Kara-France to finally reach that pinnacle, and he has looked elite since his TKO victory against Cody Garbrandt last December.

Kara-France defeated Askar Askarov in March, putting the first loss on Askarov's record. Before that, the victory against Garbrandt marked the most significant victory of his career.

"You need to celebrate the wins," Kara-France says. "I was especially proud because my wife and son were in the crowd that night. That gave me so much more purpose and meaning."

That fight took place in Vegas, on a card that included Tai Tuivasa knocking out Augusto Sakai on the prelims.

"I went out that night with Tai, and we got home quite late – or, really, early that next morning," Kara-France says. "We got back around (6 p.m.), and I was right back to dad duty as soon as I was back, and that was a reminder of what I'm here to do. I'm here to be the best version of myself, and that's as a husband, father, and fighter.

"I'm here to provide for my family and give them a better life, and that's why the title is the ultimate goal."

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.