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Rico Verhoeven: 'My life is an express train'

She once competed in the Miss Universe pageants, now she uses her charms to seduce exciting men into an interview for MASTERS. This time dir Irene van de Laar hair arrows on kickboxer Rico Verhoeven.

Text: Irene van de Laar | Online editor: Fleur de Jong
Image: Karoly Effenberger

Rico Verhoeven has been the reigning world kickboxing champion since 2013. Rico is the poster child for the sport of kickboxing. Merciless in the ring, exceptionally amiable outside of it. In the meantime, he is also developing into a versatile entrepreneur. He recently created a job vacancy platform under the name Heelnederlandwerkt.nl. I meet Rico at Superpro Sportcenter in Zevenbergen, his coach's kickboxing center Dennis Krauweel, where Verhoeven can be found every day.

What role does Dennis play in your life?

“Basically he is my trainer, but at other times he is also a father figure. He is a friend and also my mentor. He gives advice in difficult situations. We have been working together since 2006 and always come up with a perfect game plan. Above all, we have a relationship of trust. He protects me, but doesn't slow me down. Like me, he is always open to development.”

Earlier this year you launched the vacancy platform Heelnederlandwerkt.nl. How did this initiative come about?

“Many people have been affected by the corona crisis and the resulting measures. Many lost their jobs. All those personal stories in emails and DMs on Instagram that I received touched me. It gave me the idea for this site with vacancies and training courses. Of course, I can't help everyone individually, but I started talking to companies in my network and from there a snowball effect emerged.”

How does this platform differentiate itself?

“We allow companies to post vacancies free of charge and offer short training courses, for example in negotiation, PowerPoint or assertiveness. People can also take personality tests free of charge to find out where other interests lie. Many support measures will end soon and we expect the real hit in terms of unemployment to come. We started the site earlier to stay one step ahead of the bad times. The ambition is to become and remain one of the top job sites, even after the crisis. No, I have no profit motive. Partners I work with 'donate' their time or services.”

What is your target group?

“The website is aimed at everyone, in all sectors and at all educational levels. It is a concept that perhaps appeals to young people in particular, because we work a lot with social media. I have linked many well-known faces from my network to the platform, from Ronnie Flex to Nicolette Kluijver. With their fame and reach, they are not influencers, but job influencers. With this initiative I want to make the employment opportunities that do exist visible with the power of social media.”

You've said 'I'm a smart, strategic fighter'. Explain.

“Fighting, kickboxing and competitions are the same as chess for me. Chess is continuous thinking, anticipating. When I do something, I immediately think of steps a, b, c and d. I try to think of the consequences of an action. I try to do that all my life. We are human, sometimes we make a choice and then the consequences are different than you expected. You learn from that. That's another lesson and then you move on. It's the same in the ring. Trying to control your emotions, not getting angry. Just thinking: now I do this, now I do that. That is literally what goes through my head in split seconds when I am in the ring.”

To what extent do personal events play a role in the ring?

“Of course they influence me. During my match against Badr Hari in December 2019, they had a lot of impact, mainly on my mental state. Physically I was in great shape, but I was in the middle of a relationship crisis. Then too much happens on a personal level, which makes me out of balance. We all think it's important to be physically fit, but if you're not there mentally, it doesn't work either. That was a very important lesson for me. I think we learn from every situation every day. We stop learning when we die.”

What is the expiration date for a top athlete of your caliber?

“I think I could easily continue until I was about 37. The question is whether I want that. For now I still like it. When it becomes a struggle and I don't like it, I better stop. I don't do it for the money, I really enjoy being the very best. And that comes with a price tag. But money has never been my motivation. Of course, it's fun in life, but it's not the basis for what I do. If I can have a good life and give my children everything, I will be satisfied.”

 

MASTERS Magazine #46

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MASTERS #46