As much as it may feel as if Alistair Overeem has been fighting forever, the veteran heavyweight understands he cannot, in fact, fight forever.
Overeem (43-17), a former champion in the Strikeforce and Dream promotions, and in K-1 kickboxing, has been relatively quiet since he suffered a third-round TKO loss to Curtis Blaydes at UFC 225 three months ago. He has not, however, been complacent -- and he's actually in the process of leveling up for the home stretch of his illustrious career.
"I'm 38 years old, and that's important to note," Overeem told ESPN. "I fully realize the end of my career is coming. It's just coming. You can't fight forever. I've had a beautiful career. Twenty-one years ... crazy. Twenty-one years of fighting.
"The end is coming, but I can still do this right now. And I can still go all in."
For Overeem, going "all in" has meant a change in scenery. He has parted ways with JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- his training home since 2014 -- and recently joined Team Elevation in Denver. The UFC has made him several fight offers during this process, but Overeem needed to settle into a camp first. He anticipates fighting late this year or in early 2019.
He believes he actually would have made the change in camp sooner had the UFC not asked him to fight Blaydes, a member of Team Elevation, in June.
"I've noticed some things were missing," Overeem said. "I started to look around at different camps, and I had plans to train in Denver. When the Curtis fight was booked, I put that to the side and trained with what I had at the time. The results weren't good, and that was a wakeup call for me.
"I had seen Curtis early this year, and we were talking about me coming to the gym. After our fight happened, I sent him a message, and he said I should still come out. I like the vibe of the gym and the city. I still feel, clearly, as if I can make that next jump."
Overeem says he's found a new sense of motivation in Denver, even though he's now been living in gyms for about 25 years. He has also suffered 12 knockout losses in his professional MMA career, along with several more in kickboxing.
That said, Overeem says he's aware of his short time left in the sport and has no intention of staying longer than he should. That day is coming, but it hasn't arrived yet.
"In the gym, I never get KO'd," Overeem said. "I'm sure my new coach is going to test that. The relationship I'm building with the coach here is one of pure honesty. That's something we talk about daily -- when the ability to fight has gone down, it's time to hang up the gloves. So far, none of my coaches have talked about that.
"We're not there yet, but I could see myself in one or two years, three maximum, walking away with a big smile on my face. I feel very content. I love the sport. My life is designed and dedicated to the sport. It's been one gigantic, beautiful adventure -- and I'm enjoying it still."