Gilbert Yvel could have been a beloved figure in MMA. A devastating striker with a kill-or-be-killed approach to fighting, the Dutch kickboxer was able to produce 32 wins by KO/TKO in his 16-year, 56-match career, with all 38 of his victories coming by some form of stoppage. Over the years Yvel has knocked out Semmy Schilt, Gary Goodridge, Cheick Kongo, and Houston Alexander, and won multiple fights against Bob Schrijber, Valentijn Overeem, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka.
That’s a hell of a resume for a fighter who came up in the late ’90s; he’s the kind of guy you’d expect to find on a list like this. And yet, those wins probably aren’t the first things you think of when you hear the name “Gilbert Yvel.” No, you probably think of the time he punched a referee and kicked him while he was down. Or the time he tried to claw Don Frye’s eyes out and got DQ’d for it. Or the time he bit a guy. Or any of the times he had to be restrained by refs well after the fight had been stopped.
Yvel mellowed out, eventually. Since the referee-hitting incident in 2004, the 37-year-old has managed to avoid dirty fighting, disqualifications, and controversy, and settled into a role as a veteran banger, showing up to squash cans in international promotions, or act as fodder for a larger name. A three-fight stint in the UFC in 2010 was a total bust, and seemed to signal the end of Yvel’s time as a relevant force in MMA. But it wasn’t over yet. Yvel attempted to rescue his career with a weight-drop to 205 pounds, going from pleasantly plump to startlingly skinny.
The crazy thing is, it actually worked. Yvel signed with RFA in 2011, and went 2-0 as a light-heavyweight, stopping Damian Dantibo and Houston Alexander, both in the first round — which makes it somewhat surprising that Yvel has now decided to call it a day.
In a new interview with Germany’s GnP TV, Yvel claimed that he’s “pretty much done” competing, citing a “kidney issue” — perhaps the result of his drastic weight-cuts to light-heavyweight — and the accumulated fatigue from 16 years of professional combat.
“I’m done, I’m tired, I’m over it,” Yvel said. “I don’t wanna punch nobody anymore…I’ve been fighting for 16 years, that’s a long time. Look at me, I’m still pretty, I’m not slurring my words. I had a good run, so this is it.”
For the time being, Yvel says he’ll be content to be a trainer instead of a competitor, and has taken a job teaching MMA at Agoge MMA in Dusseldorf, Germany.
So how do we remember a guy like Gilbert Yvel? Much like Mike Kyle, Yvel used to be an asshole, then straightened out — but his late-career accomplishments weren’t enough to completely change his legacy. Can we forgive him for a few ugly nights, considering how long ago those nights were, and how many entertaining moments he’s given us along the way? Check out a few of Yvel’s greatest hits below, and tell us what you think…
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Semmy Schilt, Rings Holland: The Kings of the Magic Ring, 6/20/99)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Gary Goodridge, PRIDE 10, 8/27/00)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Ibragim Magomedov, M-1 MFC: Russia vs the World 2, 11/11/01)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Cheick Kongo, It’s Showtime 2004 Amsterdam, 5/20/04)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Fabiano Scherner, Cage Rage 17, 7/1/06)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Pedro Rizzo, Ultimate Chaos: Lashley vs. Sapp, 6/27/09)
(Gilbert Yvel vs. Houston Alexander, RFA 2, 3/30/13)