For most people, dreams are far away and usually unattainable. But Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen is a special case. When he captured the DREAM lightweight title in June, it was the culmination of hard work, persistence, and a little luck. But winning the belt was no flfl uke. Over his nine year career, he’s stood in with some of the best in the world.
While the Norwegian striker isn’t well known among American fans, it’s through no fault of his own. Most seasoned international MMA fans have at least heard his name if they haven’t seen him fi ght. Soft spoken and humble, his mild manner outside the ring recalls Cro Cop.
Clashing with top-ranked lightweights is nothing new for Hansen. And he’s damn good at it. Hansen fi rst came on the MMA scene in 1999, fi ghting in a Finnish underground promotion called Finn Fight. From there, he fought his way up the ranks, eventually showcasing his skills in Shooto, K-1, and ADCC. He fi nally hit the big leagues, landing a contract with PRIDE Fighting Championships, in 2005. His fi rst fi ght, at Bushido 8 against Masakazu Imanari, ended with one of the most vicious knees ever seen in MMA.
Being a successful MMA fi ghter means training in at least three disciplines, usually wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai. However, Hansen’s martial arts background is far more eclectic. He has competed in Kyoukoshin, amateur boxing, kickboxing, and grappling tournaments. Hansen insists on having a diverse arsenal, which is clear when his guns start blazing. Takanori Gomi, Caol Uno, Yves Edwards, Gesias Calvancante, and Shinya Aoki have all fallen victim to Hellboy. Of his seven career losses, three were by submission early in his career, three were by decision, and one was a disqualifi cation. Hansen has yet to be knocked out.
After Zuffa acquired PRIDE, Hansen’s career stagnated in contractual disputes. As he puts it, “They only offered me half of my [PRIDE] salary, and I didn’t feel that was honest to do.” He eventually fought in Shooto, losing a decision to Eiji Mitsuoka. About a month later, he fought in K-1 Dynamite, submitting Kazuyuki Miyata in the second round.
Soon after, the newly organized DREAM promotion organized a Lightweight Grand Prix. The tournament, slated as four events over a four month span. The lineup included Shinya Aoki, Gesias Calvancante, Eddie Alvarez, and Caol Uno, among others. In the fi rst round, Hansen fought Kotetsu Boku. Hansen advanced to the quarterfi nals after winning a long, drawn out decision.
His next fi ght, DREAM 3 on May 11, 2008 against Philly fi ghter Eddie Alvarez, had all the makings of something beautiful to watch. The two came out throwing heavy leather; Hansen got caught early but persevered, making it a grueling fi ght for both fi ghters. But in the end, Alvarez pulled out the decision. Hansen was out of the tournament, or so it seemed.
DREAM 5 came, and Hansen fought Kultar Gill in an alternate match, dismantling him via armbar in the fi rst round. Soon after, Alvarez defeated Kawijiri in the fi rst round by TKO. However, he received a bad cut and was unable to continue. Hansen took his place in the fi nals, fi ghting submission wizard Shinya Aoki. They exchanged punches early, and Aoki then tried to grapple. Hansen pounded the Japanese grappling prodigy into submission at 4:19 in the fi rst round to capture the DREAM Lightweight Championship.
Joachim Hansen has proven internationally that he is a talent to be reckoned with. Only time will tell if those stateside will get the chance to fully appreciate the man they call Hellboy.