Walking back to her dressing room from the ring, where she had just realized her childhood dream of becoming the undisputed champion of the world, Tiffany van Soest was overcome with emotion.
First she let out a loud yell. “Yes!” she cried, her team cheering in response as they walked behind her. Then she buried her head in her hands and dissolved into floods of tears, lost in the pure joy of the moment.
It took her several moments to steady herself for her post-fight interview and even then she had to pause on occasion to gather herself, those tears hovering at the edge of her eyes throughout.
“I dreamed it. I dreamed it and I wanted and I visualized it and I knew it would happen!” she said, her thoughts coming in a sudden rush. “I visualized this on my morning runs. I knew it would come true!”
Van Soest's journey in the martial arts began at eight years old with Shonin-Ryu karate. From that early age she dreamed of being the best in the world, but it wasn't until ten years later she could begin actively pursuing it. Her parents wouldn't let her compete in full contact competition so she had to wait until she was 18.
Once she started, there was no stopping her. Karate championships at national, international and world level followed. Then she moved into Muay Thai and began collecting accolades there. Several world championship titles followed before she joined GLORY earlier in 2016 as part of the Women's Super-Bantamweight Grand Prix.
Eight fighters started the competition. Over several events they were boiled down to a final four, who took to the ring at GLORY: COLLISION to determine which of them was the best. Van Soest faced Canada's Jessica Gladstone in the semi-finals while the undefeated Amel Dehby of France faced the young Isis Verbeek of the Netherlands.
Both the semi-final fights were close. Van Soest set a frenetic pace against the larger Gladstone but the Canadian stepped up and matched it. Van Soest's cleaner work put her ahead on the scorecards but Gladstone, who treats fighting as a hobby rather than a full-time occupation, gave a good account of herself. Van Soest was just not to be denied.
Dehby looked outstanding in her GLORY 35 NICE debut and on paper Verbeek was going to be out her depth against the undefeated and much more experienced veteran. But Verbeek rose to the challenge, giving Dehby problems throughout the bout and making it anything but an easy win for her. Verbeek is one of the youngest fighters on the roster and young in her career; she will surely be a future contender for the title.
And so the final pitted the driven Van Soest against the undefeated Dehby. It was close – both are at the very top of their sport – but Van Soest's spirit was indomitable. It surged through her body and into her shots, the sound of them reverberating around the Konig-Pilsener in Oberhausen, Germany.
Dehby's own output was high and constant but the power shots were coming from Van Soest and that put her ahead. Over five rounds both fighters demonstrated that they can do everything their male counterparts can do and more.
“I just can't describe the feeling, it's just overwhelming,” Van Soest said as she carried her belt back to her dressing room. “I'm going to hold this tonight, I'm going to sit there looking at it... and then I'm going to go to bed and cuddle it.”