Cheick Kongo takes on Sergei Kharitonov in the Bellator 265 main event. It goes down on Friday, August 20th at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This heavyweight clash broadcasts on Showtime.
I spoke with Kongo recently and we covered multiple topics. Excerpts from my chat with the Paris-born pugilist can be found below.
The relatively recent legalization of MMA in France
“It’s good. It improves. Everything evolved in a good way. Hopefully, it will keep turning that way for years. Make athletes and fans really happy.”
Modern-day heavyweights with roots in France like Ciryl Gane and Francis Ngannou
“The good thing is we can see how the sport evolve. It’s really good to see as well. Some fighters do a great job outside. In two different promotions, so that’s great. For sure they’re bringing some wins for everyone.”
Thinking he’d retire before France legalized MMA and possibly fighting in his home country again
“If I have the opportunity to compete in France, to fight in France I will definitely. The thing is, (it’s) depending on the will of the promotions. But to me as long as I’m in the battlefields, I go wherever I have to go to affect my side.”
Overall thoughts on the matchup with Sergei Kharitonov
“It’s just another fight to me…. Now I get back on track after my loss against Timothy Johnson. Technically I was supposed to fight again against Ryan Bader, but I don’t know for which reason they keep me away. Not choosing about the tournament because for sure they do the interim (title). For Timothy Johnson and his opponent. For sure, the Russian guy (Valentin Moldavsky) won the title. They used to do that four years ago. They used to do the same things… It’s a non-respect. It’s not a respect at all because for sure I was in the field to fight Timothy Johnson.”
“Fight for the third time and I was in the line to do it. But they skipped me again. They skipped me for the tournament. They skipped me for this one. So what do they want to do? You want to be the top organization, just act that way. But don’t push the person who work really hard to reach. I believe if I lost clearly, yes keep me away but it wasn’t the case. But the fact to fight Kharitonov, it’s just another fight. It’s another fight to promote myself. Making sure no matter what’s going on, I’m still there. And that no one can change those positions because I’m the best.”
If Cheick Kongo feels slighted by the promotion leading into this one
“Yes, I don’t need to add more. You go back a few years ago and you will see. I used to get consequential wins, no title shot. And I used to wait four or five years to fight finally against (Ryan) Bader. And then in between, we used to get the tournaments, I’ve been skipped. For the interim fight, I’ve been skipped. Technically, I’m not going to be the judge or whatever but if you have to go by on the paper…Ryan Bader is the champ in the heavyweight division. After that, you have the first contender is Timothy Johnson. Second one, it’s me.”
Feelings on the 10 year anniversary of Kongo’s iconic Pat Barry stoppage
“I mean to me, honestly it was just a fight. It’s pretty funny you know because, for sure the ending was phenomenal for people. To me, it’s just a regular fight. For sure I did something because I was in that space to not give up. For sure that’s a kind of nightmare for Pat Barry. Because that’s the kind of fight he wish to clean. From now until his last breath, there will be that moment to give him the shame. He doesn’t have to be ashamed about that you know. As a fighter, you have somebody that has to win. And somebody has to lose.”
“The referee did a really good job for that. Because otherwise, he probably ended on his way. You know, I just did what I had to do. It was a memorable moment for everyone you know, people will keep that for life for the kids…If people still remember that epic fight, it’s a blessing. But for the rest, it’s nothing else other than the opposition style. Two guys that try to defend their stake in the place. I have territory just like Pat Barry and we just try to improve. And win more territory.”
“But for what I have today, you know, I’m still coming for. I want some more, and even one day to make that fight again. Against Pat Barry, who knows? Probably Bellator will make it.”
The 20 year anniversary of Kongo’s debut in mixed martial arts earlier this summer
“Everything is the same. Just prepare yourself, get more aggressive, and focus on what you do. That’s what I have as a reminder to keep driving.”
The lengthy training relationship between Cheick Kongo and Rampage Jackson that continues today
“That relationship is about like two guys that met each other during a show. After that we used to be like ‘hey, you look good for this and that. So will you be able to help me for the camp?’ Since that moment, we used to meet, see each other at the gym. Train together to improve myself as well. Also to be familiar with the US training camp. Because in France, we never used to get that rhythm. The rhythm of training, the quality as well.”
“Now, everything changed. But in the past, it wasn’t that way. It was great to get that feel. Over the partnership as fighters, you know, the friendship came in that relation. Since then, it’s great. I mean, you know for sure, I can hate him. Or him with me. But it’s more like a brotherhood. Just like love and respect.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.