This upcoming weekend is one that is filled with MMA action waiting to explode onto our screens. For Bellator, they have a doubleheader weekend with their last event of the two taking place in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday, Feb. 22. The night directly prior, they’ll be back in Thackerville, Oklahoma for Bellator 239 on Feb. 21. And on that card will be the return of the always entertaining Cris “Sunshine” Lencioni.
The American Top Team: Portland product will go against Salim Mukhidinov in what will be the last fight of his six-fight contract with the promotion. Currently 2-2 in Bellator, Lencioni recently had his fifth fight counted when he was set to take on Robin Van Roosmalen at Bellator 232 in October.
Unfortunately for the Canby, Oregon resident, the debuting former Glory champion in Van Roosmalen missed weight by a whopping nine pounds. Thus leading to the bout’s cancelation and “Sunshine” being rewarded with his show money.
Because of that, he’s now bursting at the seams in anticipation to get back inside the cage and get his hands on someone.
“I just go in, and I’m gonna do my own thing,” Lencioni told MyMMANews. “I know what I got. I know they got some moves, I got a lot more moves. I just like to think that I’m going to be the more mentally prepared, because physically – if you’re not physically prepared, you’ll see that shit real quick.
“I got blue balls from that [last] fight, dude. I was right there. I was ready to get in there and just give him it and then the fight got canceled and I was like, blue balls! Ballwash! And I’ve just been sitting here with these big heavy blue balls. For October, November, December, January, [February] that’s five months, five months of blue balls. Nothing my wife did could satisfy the blue balls.
“I’m going out there to knock this dude out, man,” he continued when speaking of Mukhidinov, “I’m going to go out there and put hands on him and just make love to his upper body. And then if he does allow it, I’ll make love to his lower body as well … in the form of jiu-jitsu. We’ll see what happens.”
If there is a more sexual way to make a fight prediction or gameplan, we may have yet to hear it.
Despite the missed in-cage opportunity in October, the 25-year old has remained as busy as he possibly can since his rebound victory over Adil Benjilany in May 2019.
Since then, “Sunshine” has competed in three different grappling competitions and won all of them impressively. The first being a unanimous decision win over Chad McKinney at Fight 2 Win 114 before he and his teammate John Simon won their tag team match at Submission Underground 9. They defeated team Solid Base by a score of 3-1 as Lencioni scored all three submissions.
Most recently, he secured a one-armed kimura for the win at the inaugural Seizon Grappling event in September. Therefore adding a nice championship belt to his display case.
Aside from that in-competition side of things, the tattooed submission seducer also runs his own gym in Canby by the name of Sunshine Athletics and Fabiano Scherner Jiu-Jitsu. As someone who deals with what he considers his own case of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), once Lencioni had the idea to start a gym, he knew he just had to do it.
As wild of a personality as he can come off as, “Sunshine” is caring and giving back to his community. For him, starting a kids program in Canby was a huge deal as it’s something that was lacking from the small town and he believes other cities take for granted programs like that.
“Dude, honestly, it just changed my life,” he said of his gym. “Fighting is so frickin’ selfish. It’s one of the most self-absorbed, selfish freaking things on Earth and all that you have to go through to get to the fight … unless you’re a heavyweight, then you can just eat whatever you want and do whatever, right? Not train and just show up and win $150,000 like frickin’ Derrick Lewis. Does that dude even train?
“Anyway, I [thought] no, there’s gotta be more to this. I always wanted to work with kids. I mean, I went to college for criminal justice. I’ve always wanted to do – I don’t know, does human rights kind of work? Or civil service work? I’m not a weirdo about it. Like, ‘Ooh, I gotta help the world.’ But one person at a time. Just a little bit of help. Doing this is what I know and it’s an easy way to give back so that’s why I did it.”
Despite still being thick into the midst of his professional fighting career, it seems like a juggle for the featherweight prospect. However, it’s one he accepts wholeheartedly and it’s the challenge that he finds himself desiring.
Like everyone, the story starts somewhere. Lencioni’s began with him taking his licks thanks to his local Taekwondo practitioners. That being before he eventually leveled up to receiving beatings from – let’s say more seasoned training partners.
“I got my ass beat growing up from Taekwondo,” he explained. “And that changed my life because I realized Taekwondo was not as cool as everyone thought it was. Then I was getting kicked out of school and they said, ‘You got to do wrestling,’ and I was like, ‘Crap. That’s that weird stuff where all the dudes are humping each other.’ And so I did that and I was awful at that, but it wasn’t bad. I just kept working. Like everything, I was the underdog, just kept working and then in college, I don’t know exactly what happened, man. I just – there’s so many other little things that made me fall in love with it. A combination of tons of things in my life and then someone told me, ‘You need to go to this place in Portland, it’ll change your life.’ And it was like a rusty-ass gym, dude. Fabiano (Scherner) had a bunch of old guys. They were all purple belts. Now they’re all black belts. Just mean, mean, old assholes. They just f*cked me up, dude. I mean, they f*cked me up. And it changed my life. So I was like, this is it. I just saw the whole plan unfold on how I could take over my own life, I guess. And build a whole brand off of it and so much more has come out of it from what I thought was going to happen. So I’m just riding the frickin’ roller coaster. Let’s go, man. Let’s ride it.
“I think everybody’s secretly competitive, right? Everybody yearns for competition. And this to me was like the ultimate competition. Dude, I was like, ‘Nothing’s crazier than fighting another frickin’ dude.’ Boxing, kickboxing all that other stuff, I didn’t like it, it’s too limited.”
Fighting other dudes for money is serious stuff and only a small percentage of individuals can say that they do it professionally at the highest level. Yet here’s Cris Lencioni. A gamer, a husband, a gym owner, a home improvement “expert,” and just an overall competitor in this thing we call life.
And as life goes on, there’s always more to do and achieve. So what’s next after the Mukhidinov fight? Well, there have been some plans in the works for a while now. Oh, and he has to take his wife on another vacation. Perhaps back to the Caribbean where the “Sunshine” is always felt.
“In a perfect world, we’re looking at a nice, big old, fatty contract with Bellator for a couple more fights,” Lencioni stated when thinking of his 2020 goals. “Preferably cool fights, instead of just random-ass dudes who don’t talk shit on the internet with me. Like, let’s talk a little shit. It’s fun.
“No, but realistically, actually, the biggest thing is, we’re starting up a nonprofit after school program here in Canby. Canby is a small town. There’s a lot of small little towns like this, they don’t have anything for their kids and they like just lose their mind. There’s huge bullying programs. So I’m trying to make mine like a YMCA but good. I’ve worked for the YMCA, it was awful. Never doing that again. And so that’s where all my focus is going into. In a perfect world. I have like a, you know, R.IP. to Kobe [Bryant]. He has the Mamba Sports Academy. I want the frickin’ Sunshine Sports Academy, dude.”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.