The one and only legend of French MMA, Cheick Kongo will attempt to write one of the greatest chapters of his career by challenging Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title this Friday night in Paris (live from 9pm on RMC Sport 2). † At forty-six, the still professional French fighter can become a champion in front of his family, in a country where his discipline has long been banned.
What if he stopped there? As his highly anticipated fight against Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title approaches in Bercy, Cheick Kongo faces many questions about his future. At the age of 46, with a professional career that started in June 2001 (31-11 in career), the only legend of French MMA – there will undoubtedly be more in the future, but only he deserves this status at this point moment – is not necessarily very far from the end of the road. We even caught ourselves imagining him winning the belt against Bader before dropping the gloves in the middle of the cage of the Paris fence to bend.
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“He will be the one to decide, but it would be a fantastic way to end his career,” Bellator chairman Scott Coker said. “It’s possible,” replied the person on the RMC Fighter Club podcast. For qualifying these last few days: “This opportunity is very far away. Maybe, but… You have to be smart enough not to fight too much. But who knows when it will happen? Maybe I’ll do one or two more or not at all But right now that’s not the idea I have in mind at all Would I like the belt if I win it I already cleared the category It will just be the icing on the cake to this to complete everything. So technically no. But we don’t know. It’s just abstract.”
In his words we feel that the old sage, highly respected by those who followed him, is questioning himself. Logic. It would be nice to leave like this. If he wins the Bellator heavyweight title, Kongo will have forever marked a history of French MMA that he helped shape in the beginning: he will become the first holy tricolor representative in one of the two major organizations (with the UFC) of the discipline but also the oldest neo-champion in the history of these two main organizations! “This is the chance to set the record straight and impress, to tell the public: here you go, we can do it,” announces a Congo “not to get beat up” but “to win as it should”†
All this in front of his family, not far from his native Sevran, where he promises to regain the title if he wins, in his country where his sport has been banned for so long. “It will be special for French MMA fans to finally experience this kind of event and not have to see it on television,” he smiles. They will be able to participate and it’s beautiful.” Victory or defeat, Kongo promised to “light the fire”. We can take him at his word. Especially since there is a frustration that needs to be erased.
“We will settle our accounts”
His first title fight against Bader, in September 2019, a second chance for the Bellator heavyweight title after his decision loss to Russian Vitaly Minakov in April 2014, ended in controversy: Congo, dominated at the start of the fight, was hit by a finger in the officially “accidental” left eye that prompted the doctor to fight the first round for a no game (no decision). Since then, the two protagonists have passed the honors. The Frenchman claims that the thing was intentional (also with a finger in the nose, visible in the image) because his opponent felt the shock would turn against him.
The American, who recalls not seeing a single image to prove his finger in the eye, claims it was an uppercut that hit the challenger. Kongo also complains that he did not have the opportunity to explain the situation when Bader was able to answer at a press conference. In short, a debate must be closed. “We are going to settle our accounts”, Kongo launches with gusto. And the desire to start the fight better than what he had done in 2019: “It’s going well in a nutshell. In the beginning it was really in diesel mode, testing, getting into the juice. But he is someone who should not be allowed to to force himself and take his traces of entry We will have to block him from the beginning and do the job, suffocate him.
Kongo will fight for him, for his legend, for his heritage, and for the crowds that gathered in Bercy to push him. As always, he will also fight for a more global goal in a country where the rejection of the other has been gaining ground in recent years. “In addition, it brings real respect for the African, North African, black, he launched in a press conference† We’re here, we’re part of France, we’re recognized all over the world as French and it’s a matter of honor because when we look at Africa today, it’s contempt, contempt and so on.” And to complete our microphone: “It is a real spearhead for me, values that I am attached to and that I want to defend”.
This is part of what keeps Kongo going. For the rest, finding the origin of the eternal side of the fighter who was exiled in the United States for years makes us dive into his daily life like a great professional. The one where he continues to train himself several hours a day to stay in sparkling shape. To explain his longevity, he also often points to the fact that he has never used doping products to prepare, unlike many fighters of his generation. We also have a feeling the subject, which he says is “always” pregnant in MMA, is working on it. “The biggest danger with Bader? Technically, if I have to be honest, they are… illegal products, he releases us laughing† But I don’t care. Whether he takes it or not, he will eat double.”
And to philosophize about the question: “It will be fine if people understand that it ruins lives in the long run. They are happy, they make money and everything that comes with it, but if it is to live in a wheelchair or to walking with canes in my early 40s, no… And that’s a lot of that. Getting away from all that stuff has helped me.” When asked about his top 5 heavyweight MMA history or his dream fight that never happened, the answers as reminders of his own status as a legend in the discipline.
“A dream fight? Maybe against myself, even though I already do it every day in training. (…) My top 5? It’s up to you. But none of them make me blush.” The story of the French fighter, who has won nine wins in his last eleven fights but only one in his last three matches, will continue to be written in Bercy. Where Cheick Kongo can afford the best chapter of his personal book, so deserved for all he’s done. If he succeeds and stops, no one can blame him. We just have to thank you for everything.