“It’s Been Lovely” Cheick Kongo Looks For Gold At Bellator 226
While Bellator President Scott Coker considers Ryan Bader the best heavyweight in MMA, Cheick Kongo looks to put that theory to the test at Bellator 226.
“It’s not like I’m thinking something like ‘oh he’s a champ, double champ’ I don’t care about that,” Kongo told FIGHT SPORTS over the phone last week. “For sure he holds my respect because he’s a champ but that’s it. As a person you know, we’re going to meet together next week so we have to show the best I think because gonna try to hold me on the ground or I don’t know, try to run or whatever. It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be bad. I wish it’s gonna be bad.”
“My success is just about determination. I’ve never been in the business just to be beat up. For sure, I’m a real competitor. I never used to fight just to get the fame you know, or the glow,” the 44-year-old fighter said of his career heading into Saturday night.
“You know fighting is very serious. I don’t want to look back like someday for some reason and just look at some pictures and say oh you know what when I was younger, I was “that fighter” you know, I don’t care about that. I don’t care about admiration. For sure you know, I wish to be a part of history, but I don’t need to especially talk to myself or talk about myself about what I did in the past.”
When talking about his longevity in the sport, Kongo cites his avoidance of performance-enhancing drugs as the key reason he’s able to have had his 18th year as a mixed martial artist.
“The thing is I still have some gas in the tank to keep going and I can tell from that that I used to be pretty smart to be away from [the] juice or so but why that’s the reason why today they have to keep performing in a good way,” Kongo said. “Compared to my colleagues because some of them used to get too much into juice or whatever they used to take to get the [edge].”
“They probably made a lot of money, but in the end, how do they look like now,” Kongo continued. “Just like crap. So anyway, everybody has to give it his life and it’s the same for me. And that’s what I do, every day. So, for sure, you know why they are performing well just because of that. I used to be real smart at some point you know, just to get a different life, not be recognized, because I never ran after the fame. And today you know no matter what happened I’m still proud of myself.
“I can look at myself in front of the mirror and I choose to say ‘hey, I made mistakes but I’m still proud of myself because I never fail.’ And when I show up, I show up as a man, not as a f***ng coward.”
While Kongo does not anticipate retirement coming, he’s come to terms with having to say “bye-bye” at some point.
“I have to be really smart and clever. Smart and clever are the same but yeah, I really need to be wise. I don’t know but just taking the right time just to get precision about that, but you know the happiness and I think you know when would be the time to pass the flame I will,” Kongo concluded.
“I will say okay guys, it was lovely but it’s time to say bye-bye.”
Kongo headlines Bellator 226 against Ryan Bader for the Bellator heavyweight championship from the SAP Center in San Jose, California on Saturday, September 7th on DAZN.