MMA veteran Cheick Kongo produced another battling performance at Bellator 265, overcoming the wrath of Russian powerhouse Sergei Kharitonov. The victory for Kongo edges him closer to a heavyweight-title shot, which he certainly deserves.
The 46-year-old is competing at an un-human-like standard, finishing one of the top fighters in the heavyweight division. For over 20 years we’ve seen Kongo involved in many classics, who can forget the sensational knockout over Pat Barry at UFC on Versus 4 in 2011.
Over the years, Kongo has knocked out 15 of the opponents he’s come up against, and it’s a rare occasion he comes up with a submission. After a back and forth battle on the feet, Kongo worked his way to find the rear-naked choke and he squeezed as if his life depended on it. He submitted Kharitonov with only a second left on the clock in the second round.
After his victory, I had the pleasure of speaking to the legend himself, with an idea in his mind for the next heavyweight title bout.
“I Used to Say I Will Be Retired at This Age”
So, Cheick, congratulations on the win at Bellator 265. Slightly over 20 years ago on June 10th, 2001, you earned your first professional MMA victory, now you’re still competing and have just battled through your 31st career win, does that sound surreal to you?
Cheick Kongo – It’s surprising, not surreal, to see myself performing at my age when I used to say I will be retired at this age.
Overall, how impressed were you with your performance?
Cheick Kongo – Not that much to be honest, more choked by the deepest respect of Kharitonov, to me.
Talk to me about the first round, did Kharitonov have you hurt in there, or did the toe to the eye have an effect on you?
Cheick Kongo – I knew Sergei prepared this fight really hard to win. So I have to tease and push him during the exchange. Then when it got my eye, I have to go and shut his confidence. Of course, a toe in the eye hurts.
It was your fourth career submission in 19 finishes, that must have been some feeling to come away with that? Was it something you expected?
Cheick Kongo – I didn’t expect or plan anything. I knew the fight will be like the one I made against Peter Graham. What I realized was I hurt Sergei pretty bad with my strikes because when I cranked his jaw to make him tapped. I didn’t use a lot of strength. For sure, I didn’t want to use the ground n pound and waste my stamina, so when I saw he covered well, I opted for the choke then the crank.
I have to say, there is nobody competing to the standard you are at the age of 46 in a promotion as big as Bellator. What’s the secret?
Cheick Kongo – I used to understand the key of the success to enjoy all your motions and mobilities was to take good care of myself. I got the chance to be supported by great partners like Kynett flywheel, Trace The Body ( PT clinic ), Joe Local strength and conditioning, and non-stop training.
So, what’s next for Cheick Kongo inside the cage?
Cheick Kongo – Technically, the best scenario will be to fight against Bader but the real deal now will be to strip Bader and fight Moldavsky for the belt in the good sense with no bs.
Finally, I would love to know, how did you celebrate your victory or are you planning on it?
Cheick Kongo – I didn’t do anything special, I shared a nice meal with my teammates and friends and exchanged some gratitude.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images