Since making his UFC debut almost seven years ago at UFC 61, heavyweight Cheick Kongo has etched his name in the history of the world’s premier fighting organization with knockout authority.
Having one of the longest tenures of any fighter on the company’s roster, as well as having more heavyweight Octagon victories than UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, Kongo has earned the reputation as one of the more difficult tests for aspiring big men looking to gauge their fighting mettle.
A native Las Vegan, Nelson made his name in MMA over the years by having a “unique” physique coupled with a wild, haymaker approach to his fights.
Nelson, unlike some opponents Kongo has faced in the past, doesn’t tower in stature (he’s only six-feet tall) and certainly doesn’t offer much in the P90X department. But that hasn’t stopped Nelson from earning back-to-back first-round knockout wins over Dave Herman and Matt Mitrione.
With that in mind, on Saturday, when Kongo is staring down the cage at a figure that resembles a cast-off from “Over the Top” more than the stereotype of a professional fighter, he won’t be letting any illusions throw him off of his game.
“It’s the world of fighting. You’re always fighting a different type of body,” said Kongo in regards to Nelson’s less-than-athletic physique.
“When I faced Pat Barry, Mark Hunt, and different guys like that, I didn’t change, I just tried to adapt my style. That’s why you call us ‘fighter.’ Because we don’t care who we are going to face.
“The thing is, we’re fighting in the same weight class to fight an opponent, and whatever the body type, we need to be ready to face that because that’s our job.”
Part of the job also requires facing aggressive opponents. But even in a world where aggression signs the paychecks, Roy Nelson is the Rupert Murdoch of check writing.
“His style is really good. He’s really good. He’s very impressive,” stated Kongo.
“I’ve never saw somebody facing people – except Mark Hunt – who went in there and said, ‘Okay, show me what you got, and I’ll show you what I got.’ That’s just, whoa. I have to make him flinch for that, and if I can’t, then I’m in trouble. “
With the 37-year-old’s career undoubtedly headed into the home stretch, if you’re looking for signs of Kongo slowing down, then you should look somewhere else. Kongo is well aware that now is the time to make a statement.
“If people think everyone can fight – no. If I have to fight, I have to win,” he said.
“It’s not a pleasure to come back with bruises, cut and everything. And of course you have to think of this: that’s a risky job. We make a choice and we take the deal.
“During this fight, no matter what’s going on, he’s a really good guy. He’s a really good fighter. I have nothing bad to say. He has a really good record, and I just want to be the next one to beat him. That’s it.
“If I have to be crazy during the bout – and he will – I’ll do it. I won’t refuse to fight; I’ll go straight away.”
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