by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Heath Herring was almost the fighter that spoiled Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera’s debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but after nearly knocking the Brazilian out in the first round of their third fight, “The Texas Crazy Horse” lost a unanimous decision in the end.
Now after taking some much needed time off to retool and refocus, Herring is on his way back to the Octagon to face French striker Cheick Kongo at UFC 82: Pride of a Champion.
“I kind of needed to do that,” said Herring about his time off between fights. “Go figure out what went wrong, what we didn’t do right. Try to correct those errors and those mistakes.”
Working primarily in Las Vegas, Herring has also retooled his training camp a bit by adding arguably the greatest kickboxer in history to his stable of trainers.
“I’m working with Rob Kaman,” he commented. “I think that’s probably the biggest change as far as the actual fighting is concerned.”
With the fight just days away, the biggest question posed to Herring has been about Kongo’s apparent lack of ground skills and if the Texan will take the fight to the mat to try and gain the upper hand.
“I think that’s the big question in everybody’s minds. Hopefully you guys will pay $40 bucks and we’ll get to find out on Saturday,” said Herring with a laugh.
Since coming to the UFC, Kongo has received many compliments about his style of striking, which has gained him much notoriety and a win over former top fighter Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic.
But Herring has another compliment to pay to Kongo prior to their fight at UFC 82.
“I think his conditioning has actually been the best so far,” he said about his opponent’s attributes. “He seems to always do a really, really good job of finishing about as good as he starts. That’s saying something in the heavyweight division the way it is right now.”
While just about everyone expects Kongo to stay standing, is it even possible that he could try to take Herring down?
“Stranger things have happened,” stated Herring. “If you guys remember back to the Pride days when I fought Igor Vovchanchyn, I mean whoever saw Igor do a takedown? He was taking me down left and right in that fight. Who knows? I’ve come to learn one thing in this sport and that’s expect everything.”
Herring was known for much of his early career as the fighter who did the wrestling and submissions, but lately he has favored the stand-up game and he explains it’s just a matter of doing what the fans like to see.
“I like that style of fighting. I like the fan response,” he commented. “Obviously the fans and the public are just really excited about this fight. Two big guys, they know there’s a chance for a knockout. First and foremost you’ve got to remember that I’m an entertainer and people are paying their money because they want to be entertained and they want to see a good fight.”
If the fight does stay standing, Herring likes his chances because Kongo will not be the biggest fighter he’s faced in the past. So in this bout, size doesn’t matter.
“You guys have got to remember, this ain’t my first rodeo. I’m just as tall as he is, I’m 6’4″, he’s 6’4″,” he said. “I’ve fought guys who were 7’7″ before. This guy isn’t going to throw anything at me that I haven’t seen before.”
What Herring wants most and what he expects is a great fight with Kongo leading into the main event between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson.
“I think it’s a great fight. I mean Kongo I think is a great opponent for me. Co-main (event) in Columbus, Ohio, what better way to come in and have a great stand-up battle with another guy.”