October 14, 2010

Cheick Kongo

Cheick Kongo at UFC 87

Home field advantage. It’s one of those things in sports that teams and athletes look at as a psychological edge. With this advantage, competitors have the opportunity to get the utmost support from the local faithful when facing opposition.

With France just two hours away from the O2 Arena in London, UFC 120 fighter Cheick Kongo (15-6-1) is on deck to demonstrate what 240 pounds of raw muscle can do when backed by local support.

The heavyweight mixed martial artist is looking forward to the chance to perform in front of, what could be, a great deal of French fans.

“That’s a good thing… for myself (and) for the French people,” Kongo told MMAWeekly.com. “It’s going to be a good opportunity. For the French fan, it’s going to be a good thing to have (the) UFC… close to France.”

Though fighting with that sense of home can be advantageous for most, it’s doesn’t seem to be something the Frenchman looks for. When asked if he prefers fighting in venues close to his native land, Kongo was very clear when he said, “I fight where I have to fight.”

And fighting is something he’s done a lot of.

Over the past nine years, Kongo has competed in 22 professional fights, while competing consistently in both North America and Europe.

In his last outing, the fighter out of Wolfslair Academy in London beat Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello in a hard fought, three-round battle that ended with Kongo earning the submission via strikes.

Kongo stated that he wasn’t 100-percent in that fight, and that he was experiencing cold and flu symptoms, but he followed through with the fight anyway.

“Last time, against Paul Buentello, I was sick,” he said.

Heading into UFC 120, Kongo says that he feels good and is in shape to compete at the highest level. He’ll need all the gusto he can muster when he steps in the Octagon against his scheduled opponent, Travis Browne (10-0);.

Admittedly, Kongo hasn’t seen a lot of his pending opposition, stating that he’s only watched the last bout Browne had, which was the undefeated fighter’s UFC debut.

“The only one I saw was the fight against (James) McSweeney,” Kongo said when talking about what he knows of his opponent’s history.

In 10 professional fights, Browne has seen a contest go to decision only one time. Seven of his 10 wins have come by first-round stoppage, including the recent win over the former Ultimate Fighter contestant, McSweeney.

As for Kongo, he maintains that his job, moving forward, is to keep the ranking he deserves and work his way back into title contention.

Fighting their way to a title is what many, if not all, fighters train for. Some might be in the sport for the name recognition and star power, but not Kongo.

“When I came (to the UFC), I didn’t say ‘yeah, I want to be a UFC fighter just to be famous,’” said Kongo. “I never came (into the) UFC expecting that.”

With title hopes still on his mind, Kongo realizes that he has to make good work of Browne at UFC 120. Looking ahead, the European fighter has a bit of unfinished business he’d like to handle after he gets past this weekend.

“Of course, for the reason (of defeating) me so bad last time, Frank Mir,” Kongo revealed about a fight he’d like to try again.

Mir and Kongo first tangled at UFC 107. In that bout, Mir bulked up to a hefty 265 pounds and showed some much-improved stand-up offense by throwing an overhand left that put Kongo down on the ground. Ultimately, the night ended up being in Mir’s favor when he submitted the Frenchman via guillotine in the first round.

If Kongo gets passed Browne, he’ll put himself in prime position to get his revenge on Mir and work his way into the title contention he’s been searching for.