France’s Cheick Kongo is determined to make his third shot at the Bellator heavyweight shot count at Bellator 280 in Paris, France.
Kongo has twice fought for the Bellator heavyweight title, but was denied on both occasions. He was outpointed by Vitaly Minakov at Bellator 115 in 2014, then his second shot at the title, against Bader at Bellator 226, ended controversially in a no contest.
After the Bader fight, Kongo said he was hoping to book a swift turnaround to face “Darth” again. But that chance didn’t come, and, almost three years after that first meeting, they will finally meet again this Friday night at the AccorHotels Arena.
“I was expecting the fight [against Bader] to happen really quickly, but it has taken almost three years. I had to keep going no matter what,” he told reporters during a virtual media day session.
“We have the crowd and we have no excuses – showing how great Bellator Paris is, that’s one of the big motivations for Friday.”
The other motivation, it has been suggested, could be the desire to exact revenge for what Kongo perceived to be an injustice after his first tilt at Bader’s title ended prematurely via a no contest.
There has been plenty said by both men since that first fight – not all of it cordial – but Kongo is trying to put the past in the past and focus on the opportunity that lies in front of him on Friday night.
“I don’t have anything against him. Now I can be here and express myself,” he said.
“I have nothing to prove, I just try to do the work that I’m used to. I leave the trash talking and bad blood to one side.
“I used to get some frustrations and disappointments, but as a human being, I have to keep my head up and keep going no matter what.
“Every time I look at myself in the mirror and think about who I am, I’m really proud.”
At the age of 46, Kongo’s shot at championship gold on Friday may well be his last, so he’s determined to claim the biggest win of his career by defeating Bader.
The opportunity to do so on home soil would only make things sweeter as Kongo looks to fly the flag for French MMA.
“It will be great for the French people to have the belt at home and claim France is a really good country for MMA,” he said.
“The supporters and fighters in France used to live for those moments, so for me it’s a normality and a great opportunity to show the world we’re still in the game.
“We are here now – let’s do this!”