Playing Matchmaker: Cheick Kongo’s First Fights Outside The UFC
It’s official: Cheick Kongo and the Ultimate Fighting Championship are no longer affiliated with each other. After nearly seven years of working for the UFC and calling the octagon his home, Kongo is looking to pursue a career outside of Zuffa.
Kongo’s first win over a big-name came after he defeated Mirko Cro Cop by decision. After that bout, Kongo was on a lot of fighter’s radars and fans and kept their eyes on him as someone who could be a future contender for the title. He had the look and the talent, but it all went downhill after his losses to former UFC Heavyweight Champions Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir.
Kongo seemed to return to form when he defeated Paul Buentello by way of submission due to strikes. Unfortunately, he did not go back to proving himself as a up-and-coming contender to the division’s title. After grabbing Travis Browne’s shorts, Kongo had a point deducted from his score total that resulted in the two battling to a draw. In his bout with Pat Barry, albeit an exciting victory, he took a lot of damage in a win that came from Barry not fighting intelligently. His most recent relevant victory against Matt Mitrione was overall uneventful. After suffering knockout losses to Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo decided to take a break from UFC action.
Although fans hear a name like Kongo’s and immediately think of the UFC, Kongo was a successful kickboxer before he even stepped foot into a cage. His kickboxing record is a thing of legend as not even Wikipedia has the correct information, but he was a skilled knockout artist in the ring and had a lot of potential in the sport. Thankfully he opted to become a mixed martial artist, a sport which raised the stock of his name tremendously. Now, he can use that fame to make money in other organisations and rebuild his legacy as an elite heavyweight fighter on his way back to the UFC.
vs. Mirko Cro Cop (K-1, Kickboxing Rules)
When their bout was announced for UFC 75 long ago, fans of mixed martial arts were intrigued. Fans of kickboxing were elated. Cro Cop has a history of knocking out his opponents in devastating fashion and Kongo was doing the same early on in his career. Fans from both sports were disappointed when the fight ended by way of decision, but if they fought under kickboxing rules at a K-1 event I’m confident the results would be different. Cro Cop just won the 2013 K-1 World Grand Prix (let’s pretend that still means something) and Kongo’s appearance on the poster alone would sell tickets in Japan. The man is built like a monster.
vs. Semmy Schilt (GLORY Kickboxing, MMA Rules)
Semmy Schilt is a Dutch kickboxer who is currently touted as the best on the planet. It’s no hype, either. The man has defeated a who’s who in heavyweight kickboxing and has won six major heavyweight tournaments (against elite competition, unlike Cro Cop’s most recent tournament win). There are rumors floating around that Schilt only wants to do a couple more kickboxing fights before he makes his return to mixed martial arts. This would be a good way to still make a lot of money without fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship as Dana White would likely never sign him. Kongo would have the advantage on the ground, however in a kickboxing promotion like GLORY, there would be very little time for Kongo to stall. This would most likely be a stand-up affair with only one man with his eyes open at the end of the fight.
vs. Tyrone Spong (World Series of Fighting, MMA Rules)
This is the most intriguing option, in my opinion. World Series of Fighting is building a name for themselves by taking UFC’s recently cut fighters and giving them a new home. Some view this as a cheap way to make a name for yourself, but they’re doing it in a way that doesn’t seem desperate. By being patient and signing names like Jon Fitch, Aaron Simpson and Tyson Griffin they are sifting through the list of cut fighters that still have potential or still have a name value. Cheick Kongo fills those both of those qualifications.
His debut fight against Tyrone Spong could easily main-event a card and would generate a lot of buzz. Spong, a topnotch kickboxer who is looking to make a name for himself in MMA, is one of the toughest and scariest looking heavyweights you could think of. When he suffered a broken arm against Alistair Overeem, he didn’t acknowledge it pushed through the pain to make it to the judges’ decision. Some would say that Spong would have the advantage standing, but still in his rookie years of mixed martial arts Spong’s striking is still heavy in its kickboxing roots. One would assume that Kongo has the ground advantage, but Spong has been honing his ground game with Rashad Evans. There are too many variables in this matchup to say who is the favorite and who is the underdog. I just want to see it happen.