The painter and the fighter: the duality of Simon Biyong

Simon Biyong
Photo by Gabriel Kudu

Who is Simon Biyong? A basketball player for an Italian team? A Bellator fighter? Or maybe he is a talented painter?

What is sure, is that he hasn’t always been a mixed martial artist. Born in 1991 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, the Italian-based fighter recalls his early days as a sportsman.

Before he eventually attended his first MMA class, “Helmlé” practiced some team sports, such as football and basketball.

“Being born in the nineties, my first approach with the sport was with football,” Simon Biyong told BJPENN.com. “The Cameroonian national team was doing well in those days, so I started playing football, just like any other young boy in Cameroon. We were not all that good, though, so I realized that’s wasn’t the sport for me. I then switched to basketball, when I was 15. I’m a tall guy (6’6″), so I used all my natural physical gifts to excel in that, and it worked out just better for me.”

The young Cameroonian then decided he had to bring his talent to Italy, in his pursuit of greatness.

“I had a contact in Italy, in Turin. A Cameroonian just like me. He had me staying at his place until I got all my things sorted. Being in a new country is never easy. I had some issues at the beginning, filling all those papers on my own, learning the language, adapting to a different culture,” Biyong remembers.

His time in Turin didn’t last long. The young artist was looking for a Fine Arts academy and he found one some miles away, in Genoa.

“I started studying at Ligustica Fine Arts Academy in Genoa. Meanwhile, I found myself a basketball team to continue playing it, and joined the Varazze basketball team. My first season with them didn’t go as I wished. So, I started looking for a different sport, an individual one. I didn’t want to play team sports again. In a team, you have guys that work harder than others. I started getting frustrated about this and found peace in mixed martial arts. I had never practiced martial arts or combat sports before, but I was watching it on TV, so I kind of know what it was about. I never thought I could compete, that I could fight against another man, but here we are.”

Simon Biyong, though, is not only a man who punches people in the face to make a living. He’s also a skilled painter.

“Art has always been part of me,” he said. “I draw since I was a kid, I always liked to express my feeling through drawings, colors. It’s not that different from mixed martial arts. It’s still art. Martial arts make people express themselves through their bodies. Also, to manage both of these arts you have to work the hardest to reach your goals. I’ve been educated to give my best to reach my goals through hard work and sweat. Moreover, painting and martial arts teach me to be patient, to have a routine to be the best version of myself.”

Simon Biyong
Photo by Gabriel Kudu

Simon Biyong should have clashed with Dutch legend Melvin Manhoef at the first major MMA event to be held on French soil, but on Wednesday the scrap was reportedly called off. In fact, hours later, Bellator officially announced that Manhoef will lock horns with former UFC light heavyweight Corey Anderson at Bellator 251.

On the other hand, Simon Biyong is still waiting for what the future holds for him. Prior to what would have been his Bellator debut, the Italian-Cameroonian had a successful debut in Japanese promotion Rizin Fighting Federation. He’s also the current Extreme Fighting Championship light heavyweight belt-holder.

“EFC is currently on hiatus, Rizin is doing events with only local fighters, due to these COVID restrictions, but I didn’t want to stay benched for too long, so I quickly caught this Bellator opportunity,” Biyong concluded. “I had multiple offers from different major promotions and I have to thank my management, Calibian Sports Management, and my coach Mauro Salis for this. I don’t know where I’m fighting next, but I hope it will be soon.”