Cheick Kongo “UFC 144 Japan, Knockouts, Backs & Alistair Overeem” – Interview
By Dave Carpinello
UFC heavyweight contender, Cheick Kongo recently took some time to talk with PDG about his upcoming fight against Mark Hunt at UFC 144 Japan, the growth of the UFC and recent heavyweight fights in the UFC.
PDG: First off congrats on a great 2011; how did you celebrate the New Year?
Cheick Kongo: Thank you! I celebrated it with my family and friends. It is always nice to get together around a good meal shared in a joyous and easy-going atmosphere.
PDG: You went 2-0 in 2011; which fight taught you more about yourself as a fighter, Matt ‘Meathead’ Mitrione or Pat ‘HD’ Barry?
Cheick Kongo: Neither one of them, I learn from all my fights. As you know I was coming back from a long recovery after my back surgery. The biggest mistake I have made was not to listen to my body while it was hurt and take some time to recover. I thought I could get over it and fight with the injuries and pain. It wasn’t true though and it cost me a lot. Now I feel like I am at my best and 2012 should be a great year.
PDG: After watching your Knockout of the Night against Barry on tape; what surprised you most about the fight?
Cheick Kongo: I thought Barry would put more pressure on me and absorb the counter-strikes a little better. I had to win this fight by any means necessary and that is exactly what I did.
PDG: You only had two fights in 2011, would you like more in 2012 and was there any lingering injury effects from the back surgery that lead to you only fighting twice in 2011?
Cheick Kongo: I had only two fights in 2011 because I had to undergo that surgical operation and it required a long convalescence and recovery time. It is not the quantity of fights but the quality of the fights that matter to me. This year, I want to do good fights for my fans and myself that will lead me to the title.
PDG: Your next fight is against Mark Hunt at UFC 144 Japan; what do you think of the former K-1 fighter and being a part of the UFC’s first official visit to Japan since 2000?
Cheick Kongo: I respect him as a former K-1 fighter. Hunt is a very experienced opponent, a very tough “like hard to evil” fighter. I don’t know anything about Japan and this is going to be my first time in Tokyo and I am very excited about beating him there where he is so well-known.
PDG: Do you think fighting in Japan will affect you any differently than traveling to the US to fight (jetlag, diet, etc.)?
Cheick Kongo: I have traveled a lot but never to Japan, everything seems quite different there but I am not anxious at all because my partner and brother Rampage Jackson is very familiar with the Japanese food and culture. Let’s say that we’re working hard now to be both ready for “The Land of the Rising Sun”.
PDG: In 2011, the UFC acquired Strikeforce and also signed a major network TV deal with FOX; which one of the two do you:
A) Think benefits the Fighters More?
Cheick Kongo: Both of them are good for us. Now all the top fighters are under one roof and a deal with FOX will provide us with much bigger media exposure.
B) Think benefits the sport of MMA More?
Cheick Kongo: The UFC is the best MMA organization by far and I dream of a UFC League like the NBA… The UFC’s acquisition of Strikeforce will develop mixed martial arts into a stronger Global Force… I can’t wait for the next step.
C) Benefits you more?
Cheick Kongo: I am a fighter and I want to fight the best Heavyweight fighters in the world. It is good to see Alistair Overeem in UFC now… Here we are!
PDG: As per usual with our interviews, can you update us on the state of MMA in France, any news?
Cheick Kongo: The UFC is doing a great work in France right now and despite a difficult start there has been good progress made. I am wishing that the UFC will be able to hold an event by the end of 2012 in Paris.
PDG: Back to your training for UFC 144, what kind of schedule are you keeping now (hours, types of workouts, etc.)?
Cheick Kongo: I am not going to give you all my details for some obvious reasons but what I can say is that:
From Monday to Friday: I start at 6 am: Jogging for one hour, 10 am: Sparring, 2 pm: Boxing techniques (Muay Thai, Boxing, KickBoxing), 6 pm: Ground techniques (Wrestling, Luta Livre, BJJ), 8 pm: Body-Building.
All Saturdays and Sundays: I start at 10 am with a specific cardio training regime.
PDG: As a UFC Heavyweight Contender I have to ask you what you thought of Alistair Overeem’s victory over Brock Lesnar and if you wish you had a chance to face Lesnar before his retirement?
Cheick Kongo: I would have loved to have been able to fight him; Lesnar would have been a very exciting challenge. In regards to Overeem’s victory, I wasn’t surprised at all, he is a very good fighter and I am very happy for him but at the same time, I am a bit disappointed. How is it that Overeem could get a fight so quickly for the UFC heavyweight title while it took Cain Velasquez six wins in a row to fight Lesnar, the former defending champion? This is not fair.
PDG: In your opinion, who are the top 5 Heavyweight Fighters in the world (All MMA)?
Cheick Kongo: 1. Junior Dos Santos, 2. Cain Velasquez, 3. Alistair Overeem, 4. Frank Mir, 5. Me (Laughs)!
PDG: Thanks again for your time, is there anything else you wanted add?
Cheick Kongo: Many thanks to you, David, to PunchDrunkGamer.com and all my fans there. Also thanks to the UFC, my team Wolfslair, my partners, my sponsors MMAElite, FordHB, Pull In, Compagnie de Californie, Whereamfrom & last but not least, MusclePharm. And a special thanks to my family and friends who have supported me from day one.
Don’t forget to watch my fight against Mark Hunt at UFC 144 – Japan!
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