(“And stay outta mah goddamn onion patch!” / Photo via MMAFighting.com)
Bellator announced in a press release today that it has signed heavyweight striker Cheick Kongo, who will make his debut for the promotion this fall, and will be featured in its Season 9 Heavyweight Tournament. Kongo was released by the UFC earlier this year following a knockout loss to Roy Nelson at UFC 159. Since then, the 38-year-old has been keeping busy with his high-end clothing boutique in Los Angeles (seriously), but the lure of the cage was too great to ignore. As he explained:
“After my contract was up in the UFC, I really wanted to take some time and reflect on everything. After talking to the people around me, especially someone like my longtime friend in Rampage, he told me how well Bellator has been treating him and what we can do with Bellator, and after getting to know Bjorn Rebney, it just seemed like the right fit for me. I know I have plenty of fight left in me, and my fight in October is the first step to getting that Bellator Heavyweight Title.”
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney added: “If you’re an MMA fan, you’re a Kongo fan. No matter who he fights he’s always going to bring the fight and put on a great show, and he’s one of the best guys you’ll have the pleasure of dealing with in MMA.”
Holy crap, let me stop you right there. I’m an MMA fan, and I can think of a few good reasons not to like Cheick Kongo. Plus, I wouldn’t say he always brings the fight. His epic punch-out with Pat Barry aside, Kongo’s UFC career became more known for tedious clinch-battles against guys like Travis Browne, Matt Mitrione, and Shawn Jordan. The guy has a “Worst Fight of the Year” Potato Award on his mantle for just that reason.
Bellator can spin this one how they want, but hiring Kongo just seems like another example of Viacom picking up another aging leftover from the UFC in the hopes that MMA fans tune in and say “hey, I know that guy.” And God forbid Kongo actually goes on a little run and becomes Heavyweight Champion of Bellator. What message would that send about the talent level in Bellator in relation to the UFC?