What does Cheick Kongo (pictured) have in common with Matt Riddle, Tito Ortiz and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson? The quartet are all former UFC fighters to join Bellator MMA within the past several months.
On Wednesday, Bellator announced the signing of Kongo. The veteran will make his promotional debut in September as a contestant in their Heavyweight Tournament.
“After my contract was up in the UFC, I really wanted to take some time and reflect on everything,” Kongo said. “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.”
Kongo was offered a contract extension prior to meeting Roy Nelson at UFC 159, but the 38-year-old turned down the offer. Perhaps Kongo was banking on a win to increase his bargaining power.
Unfortunately for the chiseled 265-pounder, he was knocked unconscious and the UFC official was no longer interested in retaining Kongo’s services. Bellator was more than happy to scoop up the free agent.
“If you’re an MMA fan, you’re a Kongo fan,” Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “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. This is another example of our alliance with Wolfslair and Anthony McGann resulting in our signing an exciting, explosive fighter to our roster who fans know and love.”
The kickboxer went 11-6-1 during his seven-year run inside the Octagon. He never fought for a UFC title.