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Cheick Kongo focused on Tony Johnson but open to Matt Mitrione rematch

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Since joining Bellator MMA in 2013, Cheick Kongo has quietly amassed a respectable 6-2 record with the promotion. His two losses were a split-decision defeat to Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal and a unanimous decision loss in a title fight with former champ Vitaly Minakov.

Kongo will square off against Tony Johnson (10-2 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) at Bellator 161 on September 16th at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas. Johnson’s victories include Derrick Lewis, Tim Sylvia and Alexander Volkov, and he faced a 3-0 rookie named Daniel Cormier in a losing effort back in 2010. Kongo’s reputation will not phase Johnson, and the Frenchman certainly isn’t taking this fight lightly.

“Training camp was really good,” he said. “I’m blessed to have all the guys around me that I do. Everything was good, I trained a lot at Fortune Gym in West Hollywood, training boxing and MMA. The camp was really good, training was good and I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done together.”

Kongo admitted he felt the bout, which he assures will be contested on the feet, should ‘probably’ be for the Bellator heavyweight championship, a title that has been vacant since it was stripped from Vitaly Minakov due to inactivity back in May. It would have made sense- no one holds more Bellator wins than Kongo on the current heavyweight roster, and looking down that roster it’s hard to find any fighters with a particularly strong claim to a title shot.

Speaking of the Bellator heavyweight division, Kongo, who holds notable career victories over Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović, Shawn Jordan and Pat Barry, was recently joined in Bellator by another man he holds a win over; Matt Mitrione.  I asked if Kongo would be interested in a rematch with the man he last faced almost five years ago.

“Yeah, for sure. It would be a different fight,” he said. “But it would be a good fight, and a good fight for the division.”

Now that New York has finally legalised MMA, the most notable hold-out remaining is probably Kongo’s home country, France. There has been recent lobbying and steps taken towards legalising MMA in France, and Bellator have hosted events recently in Italy and London and have an upcoming kickboxing card in Hungary, but is it still likely that Kongo, aged 41, will get the opportunity to fight in front of his home fans?

“It would be great if it could happen before the end of my career,” Kongo said. “Most of my fights I travel all over so it would be great to fight in front of my people, but with MMA being illegal in France I won’t wait for that.

When New York did eventually start to thaw on MMA, early this year, things did actually escalate quickly. Fingers crossed we could see a similar sudden turnaround in France. Who knows, maybe even for the Bellator title?

Bellator 161: Kongo vs. Johnson takes place this Friday, September 16th

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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