Cheick Kongo has nothing but praise for rising UFC heavyweight star Francis Ngannou.
Kongo (25-10-2 MMA, 7-2 BMMA), who is approaching his 10th Bellator fight after spending seven years in the UFC, has long been France?s most notable and successful fighter. Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has assumed that role of late, though, especially after a?first-round knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23 in January.
Ngannou, who lives and trains in?Paris, has been pegged by UFC President Dana White as a future champion capable of holding the gold for a long time. Kongo agrees, and said ?The Predator? is the next generation of MMA fighter in his country.
?He?s very good,? Kongo told MMAjunkie. ?It?s very great for the sport in France. He?s going to bring the notoriety. He?s the future. Every athlete has to pass the torch. I?m not worried or anything like that. My time was my time, and now it?s his time.?
Although Kongo has long been one of the most successful representatives of French MMA, the country is still going through growing pains when it comes to its acceptance of the sport. MMA is essentially banned in France. Rules passed as recently as October outlaw key aspects of MMA fighting such as striking on the ground and hosting bouts inside the confines of a cage.
Lobbying groups are working to force change, but it?s a slow process. Kongo thinks the continued success of a fighter like Ngannou can be the spark that begins to turn the tide for the better, and he?s optimistic that one day soon organizations such as Bellator and the UFC will be able to host events in his home country.
?For sure, when someone is doing great it always increases the potential of something happening,? Kong said. ?Everybody has to recognize his talent and the good things he did. It?s been on the table, but there are big issues that need to be changed. It will happen.
?The sport used to be super crazy for people to look at, but they accept kickboxing and wrestling and judo and karate. It needs to be recognized like those. We have a big MMA group out there lobbying. It will be great.?
Ngannou has yet to have his next fight booked since beating Arlovski for his fifth consecutive octagon victory, all by stoppage. Kongo fights Oli Thompson at Bellator 172 on Feb. 18 in San Jose, Calif. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.
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