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SAN JOSE, Calif. – A switch apparently has been turned on for Cheick Kongo.
Earlier this week, Kongo told MMA Junkie that he knows he must hurt heavyweight champion Ryan Bader in order to win their Bellator 226 title fight. And if Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins faceoff is any indicator, he meant it.
The normally mild-mannered Kongo, 44, walked across the dais and came face to face with Bader for the first and only time. In a move that would be considered out of character, Kongo delivered a hard shove that clearly caught the champion off guard and knocked him back on his heels. Bellator president Scott Coker and others immediately stepped in, but Kongo’s message was sent.
Coker noted that this is Kongo’s big opportunity after expressing displeasure over not being a part of the heavyweight grand prix tournament, which crowned Bader champion. And Coker wondered if Kongo is feeling nerves heading into the fight.
“This is his big fight,” Coker told MMA Junkie after the weigh-ins, “and I think that he wants to prove to everybody that you know, he should have been in the tournament, and he should have fought for the belt last January. But this is a big opportunity for him, and I think he’s a little nervous to be honest with, and that’s what you saw there, that reaction, because I’ve never seen that from him before.”
You can watch the shocking moment unfold in the video above.
Bellator 226 takes place Saturday at SAP Center. Bader vs. Kongo headlines the card, which streams on DAZN and MMA Junkie.
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