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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Bellator heavyweight title challenger Cheick Kongo is a striking technician who’s added wrestling to his game.
But to beat two-division champion Ryan Bader, Kongo said he needs to re-align himself with the most basic purpose of fighting.
“Honestly, that’s something people forget,” Kongo told MMA Junkie in advance of Saturday’s title fight at Bellator 226. “I need to hurt him to bring the victory.”
Obvious as that sounds, gameplans and other strategies can get in the way of that goal.
“I don’t think many fighters are used to thinking about it,” Kongo said. “Some guys used to do it, and they never used to think about hurting people, and they get focused on the game. But the reality of the fight is hurting people – not mentally, but physically.”
Kongo, 44, has been criticized in the past for playing it safe. He admits he’s gotten caught in the trap of thinking too much in the cage, and he doesn’t want to get stuck when the time comes to strike Bader.
“I think it’s a talent to hurt people,” he said. “And in that domain, I think I’m one of the great surgeons.”
Against a strong wrestler such as Bader, a single mistake could cost Kongo an extended stretch of the fight on his back. So it’s no wonder he wants to strike fast and strike hard. Bader is coming to take him down, and pain will be the best motivator to put that to a stop.
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