Bellator 172: “Fedor vs. Mitrione” comes to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (Feb. 18, 2017), featuring a main event between Heavyweight legend “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko against down hungry Bellator “Meathead” Matt Mitrione.
As it turns out, though, they aren’t the only Heavyweights who will be in the spotlight that night on Spike TV.
With 37 professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fights under his belt that date back to the early 2000’s, it’s no idle threat when Cheick Kongo vows to shroud an opponent in “The Darkness.” Indeed, the French-born fighter has won seven of nine bouts since coming to Bellator. Meanwhile, “Britain’s Strongest Man,” Oli Thompson, hasn’t fared nearly as well in his only bout for the promotion so far, losing to the man fighting Emelianenko in the main event coincidentally enough.
In a recent interview with MMAmania.com, Thompson explained how he intends to shine a light on “The Darkness” at Bellator 172 and how, in his view, the Mitrione setback wasn’t even a loss.
“In my mind, I’m still on a five-fight win streak now, because the Mitrione fight was on very late notice, so I’ve found a way to sort of write that off in my head.”
The fight was only made official two weeks before Bellator 158 even though it had been promoted at “Dynamite 2” in St. Louis, Mo., because Mitrione had to be medically cleared to compete again. Regardless of whether it was two, three or four weeks, Thompson feels he acquitted himself well against “Meathead.” So much so he’d like to run it back a second time.
“Yeah, I’d be happy to have a rematch with Matt, you know? I gave him a lot of problems in there. I out-boxed him, but I just couldn’t clinch up very well. The clinch game’s very tiring, especially after two weeks training. With a full camp, if I could keep that pace up, I think it would be a very different outcome.”
Speaking of running it back, though, let’s rewind a bit to the start of his athletic career. How did Thompson get into Strongman competitions before entering into mixed martial arts?
“To be honest, I didn’t really know what MMA was when I was competing in Strongman. I had previously been interested in boxing as a spectator when I was younger, but I wasn’t really thinking about anything else other than what I was doing at that time. I’d always been quite versatile (though) and been quite successful in a lot of sports growing up. Basically, I ended up doing Strongman just through leaving school and not having a job for a while and just going to the gym and doing well there — it just sort of lead to it and gave me an output to be competitive and do a sport. I had never been a weight lifter before that … it just happened by chance.”
What Thompson didn’t realize, though, was that he still had a desire for one-on-one physical combat from watching boxing as a youth. And when one career ended because of a biceps tear that fire started to burn again.
“I still had a different type of sportsman and a competitor in me that was inside wanting to come out, but while I was being successful in Strongman, I didn’t need to explore anywhere else. I was satisfied and making a living doing what I was doing. But, then on World’s Strongest Man 2008 in West Virginia on the way home, I wasn’t successful as I wanted to be due to a previous injury I’d had, my arm was giving me some trouble in some events. On the way home I decided I wasn’t going to compete again in Strongman and by the time I’d landed I’d made my mind up that I was going to be a professional MMA fighter.”
That seems like a bold move for someone who wasn’t even keenly aware of MMA during his Strongman days, but there was a method to Thompson’s madness.
“One of the main reasons is I knew I had access to people that were grappling around me locally, friends and stuff, so I knew I had a platform to work with and build from. I looked at the national Heavyweight scene and, to be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the level of it. I felt like with my athleticism and power and work rate I could soon compete with them guys without too much time.”
And, ironically enough, competing both nationally and internationally led to some friendly sparring with his future opponent, Kongo, but he won’t let that get in the way of his plans in San Jose.
“The reality is he’s a successful guy and what he does he does well whether (fans) like it or not. He has good form. We’ve spent quite a bit of time together sparring and training, so we know each other reasonably well. When people know each other like, I guess it depends on what sort of fighter and person you are, and what motivates you when you do what you do. I’m not motivated by violence and getting too hyped up and angry and really needing to really hurt someone. I’m looking for the best way to entertain the crowd and walk out with my hand raised.”
One last thing: Since Mitrione is fighting Emelianenko in the main event, does Thompson feel that he could confront the winner of the main event with a big win over Kongo?
“I’d love to get a quick submission and go and get a chair and wait and see who wins. Maybe I can jump in there and challenge them for a fight sometime soon.”
Don’t miss Bellator 172 on Spike TV this weekend to see if Thompson proves he deserves the winner of the main event. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.
Source:: mma mania