Cheick Kongo Joins Bellator’s Heavyweight Division

The ridiculously chiseled physique of Cheick Kongo will join the glut of former UFC fighters finding their way inside the Bellator cage this year.

According to a press release from the promotion, the heavyweight, who went 11-6-1 during his near seven-year run inside the Octagon, will make his Bellator debut in September and will be featured in the Season 9 Heavyweight Tournament. That’s two months before both Tito Ortiz and Quinton Jackson will fight in Bellator’s first ever pay-per-view event.

Both Ortiz and Jackson joined the promotion earlier this summer after their long careers with the UFC came to an end. Welterweight Matt Riddle is the other ex-UFC fighter to sign a Bellator contract this year.

“After my contract was up in the UFC, I really wanted to take some time and reflect on everything,” Kongo said. “After talking to the people around me, especially someone like my longtime [sic] friend in Rampage, he told me how well Bellator has been treating him and what we can do with Bellator, and after getting to know Bjorn Rebney, it just seemed like the right fit for me.”

Kongo had been offered an extension to his UFC contract prior to his fateful meeting with Roy Nelson at UFC 159. However, he demurred, possibly hoping a win over Big Country would leave him in a better bargaining position. Instead, after being stopped in the first round for the second time in his last three fights, the Frenchman decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

“If you’re an MMA fan, you’re a Kongo fan,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “No matter who he fights he’s always going to bring the fight and put on a great show, and he’s one of the best guys you’ll have the pleasure of dealing with in MMA.”

Bellator’s Season 9 kicks off on Sep. 7 in Connecticut and runs through until Nov. 22. The heavyweight schedule is yet to be confirmed, but whoever makes it through to the final will face Russian champion Alexander Volkov for the title.