After a long tenure with the world's top MMA promotion, Cheick Kongo left the UFC on his own accord. However, he did so while nearing 40 and having lost two out of his last three bouts.
Though it wasn't long ago, it would appear to be a long time ago compared to where the Frenchman is now. The heavyweight striker has won three out of his last four fights in the Bellator promotion and has another big fight, against Lavar Johnson, this Friday in Conn.
Despite the apparent turn-around, Kongo says it's the same him and that he's taking everything in stride. "No, this is not a new moment [for me]," he says.
"I always enjoy life like it is. But when the engine gets warmed up and has the right gasoline in it, things go well."
Kongo may feel like he's just warming up in his career, but he also admits to taking things one fight at a time. The fighter has long had business investments and interests outside of the cage and continues to do so, in hopes of securing income in his future without prize fighting.
Kongo has also changed up some coaches and training partners, he says, in order to "get some fresh blood" in his camp.
Among the places he gets work in are friend Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's gym and Antonio McKee's "Body Shop." Kongo says he's training smarter these days, not just grinding himself down.
And, despite being 39 years old and in the 14th year of his pro MMA career, the Parisian says he's in no rush. "It's not a rush, it's not a race," he says.
"If you want to perform in the right way, and stay on track, you have to be smart. You have to be clever. I made some mistakes in the past."
Kongo is also unconcerned with how much his stock rises or falls based on popularity. The man is about his business, and his business is fighting.
"I'm a calm and quiet person," he says.
"I don't need to get a lot of attention on me. Do your job and leave everything out there until you have to do something else. After MMA, after sport, I will have another life. So, I like to keep myself very calm, busy and active. I still have the passion to progress, though."