The air was thick with recriminations between the co-headliners during the GLORY 47 LYON pre-fight interviews on Thursday.
Saturday night, former welterweight champion Cedric Doumbe (67-5-1, 39 KO’s) will face Yohan Lidon (124-35, 78 KO’s), a decorated veteran who lays claim to 17 different world title belts across more than a hundred professional fights in Muay Thai and kickboxing.
“Wow, seventeen world titles he has? Amazing! Why is he here? GLORY does not deserve him, he is too big for GLORY!” jibed Doumbe.
“Come on. What are these belts? The only belt in the world which matters is the GLORY belt, that is the only one deserving of credibility, and he does not have that, he never had that. It annoys me when guys talk like this. I want people to take this sport seriously and they cannot when people are talking like this.
“Floyd Mayweather is a world champion, Conor McGregor is a world champion, or Usain Bolt or if you win a gold medal in the Olympics. You have to win the title that matters, to be a world champion.
“He is only the champion of St Tropez [a holiday resort town which stages an annual kickboxing gala] and on Saturday I am going to show him what the difference is between his championships and a real world champion fighter.”
Lidon raised his eyebrows and gave a slight shake of the head when Doumbe’s comments were relayed to him, although he professed not to be surprised by what he was hearing.
“Cedric Doumbe is a clown,” he opined. “He is an actor, a dancer. He fights with his mouth and then he runs around the ring and dances. In my career I have faced and beaten fighters like Marat Grigorian, Cosmo Alexandre, Lamsangkrom… I’ve also beaten Doumbe before.”
Lidon has indeed beaten Doumbe before, a decision win in 2014 which by coincidence also took place in Lyon.
The two have rather different memories of the fight: Doumbe says that it was a close fight and that the Lyon-based Lidon benefited from a home-town decision. Lidon says that Doumbe “did not threaten me in any way” and that it was a one-sided encounter which he aims to repeat this weekend.
Doumbe doesn’t think that will be likely. “If I fought myself from 2014, now, I would destroy that version of Cedric,” he said. “Back then I was still transitioning in from full-contact karate to professional kickboxing. I am a totally different fighter now.”
According to Lidon, not much has changed at all in Doumbe since they last met. “He still talks too much, he still runs and dances too much, he still doesn’t pose any threat. I am going to pressure him, close his space down and hopefully destroy him.”
Saturday will be the first fight of 2017 that Doumbe enters the ring without the championship belt. He lost it to Murthel Groenhart at GLORY 44 CHICAGO by way of a split-decision which he strongly disagrees with.
“I think that Murthel has been around so long that they said OK, he can have the belt one time. Just one time only. He cannot win the belt from Nieky and he didn’t really win this fight either but let’s let him have the belt one time, because he is nearly 40 years old,” he said.
Suddenly one of the production team members wandered into the studio, proffering a phone to Doumbe. “It’s Murthel,” he said “He just Skyped me, he wants to talk to you.”
Doumbe took the phone; Groenhart’s face filled the screen. Once he and Doumbe had eye contact, Groenhart went off. “Don’t you dare talk s—t about me in your interviews,” he warned. “If you say anything about me I am going to beat the s—t out of you!”
Laughing heartily, Doumbe started firing back. “They let you win the belt one time, because you are a baby!” he crowed. “I apologize in advance for the knockout I am going to give you next time we fight!”
A quick survey of GLORY staff on the ground made clear that this was the first time anybody had witnessed a fighter take part in a video-call argument with a rival whilst in the middle of an interview about a completely different opponent.
But the fact that Groenhart went to the trouble of dialing in to harass Doumbe while being nearly a thousand kilometres away from him is a good indicator of just how much strength of feeling he provokes in his rivals.
Everyone in the upper end of the division wants to put a beating on him; Lidon is first in line and will take his chance this Saturday. But wanting and doing are two different things. Doumbe remains the #1 contender and he’s in that slot for a reason.