Cape Town - Simon Biyong's journey to Europe may not be as extreme as Francis Ngannou’s, but it still makes for an interesting story nonetheless.
While Cameroon’s first and only UFC Heavyweight champion, Ngannou faced treacherous conditions, landscapes and circumstances as he navigated and hitch-hiked from from Batié, Cameroon to France in search of a better life, his countryman and Bellator light heavyweight up-comer, Biyong, made the move to Italy to pursue a career in the arts.
“Due to the lack of opportunities within Cameroon at the time, I searched the internet and found a school in Italy where I could pursue my passion for drawing, painting, and working with ceramics,” says Simon.
“In order to get my visa, I had to learn Level-C of the Italian language, you know, enough to be able to express myself and ask for information. I passed the test and got the visa, then was accepted to study through the embassy’s student program at Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti (Ligustica academy of fine arts of Genoa).
At varsity, the 1.98cm athletic-built art student was quickly roped in by the basketball team where he excelled, however, something was amiss.
“We made the basketball championships, but it went wrong and we lost, so there was frustration for me as I always wanted to challenge myself to be the best amongst the best.
“I then looked for a sport where I can take full responsibility for what happens.”
That is when the unassuming giant was introduced to mixed martial arts.
“Lots of people who know me, consider me as a peaceful guy, never one to be violent or exchange words with anybody. But I guess this is a quality that allows me the capacity to switch my mind from a painter with a brush in my hand to a warrior in the cage.
Going professional was the furthest thing from his mind when he first walked into an MMA gym.
“I just wanted to liberate myself from stress and frustration. So I learned how to work the (boxing) bag, and just have fun with something new.”
Fast-forward to only five years later and Simon (with only one amateur fight and 9 professional fights), sports three pro mma belts and is a few fights away from contender conversation in the global Bellator mixed martial arts promotion - an incredible feat considering that he was not close to any form of combat sport prior.
“My athletic build and nature allowed me to learn and adapt quickly, so I got into the competitive side and started winning fights. I also saw my fellow Cameroonian, Francis (17-3) doing well.
“I remember watching his first fights in the UFC, he inspired me, and I said to myself ‘maybe I can also pull my card and do something.’”
After a few good wins, it was clear to Simon that he can build something from this foundation.
He was also smart in his assessment of the MMA climate he was living in.
“MMA life in Italy was not very big, there were also not many big or tall guys like me so there was an opportunity. I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. And now is the real part of my career. Fighting for Bellator gives me a platform to challenge myself. I have an opportunity to become something in African and global MMA.
After securing a couple of titles - including the South African-based Extreme Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight belt, Simon can now take another step closer to claiming a global brand 205 pound (90 kilogram) title when he takes on England’s Luke Trainer at Bellator London on May 13th, 2022.
Trainer (5-0) has been labeled as a “rising star”by the promotion, and rightfully so, the man is unbeaten in five fights with five KOs to boot.
His latest win coming over former EFC Middleweight champion, Yannick Bahati (9-6) via elbows in the second round at Bellator 267 - while Simon (7-2) would be keen to get back to winning ways after losing his last fight against Christian Edwards (4-0) at Bellator 261 in June last year.
“I took this Luke Trainer fight because he is a solid guy, five wins, zero losses and he has more experience than me outside of the pro circuit. He has more experience than I do in the fight game. And my mindset is to take the good guy at the moment (that being Luke).
This is also a way to give a great boost to my career. Because if I beat a guy like Luke, a guy who Bellator put hopes on, then my win is going to get more noise. It’s ‘high risk and high reward’, and with that mindset I got to where I am so far,” added Simon who will be looking to upset Luke and the English fans.
The card which takes place on May 13, 2022 at the OVO Arena Wembley in London,
will be headlined by Welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov (26-0) who defends his title against the hometown hero, Michael Page (20-1).
Welterweight World Title Main Event: #C-Yaroslav Amosov (26-0) vs. #1-Michael Page (20-1)
Welterweight Bout: #2-Douglas Lima (32-10) vs. #3-Jason Jackson (15-4)
Women’s Flyweight Bout: #3-Denise Kielholtz (6-3) vs. #4-Kana Watanabe (10-1-1)
Light Heavyweight Bout: Luke Trainer (5-0) vs. Simon Biyong (7-2)
Featherweight Bout: #8-Daniel Weichel (41-13) vs. Robert Whiteford (16-4)
Lightweight Bout: Alfie Davis (14-4) vs. Tim Wilde (14-4)
Flyweight Bout: Kate Jackson (11-5-1) vs. Elina Kallionidou (8-4)