- ‘Skills of Israel Adesanya and power of Alex Pereira’: Cedric Doumbe ready for PFL debut.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Just over 12 months ago, Cedric Doumbe was preparing to make his UFC debut on home soil in Paris.
It was supposed to be a seminal moment for the highly decorated kickboxing world champion. France had only legalised MMA two years earlier.
But just weeks before the event, he was pulled from the show and cut from the UFC’s roster completely.
“I was very sad,” Doumbe tells BBC Sport. “I really wanted to make my UFC debut in France.”
Doumbe was scheduled to be facing Darian Weeks on the Ciryl Gane v Tai Tuivasa undercard in what would have been just his third fight in mixed martial arts.
His arrival on the MMA scene came with a lot of hype after a stellar kickboxing career. A two-time Glory champion, Doumbe is widely regarded as one of the greatest welterweight kickboxers of all time.
The 31-year-old’s two spells as champion spanned over a combined three years and he retired from kickboxing on a high with a successful defence to take his overall record to 75 wins, seven defeats and one draw.
The Frenchman’s MMA career started as expected with knockout victories – beating Arbi Emiev and Phruethukorn Chaichongcharden – and the UFC came calling.
However, just weeks before the event in the French capital, Doumbe was released by the UFC after the French MMA Federation refused to sanction the fight.
The commissions’ rules state that fighters with less than 10 professional bouts must not have more than a four-fight differential with an opponent. Weeks had seven bouts on his record.
Doumbe has recorded a further two wins in the meantime, fighting on the domestic scene in France, and signed for the Professional Fighters League (PFL) in May.
He was due to make his PFL debut on 23 June in the US, but a wrist injury forced him to pull out.
Fully recovered, he finally gets the opportunity to make his debut and this time he headlines against compatriot Jordan Zebo in Paris on Saturday.
“I really wanted to be part of that [UFC card] but it is what it is,” he says.
“Now I can make my debut with the PFL, it’s way better for me. Making that first fight in a PFL main event in Paris is just amazing.
“PFL is the future for me and it’s the future for every single MMA fighter. It’s the future of combat sports.”
‘I want to make history’
Born in Cameroon, Doumbe moved to France at the age of nine with his mother and sister. He admits life was tough for his mum but, as a child, he was excited to embark on a new journey.
“I was happy because I was young. When you are young you just need your mum, food, friends and you are happy,” Doumbe says.
“For my mum it was very difficult alone with two children in France – a new country, new people, new work.”
A career in MMA was always on Doumbe’s mind, but he opted for kickboxing and says it “came very fast” as he won his first title just two fights after turning professional.
American Rick Roufus – a former kickboxer, boxer and MMA fighter – was someone Doumbe admired but, more recently he has taken inspiration from two-time UFC middleweight title-holder Israel Adesanya and former champion Alex Pereira.
Both men came from a kickboxing background, were part of the Glory roster before transitioning into MMA and have enjoyed an epic rivalry in the UFC.
Doumbe believes he possesses the best traits from each of those current UFC fighters – boasting the “skills of Adesanya” and the “power of Pereira” and is hoping to better their achievements.
Pereira lost his Glory title before transitioning to MMA, whereas, Doumbe left the sport with his champion status intact.
“I want to make history. I want to be the first one to have belts in MMA and kickboxing,” he says.
“Alex Pereira did it, but he didn’t hold both at the same time. No one could take my kickboxing belt and I want to be the same in MMA.”
Saturday’s opponent Zebo is also making his PFL debut and has an undefeated record after four fights.
“My next opponent isn’t too strong. In my opinion he doesn’t have the right experience to fight a guy like me,” Doumbe says.
“I would like to wrestle with him, take him down, hold him to the floor and to do my ground and pound. I really like ground and pound.
“Outside the cage I always say I would like to take him down but when I’m in the cage I love to stand up and do what I am good at.
“You can make a big gameplan and when you come in the cage everything changes and you go back to what you like to do.”