Sokoudjou has won two straight in Bellator. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
For many, a restroom is a spot for temporary refuge and reflection, but for Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, it’s is a place where he (reluctantly) relives past glory.
It has been nearly eight years since “The African Assassin” burst upon the mixed martial arts scene with back-to-back first-round knockouts of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in Pride Fighting Championships. While he never quite met the expectations that arrived as a result of those two improbable triumphs, Sokoudjou has etched a permanent place in the sport’s colorful history.
Over the years, his 15 minutes of fame has led to a number of awkward conversations and unsanitary handshakes with inebriated fans in public urinals. Sokoudjou has seen the scenario play out far too many times.
“Don’t make me go there, man,” Sokoudjou told Sherdog.com. “That’s why sometimes I want to go to the bathroom, but when I think about it, I will run into a drunk dude who will try to shake my hand and try to be so friendly and try to hug [me]. It’s just sometimes scary, man.”
With an imposing physique, knockout power, and a pair of signature victories under his belt, Sokoudjou was the one scaring people early in his career. However, the Team Quest member has been consistently inconsistent since then, racking up two-fight streaks in both directions with equal aplomb.
He is currently trending upward, having won back-to-back fights ahead of a light heavyweight showdown with former title challenger Linton Vassell at Bellator 134 on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
And although it seems as though Sokoudjou has been around forever, he is only 30 years old. He laughs heartily when reminded of this fact and admits that making a run at Bellator gold would be nice.
“Whoever is a fighter today wants to be called the best, and whoever is called the best usually has the belt,” he said. “Eventually I want to get a belt somewhere [to put] in the living room. But for now, that’s not gonna happen until I prove that I’m ready for it.”
In addition to Nogueira and Arona, Sokoudjou has faced the likes of Glover Teixeira, Lyoto Machida, Renato Sobral, Bob Sapp, Gegard Mousasi, Ikuhisa Minowa, Dave Herman, Houston Alexander, Jan Blachowicz and Ryan Jimmo over the course of a 28-bout pro career. That’s what making a strong initial impression will get you: a future 205-pound UFC champion (Machida) in your Octagon debut.
“At the time I knew I was one of the baddest guys on the planet. I told them, ‘Hey I don’t care who it is, send me who you have and I’ll be ready.’ I was just in that state of mind where I believed in myself,” he said. “My training should have been a little different. As a fighter I’m never gonna back down from a fight.”
Sokoudjou’s ups and downs have caused that confidence to waver at times. When that happens, he goes back and watches the footage of his two greatest triumphs. A little positive reinforcement never hurts.
“I still [look at it] like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I beat these guys,’” he said. “Some days when I have tough training and I get beat up a little too much that’s what I do: I go back and try to see what I did and what worked that I did.
“I know I did it once, so I can do it again. It kind of helps me go through hard days of training and when I doubt myself here and there.”
Sokoudjou has no regrets about the path he has taken. For all his peaks and valleys, there is still time to make an impact in Bellator’s light heavyweight division. If there were mistakes he might have made in the past, he sure isn’t dwelling on them.
“I’m not gonna say ‘mistake’ because everything happens for a reason,” Sokoudjou said. “You realize this is the way things go in life and business. If you try, you fail. You might start strong and finish at the bad end. It’s just the way it is. It’s not a bad day.”
And for the most part, Sokoudjou doesn’t mind talking about the past – especially his signature victories. Without them, those dreaded bathroom encounters wouldn’t even be a concern. It’s nice to be remembered, even under somewhat uncomfortable circumstances.
“Without the fans, I wouldn’t be here today, so I never feel like I’m being asked the same question too many times,” he said. “They are the [ones] that pay our bills, and if you don’t respect them and at least give them one or two minutes of your time, you’re in the wrong sport.”