Charismatic Frenchman Jess Liaudin, who is squaring off against "Ultimate Fighter" Season 2 participant Anthony Torres on the undercard of Saturday's light heavyweight title unification bout between Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson, is taking the preparation for his sophomore UFC fight very seriously.
Instead of preparing at Pancrase London as usual, "The Joker" has headed out to California to train with Henderson at his Team Quest branch in Murrieta, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
A trip to Las Vegas to support Fernando Gonzalez, who was fighting at the Aug. 5 WEC show, and a short jaunt to Tijuana aside, the 33-year-old all-rounder had reason little to laugh as Hendo, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Jason Miller, Ryo Chonan and company put him through many brutal cardio, grappling, boxing and sparring sessions.
Liaudin even denied himself another Vegas visit despite having tickets for the Couture-Gonzaga fight to get in some extra training sessions.
Kongo faces another tough challenge
Frenchman Cheick Kongo is a much sought-after man these days. Not only will the kickboxer from Paris step into the octagon to face PRIDE Grand Prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic on Sept. 8, the 32-year-old knockout artist faces yet another tough challenge on the national front.
Highly promising French heavyweight Patrice Quarteron, who looks like a cross-breed between Remy Bonjasky and the Incredible Hulk, has challenged the UFC fighter after racking up his eighth consecutive kickboxing win.
Kongo, who happened to be in the arena when the challenge was pronounced, jumped into the ring and accepted with the words: "I'm neither a b---- nor a victim! The day you find a promoter to make this fight happen, I'll smash your face in, OK?"
Kharitonov finds new life in HERO'S
Former PRIDE heavyweight challenger Sergei Kharitonov has joined Dutch standout team Golden Glory. The 27-year-old Russian will bring his experience in Sambo to the Amsterdam-based squad that already includes K-1 world champion Semmy Schilt, fellow K-1 Grand Prix winners Stefan Leko and Chalid Arrab, as well as PRIDE veteran Alistair Overeem and Shooto middleweight champion Siyar Bahadurzada.
Through Golden Glory's excellent connections with K-1 promoter FEG, Kharitonov managed to land a deal that will see him compete both in K-1 and HERO'S.
With an amateur boxing background, the former member of the Russian Army's ground forces will provide a new challenge for K-1's aging (super) heavyweight kickboxers Aerts (36), Feitosa (34), Bonjasky (31), Le Banner (34) and Mighty Mo (33), plus bolster the HERO'S heavyweight division that includes new teammate Alistair Overeem, Bob Sapp and Hong-Man Choi.
Swedish quartet has solid Bodog debut
The foursome of fighters from Swedish "Hilti NHB" team got off to a good start at the tapings for bodogFIGHT Season 6 last weekend. Lightweight standout Per Eklund and CageWarriors veteran Diego Gonzalez scored unanimous decision victories over American Top Team fighter Rafael Dias and UFC-experienced Steve Berger, while featherweight fighter Sami Aziz kept his undefeated record intact with a first-round knockout over Japanese Shooto old hand Hiroyuki Abe.
An arguably even bigger impact on the Bodog middleweight division arrived with new signing Gegard Mousasi. The 22-year-old Armenian, who fights out of Holland's Jurojin Gym, had little trouble with American Kyacey Uscola, winning by TKO in the first round.
With wins over high-caliber opponents Makoto Takimoto, Hector Lombard and Gregory Bouchelaghem, PRIDE's "Golden Rookie of the Year 2006" could very well be in for an instant title shot against South African champion Trevor Prangley.
Reinders takes Best of Europe tournament
Czech submission specialist Andre Reinders won the talent-studded "Best of Europe" middleweight tournament in Magdeburg, Germany, over the weekend. The fighter from the Penta Gym in Prague needed just 22 seconds to defeat German Luta Livre practitioner Nordin Asrih via an armbar in the opening round.
In the final of the four-man tournament, he repeated his feat from last year when he won a decision over PRIDE veteran Jean Francois Lenogue. The Frenchman had already eliminated pre-tournament favorite Grzegorz Jakubowski in his semifinal bout.
Also on the card was German K-1 MAX veteran Denis Schneidmiller, who earned a decision victory over former German Muay Thai champion Denis Olivka in a Thai-boxing fight.
Japan vs. France, Take 2
The 23-year-old grappler has done a lot of traveling throughout his four-year career, accepting fights in England, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Brazil and Slovakia.
Now his trade has brought him to Japan, where he will face the very dangerous Maeda, who has scored knockouts in six of his past eight wins.
Tim Leidecker covers mixed martial arts for Sherdog.com.