On Saturday night, Tyrone
Spong will compete in a different kind of fight.
The accomplished heavyweight kickboxer will make his mixed martial
arts debut at 205 pounds against nine-fight pro Travis
Bartlett (pictured, left) at the World Series of Fighting’s
inaugural event at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in
Las Vegas. Spong’s bout, along with the rest of the main card, airs
live on NBC Sports Network. Meanwhile, the preliminary proceedings
stream immediately prior on Sherdog.com.
Despite Spong’s Nov. 3 showdown with Bartlett serving as his foray
under mixed rules, Spong, 27, says he feels no pressure in
transitioning from kickboxing to MMA.
“I’m very happy to be here. I like challenges,” Spong said at
Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. “I’ve achieved a lot in
kickboxing, and I just needed something new. I came to the states
and trained with a lot of MMA guys and thought I’d give it a
chance. [There is] no pressure. I believe in myself, and I’m doing
this for myself. Of course, I would like to put on a great fight
for the fans and the people who stand behind me, but I’m just
looking forward to this Saturday.”
One of the fighters with which the Surinamese-born Dutchman has
trained is Anthony
Johnson, a fellow member of the Florida-based Blackzilians
camp. Known to most fans as “Rumble,” Johnson formerly competed for
the UFC at 170 pounds and now makes his WSOF debut as a light
heavyweight against Bellator veteran D.J.
Linderman. According to Spong and Johnson, their collaboration
in training has proved fruitful for both parties.
“I’ve benefited a lot from training with Anthony,” Spong said.
“He’s experienced and has a good wrestling background. Everybody
knows I need to work on my ground game. For him to work with me and
point out the things I need to work on, I have benefited a
Spong likely hopes to use those newfound wrestling skills to keep
the fight standing, where he should -- on paper, at least --
outclass his opponent. However, Bartlett -- a heavy-handed southpaw
-- says that if Spong wants to go toe-to-toe, he will oblige the
highly-regarded striker. According to the American, he will try to
take Spong down only if the kickboxer keeps his distance and looks
to attack primarily with leg kicks.
“I have no secrets. I fight one way,” said Bartlett. “If he wants
to see who can own the real estate, I’m [in]. If he’s playing the
leg kick game, then I’m going to have to pressure him and go for
shots. But if he wants to go mano-a-mano in the middle of the cage,
I’m up for it.”