Cédric Doumbé fires back at Benoit Saint Denis saying he’s not the face of MMA in France

Cédric Doumbé may only have five MMA fights in his career thus far, but he believes there’s no other French fighter competing in the sport who can draw a bigger crowd at home.

Doumbe, a 31-year-old kickboxer turned PFL prospect, said his previous fight at Accor Arena in Paris sold out in just 20 minutes. That led to a disagreement with UFC welterweight Benoit Saint Denis, who said Doumbe wasn’t the face of French MMA because he hadn’t accomplished enough.

Instead, Saint Denis called former UFC interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane the current face of MMA in France. He added that Doumbé talked a big game but still needed to “prove it” in the cage.

“Of course, I don’t agree with that,” Doumbé said of Saint Denis’ comments during a press conference Tuesday for his March 7 fight at PFL Europe 1. “I think and I’m 100 percent sure that I am the face of MMA in France. Everybody knows that.

“Of course, it’s hard to say it, because for some people, if you’re not in the UFC, you can’t be the face of MMA. Because they think the UFC is the top guys, and that’s not wrong. But still, you don’t have to be the UFC champion to be the face of MMA in your country. It doesn’t depend only on your performance. It depends on who you are, what you do, what you can make.”

Doumbé believes what separates him from Saint Denis, Gane or anybody else is the amount of people willing to pay to see him perform. He was already a massive star in kickboxing and has brought that crowd to the PFL, which is how he commanded a pair of sellout crowds in his first two fights with the promotion.

In his opinion, Doumbé doesn’t believe Saint Denis, Gane or anybody else from France could pull that off right now.

“Benoit Saint Denis, can he sell out Accor Arena in 20 minutes? I don’t think so,” Doumbé said. “You cannot be the face of MMA. Ciryl Gane, can he sell out the Accor Arena in even one hour? One day? I don’t think so, but Cedric Doumbe can. I think this type of thing makes me the face of MMA in France.”

In the long run, Doumbé acknowledges he can’t thrive forever just selling out arenas in France, especially with so much of the sport happening in the U.S. He’s anxious to build an audience in America, and he believes it’s only a matter of time before those fans fall in love with him.

“If I want to shock the world, I have to travel and shock the world,” Doumbé said. “I didn’t say I want to shock the French. I already did it. I think yeah, France, I have to do it a second time, but then the next step obviously is going to be the U.S. market. I have to do it.

“Because I want to shock the world, I need to do it. I need to show myself to the U.S. people, the U.S. crowds, and I know they will love me. I will make great things.”

As far as immediate future goes, Doumbé promises he’s open to whatever PFL throws at him.

So far, the upstart organization has matched him with up-and-coming prospects, but none of the established or more accomplished welterweights on the roster. Doumbé expects that will change soon enough, especially with the lofty goals he’s set.

Doumbé also knows that at 31, he’s gotten a later start on his MMA career than some athletes who jump into the cage as teenagers. He’s got a lot of time left, but he doesn’t want to waste a second.

“If you’re smart, a young fighter who is 20, 21, he can make some choices, but those choices will not be the same as you get to 31,” Doumbé said. “I’m not at the end of my career. I’m on the top of my career. At 31, you’re body feels good, your mind, you are very mature at the top. I don’t want to waste my time. I want to capitalize. I want to make as much money as I can.

“As I always say, I never decline a fight. I can fight anyone. The [PFL] champion Magomed [Magomedkerimov], the other Magomed [Umalatov], Sadibou Sy, I can fight anyone. I want to fight Anthony Pettis, the former UFC champ. For me, it doesn’t matter. I want to shock the world. So if they put me in the [PFL] tournament, I will win the tournament. If they give me only super fights until I get the belt, I will do it also.”