Zim athletes tailor-made for MMA Zim athletes tailor-made for MMA

ZMMAA CEO Wayne Kademaunga (left) poses for a picture with African champion Lewis Mataya at the continental championships in Johannesburg last year

ZIMBABWE has had its fair share of success in mixed martial arts, with athletes doing well while performing in different countries even though the sport has not established itself locally.

Athletes have had to cross the border to South Africa to have the opportunity to try a hand in the lucrative combat sport with the likes of Themba Gorimbo, Sylvester Chipfumbu and Nicholas Hwende rising to the very top.

It appears that mixed martial arts is tailor made for Zimbabwean athletes judging by the level of success recorded so far as amateur fighter Lewis Mataya scooped the African Championships accolade about a year ago.

But the establishment of the Zimbabwe Mixed Martial Arts Association (ZMMAA) over a year ago will certainly see the sport make huge strides locally and local fighters will have an opportunity to conquer the world.

ZMMAA has done a lot in the past 12 months to popularise mixed martial arts in the country although a lot is still to be done.

“We have been in existence for just over a year. We were registered last year and we are a relatively new association on the scene of combat sports,” ZMMAA chief executive officer Wayne Kademaunga told The Sports Hub.

“The reason for our existence is we want to create a professional setting for combat sport through mixed martial arts because it encompasses everyone who plays combat sport. There were no players on the local scene and our Themba Gorimbos, and the likes of Stephen Chipfumbu had to go to SA to train. So we said let's create something for people in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Gorimbo, who recently landed a lucrative Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract, won the EFC welterweight title in 2019 before Chipfumbu scooped the bantamweight belt in 2021 in South Africa.

Another Zimbabwean-born athlete Nicholas ‘Gokwe Boy’ Hwende won the EFC bantamweight title last year.

Kademaunga is excited by how the sport has been received locally and believes more homegrown champions are going to emerge from Zimbabwe.

"The sport has potential because we have a Zimbabwean born New Zealander (Mike ‘Blood Diamond’ Mathetha) who is in the UFC, the biggest promotion company in the world and also we have Themba Gorimbo, who has entered the UFC," he said.

“Last year without much preparation we went to the African championships with only one athlete, Lewis Mataya, and he became the highlight of the whole tournament. Imagine if we had sent 20 people or athletes.

“The sport has been received well locally and people are eager to learn, eager to train because they know the opportunities that come with mixed martial arts.

"We are affiliated with International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (Immaf), which is our international mother body which is directly linked to some of the best professional companies in MMA. Immaf is an amateur body, but it brings an opportunity for people to compete on the international scene.”

ZMMAA is still in the process of setting up structures, which would help the spread of the sport to every corner of the country, but more work has been done in Harare compared to other areas.

“We are still establishing the grassroots for the sport. We are launching our first club in a few months to come, the official ZMMAA club. We do have one club in Highlands and another one in Harare CBD, the other one will be in Budiriro.

"There are some renovations we are doing at a place there.

Last year, ZMMAA established a provincial body in Mutare made up of an enthusiastic team of young men and did a seminar to introduce mixed martial arts in the province with some of the people coming from as far as Chipinge.

“We had about 30 people who attended the course in Mutare and we gave the certificates for coaching and also a MMA fundamentals certificate which is a milestone for us.

“Another milestone is that we also had an African champion in a Immaf event held in SA last year in the lightweight category. We had a seminar with over 30 people in Harare whereby many people were certified to be first level national coaches and were introduced to MMA and now we are in the process of introducing a provincial body in the Midlands."

Looking ahead the ZMMAA is looking to stage a big national mixed martial arts event in August comprising nine different weight categories.

Mixed martial arts is a full-contact combat sport incorporating techniques from various combat sports from around the world such as judo, karate, boxing and others.

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