CAPE TOWN - Watching Dave Mazany set up his merchandise table in front of the Grand West Market Hall this past week ahead of the open workout was a bit of an eye-opener for me.
Here’s a foreigner on African soil, born in Alaska, finding his feet in Las Vegas and then travelling back and forth between North America and Africa to build the ‘Pain Train’ brand as he parades around with his moon bag firmly attached around his waist.
I always wondered why he carried that moon bag, an outdated piece of fashion (no offence, Dave) that I’ve only seen when I was a kid back in the nineties. It is also a celebrated piece of clothing used by the Asian tourists who touch down in Cape Town wearing their ‘I love Africa’ T-shirts along with their bright-green open-top plastic peak caps. “Why does he wear that moon bag?” I asked my girlfriend.
Then, for the first time, I noticed an MMA athlete market his brand and sell his own products at an event. Excuse my naivety, maybe you’ve seen this before. There he was, in between his obligatory interviews and training sessions, making friends with the public, selling his Dave ‘The Pain Train’ Mazany T-shirts and caps and handing out free Mazany-branded badges to his doting little fans, storing his profits in, you guessed it, the ‘moon bag’. “The life of a real-time MMA athlete,” I thought.
Travelling across a number of time zones, with bags of gear and merchandise to make a living and trying his best to understand the pronunciation and spelling of some of the Afrikaans names as he pens them onto his signed cards. Dave (16-7) is back in Cape Town to take back the lightweight title. And there is one man standing in his way, one Martin ‘The Punisher’ van Staden (23-10).
“I haven’t had any type of home base, I’ve always fought outside of my home town and Cape Town was very foreign to me, and now I’m getting to know the scenery and the arena. Everything about Cape Town is starting to figure itself out. I am starting to build a fan base and it is an incredible feeling," Mazany said.
"If I was to win the title, winning it in Cape Town would be a great place. Originally, I won the title in Johannesburg (against Leon Mynhardt at EFC51) and ended up losing it in Cape Town (against Don Madge, two fights later). So I think the fans would love to see me win the title here.”
Of course, it may be much tougher than it sounds as he faces one of the most ruthless knockout experts in the form of Van Staden, who will be defending the belt for the first after beating Gavin Hughes to take the gold after Don Madge gave the belt up shortly after signing with the UFC. A title that has evaded Martin for years before the frustration finally diminished and hard work paid off for the FFM king. And Dave knows that Martin will not be your average title defender.
“Martin has been around the block, you can feel it on him, he has fought a lot. He doesn’t have that ego that young fighters have he has that old-fighter ego which is calmed, controlled and cool. He doesn’t need to talk, he talks in the cage, just like me. He is a hard hitter and he has a good killer instinct, when he clips somebody he goes right in for the kill. I feel like he is a great opponent for a great fight.”
This fight reminds me a bit of the MMA of old. Two contrasting disciplines coming together in the Hexagon. Dave, with his strong ground game and Martin’s strong stand-up could make for an interesting match-up. Keep in mind that Martin’s coaching staff studied Dave thoroughly in the past as he’s faced two FFM warriors just recently.
“I see holes in his game that I can exploit,” says Mazany of Van Staden. “I know he has studied me too. I feel my ground work is something to be respected and I’ve done pretty good on the ground, my wrestling is good, my Jiu Jitsu is good and my ground and pound is good. I know he is probably working on those. But it will come down to who puts the fight together on fight night. ”
Come Saturday, Dave might just replace that moon bag with a golden belt again.