CAPE TOWN – Mixed Martial Arts is in a special stage of its growth in South Africa.
We have so many South African, and South African-based athletes reaching the pinnacle of the sport across the globe.
In just a few weeks time, Dricus du Plessis and Don Madge will fly the Mzansi flag proudly on the earth’s most popular mixed martial arts platform, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Dricus will share a fight card with the sport’s biggest star, global icon and Forbes’ highest paid athlete, Ireland’s Conor McGregor.
In just a few months time, another South African-based MMA star, DRC’s Dalcha Lungiambula will grace the UFC Octagon for a fourth time.
These are just a few of the names who are making waves across Mother Earth.
Like any top athlete, business woman or man, things don’t always come easy, especially for mixed martial artists in South Africa due to the fact that the sport is not backed by the government yet, despite it being one of the most watched sports in South Africa and Africa.
There are so many young talented MMA athletes coming through the ranks.
Just looking back at this year’s Mixed Martial Arts South African National Championship, with the likes of Kiara Willemse, Bhubezi Kruger, Toufeeq Khan, Banele Nxumalo, Demi-Lee van Zyl, Terence Balelo, Sibusiso Sovendle and Jason MacKay making themselves known.
And this is why the South African Mixed Martial Arts Athlete Fund (SAMMAAF) was started.
The KZNMMA Athlete Fund Non-Profitable Company trading as SAMMAAF NPC aims to help build a foundation and assist the athletes of the present and future.
“SAMMAAF was born to assist with the financial needs and guidance for up-and-coming MMA athletes,” says Chairman and co-director, Justin Ferrier.
“We started this NPC because of our love for the sport and the goal of finding and nurturing the raw talent that South Africa is quickly becoming known for,” adds Justin who is one of three directors and someone that has not only been in MMA for years but has also worked on the highest levels in various capacities.
Whilst the NPC was being formed, the directors in their private capacities already jumped on board and helped a handful of athletes from across the country either get to the Nationals or sponsor their rashguards and medicals.
Just last week, Mixed Martial Arts South Africa sadly confirmed that South Africa’s Youth team will not be attending the Youth MMA World Championships set to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria in July, after the country placed travel bans on South African and a handful of other African nations due to the increase in Covid-19 cases .
“President Raymond Phillips received a call from the IMMAF President Kerrith Brown today to inform South Africa that Bulgaria had placed a travel ban on most African countries at this present time,” said MMASA CEO Jason Brown.
With the Junior and Senior World Championships coming up in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan at the end of the year , the SAMMAAF NPC will now turn its full attention to assisting as many athletes as possible by running exciting fundraisers during the course of the year.
“It is terrible what happened to the Youth team, but let’s look at the positives, they still have years in front of them and there will be opportunities next year and the coming years,” says Justin.
MMASA have confirmed that things are still on track for the Junior and Senior teams to travel to Kazakhstan.
Looking to the end of the year, the plus side is that there’s some breathing space for fundraising to take place as it is estimated that R35 000 will cover each athlete (travelling, accommodation, competition etc.).
While MMASA and some athletes Independent Media has spoken to are working on getting funding, SAMMAAF too are busy with some exciting projects to help get Mzansi’s athletes to the dance floor.
“We are hosting a grappling seminar at the CMH Mazda in Umhlanga dealership on July 31. Our guest trainer will be none other than UFC star Dricus du Plessis,” says Justin.
“Dricus is such a good man. He said yes to the initiative before I could even finish my sentence. The man even offered to pay for his expenses (flights and accommodation) from Pretoria to Durban.”
Dricus - who will offer his time and expertise at the seminar - understands the value in helping grow the sport that is giving him so much in this life. You can see how important giving back means to him just by the way he mentors his protege and up-coming South African MMA athlete, Cameron Saaiman.
The seminar will cost R250 per person and all proceeds will go to the Athletes Fund.
“The entire Team South Africa selected for the World Championships will receive free entry,” says Justin.
With regards to how the monies will be allocated, Justin confirmed that an open dialogue with MMASA will have to take place.
The SAMMAAF have more exciting projects lined up, one of them being Submission Kings/Queens and Kids which is planned for August 28 and October 2nd if all goes to plan and depending on the coronavirus pandemic lockdown regulations. Entry fee for these tournaments will be R350 per person and again, all proceeds will go to the Athletes Fund.
As for the Youth athletes who are missing out on active competition, MMASA stated:
“We have addressed Youth development events with the regional subcommittee chairpersons, but at the moment, all amateur events under MASA (Mixed Martial Arts) are suspended. We will re-examine the idea of a Youth tournament once the restrictions on events have been relaxed from the current Level 3.”
Just last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa moved South Africa back to a Level 3 lockdown in light of rising Covid-19 infections.
"Since I last spoke to you just over two weeks ago, the average number of daily new infections has doubled. Then, we were recording around 3 700 daily infections.
"Over the last seven days, we have recorded an average of 7 500 daily infections," Ramaphosa said on July 15.
If you would like to donate or contribute to the SAMMAAF you can email them on [email protected] or contact +27 (0)82 740 9195.