Phumelele Nkuta wears his South African flag proudly before every fight. Picture: Supplied.
Phumelele Nkuta wears his South African flag proudly before every fight. Picture: Supplied.

Phumi loves the South African blood pumping through his heart

By Julian Kiewietz Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – Growing up in the United States of America did not always foster fond memories for Phumelele Nkuta.

Born to a young South African mother who fled the apartheid regime aiming to give her kids a better life, Phumelele was often teased for being an “African” born and raised in New Jersey.

“I am not going to lie to you, growing up in America, I was made fun of for being African,” says the mixed martial artist more commonly known as Phumi.

“You’re made fun of by (white) Americans for being African, and then you’re made fun of by the black kids for being from South Africa …”

Not something any kid or human should have to experience.

Ray Longo doing padwork with his athlete, Phumelele Nkuta. Picture: Supplied.

“But being from South Africa, that is always something that I have held so close to me. South Africa is what I am made of, I love the fact that I have South African blood pumping through my heart,” says Phumi who refused to be dejected by naive and uneducated minds.

Today, the man carries the Mzansi flag proudly over his shoulders, and he will once again embrace it when he steps into the cage on Thursday in a Cage Fury Fighting Championship 92 Flyweight title fight against champion Alberto Trujillo (5-1).

The Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape-rooted athlete has stood tall through all his trials and challenges and is once again on the precipice of greatness.

With only a professional record of 2-0 thus far, Phumi will surely break some form of record should he get that flyweight belt in what could be one of the fastest turnovers of success in a professional career.

Make no mistake, the two fights he has racked up have come with copious amounts of studying, application, discipline, analysis, fortitude and years of training. Not to mention a solid foundation in the amateur system (5-0).

“When I was 12-years-old a lot of people went partying, I was in my basement with my little brother pausing, stopping and rewinding UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fights, learning techniques. That is the cloth I am cut from.

“I have been working, grinding, hustling and slaving day in and day out. I am 25-years-old now, and I have been applying myself to the mixed martial arts game since I was 18. Before that I wrestled, before that I did Jiu Jitsu, and before that I was training kickboxing. So this is not a 2-0 fighter going up against a 5-1 fighter. In total, I have been 13 years in the game. So, ‘am I ready for this?’ Dude, at 2-0, I was born ready,” says Phumi.

Phumi has been calling for the title shot since his opponent lifted the gold in October last year after beating Santo Curatolo.

“We wanted this fight,” says Phumi.

“After I beat Ben Coyle, we asked for the winner of the Trujillo vs Santos match that was the main event of our card that night. We actually told the promotion right after that we wanted the winner. We looked at both guys, they are good, but with my attributes they’re both beatable.”

Fighting out of Longo and Weidman MMA, Phumi has and still does cut his teeth with some of the finest athletes and coaches in mixed martial arts.

Names such as Ray Longo, Matt Serra, Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili are synonymous with the man known as Turbo.

“All those names helped me develop, even the guys you don’t hear of, like Steve Lee and Dennis Buzukja. We got a we have such a good crew man, there is no way you can’t get better cos there is just so much talent coming out of that gym, but we are also guys who are very hungry in the gym,” says Phumi who dreams of fighting elite stars such as Henry Cejudo or Demetrious Johnson at Soccer City in Johannesburg one day for the “Greatest Flyweight title.

Just this past weekend, Phumi’s teammate Aljamain won the UFC bantamweight title. This week, there may be more reason to celebrate both in the USA and South Africa if Phumelele gets his hand and the South African flag raised on Thursday night at Cage Fury FC - a feat that could see him sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

This fight will be available on UFC Fight Pass for those who are keen on supporting Phumelele Nkuta.

Check out the full video interview on MzansiMMA's YouTube channel.

@juliankiewietz

IOL Sport

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