Faeez Jacobs celebrates after defeating Kevin Pheko at EFC 61. Photo: EFC Worldwide

CAPE TOWN – As important as physical strength is in mixed martial arts (MMA) – or any other sport for that matter – mental strength is more often than not the factor that determines victory.

The ability to stay calm under mounting pressure, snatch opportunities when they are presented and keep striving in the face of adversity are valuable traits for any sportsman, and often separate the good from the truly great.

While Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) bantamweight title contender Faeez ‘Troublemaker’ Jacobs has only just set foot on the path to greatness, it’s clear that he has the necessary attributes to attain it.

The 22-year-old made his professional debut with the EFC in April this year, finally achieving the goal he set as a grade nine schoolboy.

“I was in my second-last year of high school. I walked around the corner to where the cool kids hang out and two kids were wearing MMA gloves. The rules were boxing until first blood, and they were beating the living daylights out of each other. Nobody wanted to fight and I was a fan of the sport, so I put the gloves on and start feeling it out,” said Jacobs, who hails from Mitchells Plain and matriculated at Darul Arqam Islamic High.

“Suddenly, boom, the guy punches me, the guy who I just saw whip this guy before. So now I’m obviously ready to fight, and we start fighting. I had so much fun. The point of maximum fear was the point of maximum enjoyment.

“I couldn’t stop after that. I sat in class the next day thinking of ways to slip a jab and counter a jab. When that happened, I made up my mind there and then that this would be my profession.”

EFC bantamweight Faeez Jacobs (right) with his coach Fidaah Edries. Photo: Liam Moses

Jacobs went on to win both his first and second fights in the EFC by first-round knockout, cash his first pay cheques from the sport and catch the attention of Cape Town’s growing MMA fanbase.

However, his journey up until that point was far from smooth. In fact, Jacobs had to take more than one “ride” on the road to professionalism, working as an Uber driver to cover the costs of his training.

“When I was doing Uber, it was to pay the bills. Although it was a wonderful experience meeting all those people and having those conversations, it wasn’t satisfying my soul,” Jacobs said.

“I hadn’t yet made my MMA debut, and then I got my first fight and when I started training for that, I quit. I decided that I had saved enough to survive on. That fight didn’t pay, but I had saved enough to survive and I believed I would turn professional soon.

“I was also a waiter, I worked on film sets as a grip and an extra. At one stage I was a model, I did a learnership with Vodacom. I’ve worked lots of part-time jobs to pay for training costs.”

Now fully professional, Jacobs will make his third EFC appearance on Saturday against the similarly experienced Nerick Simoes.

Should he achieve another first-round finish, as he expects to, Jacobs will be one step closer to vindicating his choices and proving a point to all those who said he would never amount to anything.

“There was a lot of doubt. There were a lot of people who said I wouldn’t be able to do it, that this isn’t realistic, that I needed something to fall back on, that I should go to university,” he said.

“I told them that I was getting my degree. I’m not getting my degree in science, but I can knock people out. I never lost sight of my vision or where I was going. I just made sure that whatever fears I had were my own.

“I refused to fear something because of other people, and I realised that I started feeling limitless because of that.”

IOL Sport

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