CAPE TOWN – Justin Smith should be Eskom’s ambassador – only because he knows how to turn people’s lights out.
It would also be the perfect PR stunt to make “light” of the increased tariffs and deviate taxpayers’ anger from the under-fire power-generating utility.
You see, Smith – a.k.a. “The Power” – knows how to give people value for their money.
The up and coming MMA star has been on a tear since making his Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) debut at EFC68, overcoming all who was in his way, finishing three fights in the first round.
Smith built a vicious reputation in the welterweight division with his lethal fists in his first two fights, before proving to the MMA community that he is more than just a “stand-up” fighter after putting veteran Pietie Coxen to sleep via guillotine in Pretoria last December.
His name has been whispered in the corridors of casinos and locker rooms to such an extent that it’s been tough for him to find an opponent in his natural division.
“The reason being for moving up to middleweight is that it wasn’t easy for Graeme (Cartmell, EFC VP and matchmaker) to find me an opponent in my weight division, so I told Graeme that I don’t mind moving up to fight anybody,” Smith said.
“I want that welterweight belt. But if it’s a hassle, then I don’t mind competing for the middleweight title.”
After cold water was poured on rumours of Smith taking on FFM’s dangerman Luke Michael, another seasoned veteran obliged.
“Okay wow... is this actually happening, the little lion club wants to get noticed,” said EFC vet Gordon Roodman after being called out by Smith ahead of EFC77, which takes place in Pretoria on Saturday.
Roodman was set to take on Niel du Plessis, before the latter was reported to have caught a staphylococcus infection.
Roodman is an old-school fighter who gets comfortable when given the front foot, which is followed with leather attacks.
Roodman (3-6-1) comes off two losses and one no-contest in that order, and will be keen to impose his will on Smith, and end the Cape Town-based fighter’s winning streak.
However, time will tell whether he has the skill and chin to withstand the power of Smith.
In Roodman’s last fight, despite it being called off due to injury, Mzwandile Hlongwa seemed to have his number.
In Smith, Roodman faces a powerful athlete. Cutting his teeth at the Renzo Gracie Gym, Smith is more than ready to grapple, despite his extraterrestrial striking.
Smith will be out of his comfort zone in terms of weight, going up against a seasoned campaigner in the middleweight division.
Will we see him keep his range and ignite this party the same way he did against Giovanni Pretorius at EFC72, which saw ‘The Power’ unleash serious leather on the ID of his opponent before knocking him out in the first?
“Gordon is just another one-dimensional relic of the old school. I’ll finish him like I have been and will keep doing. I see my hands being raised, and yes, after this fight, I will be 4 and 0, so I definitely deserve a title shot,” Smith said.
With the UFC – a multi-billion-rand MMA promotion – paying close attention to South Africa and the EFC following the signings of Don Madge and Champion Dalcha, Smith says it encourages him even more.
“It motivates me to express my skills more, because I believe that I will be there one day, and that day is coming soon.”
The day the UFC pay out Smith’s Eskom ambassadorial contract may well be the day that load shedding becomes an event that only exists in the Octagon.
* EFC77 takes place at Time Square, Menlyn Maine, Pretoria. EFC77 Prelims 2pm. EFC77 Main Card (live) 6pm.
Full EFC77 fight card:
Martin van Staden v Joe Cummins
Jared Vanderaa v Ricky Misholas
Shaw Dean v Quinton Rossouw
Alain Ilunga v Lukasz Swirydowics
Gordon Roodman v Justin Smith
Tumisang Madiba v Devon Cronje
Roedie Roets v Pierre Botha
Nerik Simoes v Marcel Els
Asiashu Tshitamba v Orlando Machaba
Serge Kasanda v Cedrick Mbala
Trezegeut Kanyinda v Benjamin Mangala
Stephen de la Rey v Aly Kalambay@juliankiewietz