CAPE TOWN – South African mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters will face an acid test in the coming weeks as two of the nation’s most talented and prominent athletes compete in high-profile international promotions on foreign soil.
November 25 will see former EFC welterweight champion Martin van Staden, who has since dropped to lightweight, take on former UFC athlete Dennis Siver in Stuttgart, Germany at ACB 75.
Siver last fought on a UFC card in June, when he scored a unanimous decision win over former two-division champion BJ Penn.
Though well out of his prime, former lightweight and welterweight champion Penn is arguably the greatest ever fighter in the sport’s history.
However, Siver may be better known for being the last man to face Conor McGregor before the Irishman won the first of his UFC titles, losing via knockout in the second round.
Siver, 38, spent the majority of his UFC career at featherweight, meaning Van Staden will be the larger man heading into the cage. With both age and size on his side, the 34-year-old is heavily favoured to finish the fight early.
Less than a month later, Dricus du Plessis will attempt to make history by becoming the first athlete to simultaneously hold three titles in two weight divisions and from two different major international promotions.
The 23-year-old has held the EFC welterweight title since June 2016, when he defeated Van Staden via submission.
He went on to claim the middleweight title in August this year when he defeated Yannick Bahati, who also held the middleweight title in British promotion Bamma at the time.
The victory saw him become the only person to ever hold two EFC titles simultaneously, and just the second to win titles in more than one weight division, after former featherweight and current bantamweight champion Demarte Pena.
The Pretoria resident will face KSW welterweight champion Borys Mankowski in Katowice, Poland on December 23.
“I have an international manager from the Netherlands and after the fight with Yannick Bahati, he called and told me KSW were interested in me fighting for them,” Du Plessis said in explaining how the fight came about.
“KSW is a massive organisation. Apart from the UFC, they are the third biggest organisation in the world.
Really excited about this opportunity to headline the ACB75 event in Germany in Stuttgart on the 25th November against Denis Siver! Thank you @hd_fight_management @carlmessen @efcworldwide & @acb_mma for making it possible! I have the best team and coach @richiequan in the world and I'm coming to take it all #thepunisheriscoming #FFM #ACB #sharkman #southafrican #anymeansnecessary 💪
A post shared by Martin Van Staden (@martin_van_staden) on
“They are massive on the European scene. They do huge numbers and once pulled a crowd of over 50 000. I was immediately super stoked to fight for an organisation of that calibre and size.”
Meanwhile, two of the best MMA fighters on the African continent will square off on December 16 at EFC66.
EFC bantamweight champion Pena and interim bantamweight champion Irshaad Sayed make a second attempt at unifying the title after their first match was retrospectively declared a no-contest earlier this year.
Angola’s Pena earned a narrow unanimous decision win over Cape Town’s Sayed in November 2016, but the result was overturned after Pena tested positive for a banned substance.
An investigation by the South African Institute For Drug-Free Sport (Saids) found that Pena had ingested the substance accidentally in a tainted supplement.
The pair have been acting as coaches in the EFC’s reality show, The Fighter, and EFC66 will also act as the programme’s finale.