What should have been remembered as a great night in Johannesburg, where the newly-crowned champion Thabani Mndebela broke down in tears, mourning the death of his father who died just days prior, turned into an ongoing ’battle for the belt’. Photo: Roarke Bouffe/EFC Worldwide
What should have been remembered as a great night in Johannesburg, where the newly-crowned champion Thabani Mndebela broke down in tears, mourning the death of his father who died just days prior, turned into an ongoing ’battle for the belt’. Photo: Roarke Bouffe/EFC Worldwide

EFC’s 'battle of the belt' drags on

By Julian Kiewietz Time of article published Nov 17, 2021

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Cape Town – Extreme Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Thabani Mndebela and the EFC are yet to find middle ground following a flare-up post EFC88.

What should have been remembered as a great night in Johannesburg, where the newly-crowned champion broke down in tears, mourning the death of his father who died just days prior, turned into an ongoing “battle for the belt”.

Following his technical knockout victory over the DRC’s Matunga Djikasa (4-3), Thabani “The Doctor” Mndebela (5-1) was unable to officially be crowned with his belt due to a lack of belts and logistical issues faced by the EFC.

Ten weeks later, a frustrated Mndebela took to social media expressing his disappointment.

“I have been fighting with the EFC, Graeme Cartmell (EFC matchmaker and vice president) and Cairo Howarth (EFC president) begging for my belt since the 15th of August 2021.

“They don’t want to give me the belt. They have refused to release me from the contract. As of today I, Thabani ‘The Doctor’ Mndebela will no longer be part of @efcworldwide. I now consider myself a free agent,” read an Instagram post from the Durban medical doctor.

A few days later, Mndebela released an official statement via his legal team thanking his fans for their support before highlighting the termination of his “relationship” with the EFC, stating that HL Legal Inc. would be dealing with the matter further.

When Independent Media contacted Cartmell, he said they had put in an order for a new batch of belts from the US pre-Covid-19.

“We paid the guy but the belts never materialised as the man stopped communicating with us and we went straight into the pandemic,” said Cartmell.

“We were treading water at the time but soon found a new supplier. During this time we explained to our athletes that it’s going to take longer to get these belts into the country and asked them if we can circulate the current belts we have. Some of the belts were overseas (in the case of England’s Joe Cummins (lightweight champion) and France’s Manon Fiorot (former flyweight champion).”

According to Cartmell, all went to plan until there was again a shortage as one of the locally-based champions refused to circulate his belt for the heavyweight fight until the newly-ordered batch came through.

“Before their fight, we explained to Thabani and Triple H (Djikasa) that we tried everything to get a belt, and that this is where we are at. They seemed to be understanding at the time, and then after the fight Thabani made it quite clear that he didn’t feel like a champ without a belt.

“We eventually came to terms and he was okay again. I told him we managed to source a belt and that my assistant will personally take the belt down to him (in Durban).”

Cartmell believes they can still work this through. “I hope we do,” he said.

Mndebela’s legal team this week made it clear that the champion is moving on from the organisation.

“We were set to meet with the EFC this Friday. They have asked to reschedule this week. I have yet to take instructions from our client regarding this request,” says HL Legal director and attorney, Lloyd Moonean.

“Thabani wants to be released from his EFC contract. Thabani has always wanted to be treated fairly and with dignity, as all athletes should be. Unfortunately, he was not and he now wants to be released from the EFC.”

Mndebela confirmed that he signed a six-fight (30-month) EFC contract in July this year prior to his title fight with Djikasa.

“The issue with the belts has been a real headache,” says Cartmell.

“Lots of money lost and relationships strained. We chose to create belts like those in the UFC and it has been hard to manage them. So now we have ordered a surplus,” added Graeme who revealed the promotion’s new belts at EFC90.

@juliankiewietz

IOL Sport

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