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Peyton Letcher grapples her way to the top

Peyton Letcher (in blue) is still indecisive regarding a permanent move to mixed martial arts. Photo: Dominik Borowczyk

Peyton Letcher (in blue) is still indecisive regarding a permanent move to mixed martial arts. Photo: Dominik Borowczyk

Published Oct 14, 2021


Cape Town – Rugby plays such a huge role in so many South Africans’ lives.

It’s a huge part of SA culture and has opened doors for people of all backgrounds.

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The same can almost be said for one Peyton Letcher, although rugby may have opened a different kind of door for this athlete.

“I was playing rugby with my friends in the park one day and I accidentally broke my friend's arm. My other friend (who did wrestling at the time) then told me to come with him to training and then I did and never stopped,” said Peyton.

And as they say in the classics, the rest is history.

Today, Peyton is one of SA’s most lethal and respected grappling/jiu-jitsu practitioners.

She earned the gold medal after beating Ashley Bendle in the women’s 60 kilogram division at the world-renowned ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) European, Middle East and African trials in Poznan, Poland last month.

Peyton Letcher (in blue) in action. Photo: Dominik Borowczyk

As per, Peyton impressed in the finals with a huge harai goshi takedown into back control early in the match. From there, the South African secured a tight body triangle before sinking in a rear-naked choke moments later and securing her ticket to the ADCC Championships set to take place in Las Vegas in September next year.

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It was an awesome moment for grappling fans and athletes across South Africa, especially due to the fact that it’s people like Peyton who continue to place SA on the grappling/jiu-jitsu map, a sport not as popular as rugby in Mzansi (for the moment at least).

“My first trials I was a two-stripe white belt who fell out in the first round. My second trial I lost in the finals to the amazing Livia Giles and came second. It’s been weeks of hard training and hating the fact that I couldn’t have my usual favourite foods. I was a grump as my training partners will tell you while they beat me up on a regular basis. However it was all worth it,” said Peyton in an Instagram post in which she later expressed her gratitude for all those who played a role in her life and career.

Peyton has come a long way racking up numerous wins throughout her journey thus far, experience that could bode well for her at the finals.

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“I’ve spent a lot of time competing in the (United) States and of 54 fights won 49 by submission,” said one of Africa and SA’s top female grapplers.

Being a natural combatant, Peyton too has dipped her feet in the mixed martial arts pool.

Earlier this year she was crowned the SA bantamweight amateur champion at the 2021 Mixed Martial Arts SA National championships in Edenvale.

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With MMA gaining so much more traction on the globe in comparison to pure grappling events, Peyton is leaving the door open as to where she decides to invest her future.

“My main focus is jiu jitsu to be honest,” said the Cape Town-born athlete.

“I’ve spent all my time grappling and I prefer it. I do however think that in future I might be moving over to MMA, but honestly, I haven’t decided. I prefer grappling so much more.

“I might want to go pro in MMA if I feel comfortable competing in it, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable,” explained Peyton who works at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Cape Town.

Peyton is currently in New York as she is set to compete in the IronMan Grappling Promotion, from there she will be travelling to compete as much as she can.

The logistics and expenses that come with travelling across the globe obviously don’t come cheap, especially due to the fact that most combat sports in SA are not backed by the government in terms of funding. Most athletes have to rely on their own pockets or sponsors, and it is no different for Peyton.

“I need funds in order to travel to competitions. What people don’t understand is how expensive it is to compete in the States, so funding will go toward travelling and competing in order to keep improving myself and getting ready for trials in the future. A lot of what I do is self-funded, I’m not allowed to work in the States so my funds I have go toward just surviving over here,” added Peyton.

“The government does not even know what we do, let alone offer funding. They can barely fund Olympic athletes so there isn’t any government funding for what I do.”

When word got out of Peyton’s quest to continue her journey of growth and opportunity, a few people came together to assist her, and the SA Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Fund also played a role in raising R10 000 for Peyton to make use of.

Aside from those who have assisted her on her journey, Peyton is also very grateful for people like her mentor, Kurdt George.

“He’s been taking care of me since I started and has personally been coaching me for quite some time. He’s probably one of the few people who will be brutally honest with me and has helped me change and mould into the person I am today,” she said.


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