Tumelo Manyamala: Terence Balelo is good, but I am on another level

With his track record of five wins in five EFC fights, it would be no surprise if Tumelo Manyamala gets a Flyweight Championship fight next. Picture: EFC

With his track record of five wins in five EFC fights, it would be no surprise if Tumelo Manyamala gets a Flyweight Championship fight next. Picture: EFC

Published Feb 7, 2024


Tumelo “Bones of Steel” Manyamala (5-1) may have endured his first professional MMA loss at UAE Warriors last month, but the young Capetonian fighter is excited about the future.

After dominating in the EFC, the Pride Fighting Academy star took a short-notice fight in one of the fastest-growing promotions in the world, UAE Warriors, against the experienced American Mark Climaco (10-2) in a Flyweight fight at UAE Warriors 46 on the 20th of January.

Despite learning of the fight on New Year’s Day, Manyamala did not hesitate to step up to the plate and face a man who has competed on some of the world’s top platforms, including Bellator, LFA, and a few Road to UFC cards.

The young Manyamala put up a valiant effort and came just short with a split decision loss, but walked away with so much wisdom, knowing that he has what it takes to step up to the big time.

No time to deliberate

“We took the fight on short notice and were in the UAE fighting 19 days later.

"It was such a learning curve. I was not used to feeling the top pressure I felt from Mark. Being held down by a more experienced fighter with the highest level of wrestling I’ve ever faced was something else. Yes, it does suck to lose, but I feel like it will only make me better,” says Manyamala, who was unbeaten in the EFC with five stoppages in five fights.

“That fight helped me grow, but that experience was a big game changer. The UAE Warriors brand has a proper Fight Week, like the UFC. I feel like they are preparing me a lot for the UFC. It was also my first time off the African continent, and having that long flight to Abu Dhabi, I remember getting there on Thursday and could barely even hit pads. On the second day, I was all good, but experiencing that first day of jet lag even though it’s only a 2-hour difference is new to me.”

Manyamala has been in scintillating form in Africa’s premier MMA promotion, the Extreme Fighting Championship, with four TKOs and one submission. His last fight almost cemented his case for either a number-one contender fight or a title shot in the 125pound division after he TKO’d one of the division’s top stars and the DRC’s Fafa Dwama in the second round of EFC 107.

With his track record thus far, it would be no surprise if Manyamala gets a Flyweight Championship fight next.

With the flexibility offered between the UAE Warriors and EFC, he is open to the best offer as he understands that there has already been a booking for current EFC Flyweight champion Gift Walker.

Walker will defend his title against EFC Bantamweight champion Nkazimulo "ZuluBoy" Zulu in a “Champ vs Champ” fight on March 7.

With that title fight booked for next month, Manyamala does not expect to wait too long for a title fight and thus would take either another fight from the UAE Warriors or an EFC fight that would excite him and elevate his brand.

‘A shot at the EFC title’

“I see Gift and Nkazimulo are fighting for the title in March, so I doubt if Walker or Zulu Boy - whoever wins - will be able to defend in like April or May – they will want to keep that belt for a while, maybe for three months. With that said, I am just trying to stay active. It would be nice to get a shot at the EFC title, but I can’t force it at the end of the day, that’s in the hands of the EFC, they do the matchmaking.  I am most definitely open to UAE or a title shot, you know it’s a fight game, I just want to fight as much as possible, and stay active, it would be nice to have a belt, but ja … mostly stay active.”

Speaking of a super fight that could be worth it for Manyamala would be against current interim Bantamweight champion Terence “Black Panther” Balelo.

Like Manyamala, Balelo has been a superstar in the EFC and is one of Mzansi’s fast-rising brands, as he excites fans with his fight style and charisma inside and outside the cage.

Balelo came short against Walker in their Flyweight title match-up last year but pulled off an incredible move when he stepped in on a day’s notice to fly up to Johannesburg and throw down with Musa Sethwape in a vacant Bantamweight title fight after Shannon Van Tonder pulled at the eleventh hour.

The 135-pound division interim title was put up for grabs in October due to the uncertainty surrounding Zulu before the undisputed champ revealed that he would defend his title later this year.

Balelo replaced Van Tonder on the day and made history when he beat Sethwape (unanimous decision).

Before that fight, there have been many whispers and calls for Balelo and Manyamala - the two hot Cape Town Flyweights - to meet.

Fireworks expected

Both are exciting fighters who guarantee all-out action.

When asked his thoughts on fighting Balelo, Manyamala was open to the idea.

“I mean, that will be a big fight, that will be a freak fight … and I’m in for big fights, you know, the better experience I get, the better it is for me.

"He’s a good fighter, I’ll give him his props, but I believe I’m on another level. I believe that one day I will be a UFC Champion, so if that comes, it comes, if the belt comes, it comes, whatever comes my way, I’ll just fight whoever, to be honest,” added Manyamala.

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