CAPE TOWN – Say what you like about Demarte Pena, but the man is a consummate professional.
He understands the game of life.
In the world of sport, sadly, many athletes who often reach the pinnacle of their discipline or code fall by the way side once they step off the field for good.
Reasons for this can often be attributed to factors which include bad management, a lack of ambition, or just the inability to realise that that gravy train will soon stop running once the big salary and sponsorship/endorsement deals end.
And that is why I take my hat off to the Extreme Fighting Championship’s undisputed and undefeated bantamweight champ Pena, who relinquished his title this week after deciding to take a break from the EFC.
Even though the man has achieved the highest of accolades in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and has the ability to do so much more, he knows that the lifespan of a fighter is not necessarily that of a golfer or a businessman.
So, he’s doing his business “thang” right now.
“MMA is a tough career, not like others. I think like anything, it’s important to have other options in place.
“I love this sport and hopefully I can compete again in the near future, but I will be doing other things to secure my future,” says the man who has broken so many barriers in the Africa MMA business, which includes being one of the first coaches on EFC’s “The Fighter” reality television show.
“I am relinquishing the title to focus on other things in my life. It isn’t right to hold up the division, others should fight for the belt and get their opportunity." - @thewolfpena, Former EFC bantamweight champion pic.twitter.com/7aSxOythgU
Shortly after that super rematch against Irshaad Sayed, Pena channelled lots of energy into his new venture UMF (Ultimate MMA Fitness), which is a health programme open to the public that incorporates conditioning training, boxing and kickboxing.
And judging by the traffic the business is getting on social media, Joe and Jane Public are loving the classes…
“The gym is picking up, it just takes time. I’ll just keep focusing on the gym and business (which is situated in Midrand),” he says.
When asked about giving up his title, Pena said: “It isn’t right to hold up the bantamweight division, others should fight for the belt and get their opportunity.”
EFC president Cairo Howarth said: “Although we tried everything to keep Demarte in competition, him deciding to relinquish has created some really interesting and exciting prospects for the bantamweight division.
“We have the number one contender, France’s Philippe Rouch and Demarte’s former teammate and the former flyweight interim champ, @wrestling_Jp, ready to go. The competition for the now vacant title is huge!” - Cairo Howarth - EFC President pic.twitter.com/04Hc74M3or
“We have the number one contender, France’s Phillipe Rouch, and Demarte’s former teammate and former flyweight interim champ JP Buys ready to go. The competition for the now vacant title is huge!”
Pena added: “I’ll be rooting for JP, he is well deserving of the belt.”
When asked when he will be moving his gym to other cities such as “cosmopolitan” Cape Town, Pena responded with “A good question”…